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Unread 2019-02-04, 11:19 AM   #1
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Default Venezuela vs the World

There appears to be some stuff going on in Venezuela, I have tried to follow it over the weekend (I had duty so it was hit and miss on getting into)

Defiant Maduro warns Trump he'll stain his "hands with blood"



Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has struck a defiant tone amid mounting international pressure on him to stand down. He has accused the United States of planning a coup in the South American country, and warned President Trump in an interview broadcast on Spanish television that he is, "making mistakes that are going to stain your hands with blood!"



Maduro said he "accepts ultimatums from nobody," as more individual European nations followed through with a threat to back opposition leader Juan Guaidó after Maduro neglected to call a new national election by a Sunday deadline. The Trump administration has also enthusiastically backed Guaidó, who declared himself the interim president of Venezuela on Jan. 23.

"The military option is on (U.S. President) Donald Trump's table," Maduro told Spanish TV channel La Sexta (The Sixth) in the interview aired Sunday evening. He accused the U.S. of "wanting to return to the 20th century of military coups, subordinate puppet governments and the looting of resources."

Asked if his country could descend into civil war, Maduro said, "only if the North American empire attacks us -- we will have to defend ourselves."

"Stop! Stop! Donald Trump! You are making mistakes that are going to stain your hands with blood! And you are going to leave the presidency stained with blood. Stop!," the embattled president told his interviewer, adding that Venezuelans, "have the capacity of dialogue and understanding. Let's respect each other. Or is it that you are going to repeat a Vietnam in Latin America?"
Tightening the screws on Maduro

Washington recently imposed new sanctions on Venezuela, specifically targeting its lucrative oil exports in an effort to undermine Maduro's income and loosen his grip on power.
With the EU's Sunday deadline for Maduro to call elections having passed, a number of European nations officially declared themselves in the Guaidó camp on Monday.
Germany joined Britain, France, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Portugal, Lithuania, Latvia and Spain -- a major blow given Spain's deep historic and economic ties with Venezuela -- in recognizing Guaidó on Monday as the legitimate leader of the Venezuelan people. He also has the support of most of South America.

As CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer has reported from the streets of Caracas, Guaidó has sought to keep up the pressure internally on Maduro as he gains international backing. Guaidó routinely joins the massive demonstrations in the streets of the capital, including the biggest one to date over the weekend, where thousands of Venezuelans are demanding change from the top.
The focus, as Palmer has reported, has been on pressuring Maduro's military commanders to abandon him and give their allegiance to Guaidó. Over the weekend the first senior member of Venezuela's military publically switch his loyalty to the "interim" government of Guaidó. Air force general Yanez Rodriguez said he was backing Guaidó, and claimed that 90 percent of the armed forces have lost faith in Maduro.
But as Palmer reported over the weekeend, Maduro still has supporters, thousands of whom staged a counter-demonstration on Saturday in Caracas. A new poll suggests, however, that they're in the minority; after years of economic decay, corruption and violence, the poll showed 82 percent of Venezuelans want Maduro to quit.
A meeting of senior leaders from 14 Latin American nations and Canada, known as the Lima Group, set for Monday in Ottawa was to focus on the standoff in Venezuela. All the countries involved have called for new elections in Venezuela, and this week they will discuss ways to increase the pressure on Maduro.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office said humanitarian aid for Venezuela -- routed through Guaidó -- would be discussed in Ottawa. Getting foreign aid into the country, or even agreeing to do so, would be not only a humanitarian gesture but a highly symbolic and, for Maduro, emotive, signal that the obstinate president is losing control of his border



Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Monday that his government was, "working for the return of full democracy in Venezuela: human rights, elections and no more political prisoners." He also touted efforts to get humanitarian aid into the economically ravaged nation.
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Unread 2019-02-04, 11:53 AM   #2
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I’d suggest Maduro keep Trump’s name out of his mouth if he knows what’s good for him.
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Unread 2019-02-04, 12:32 PM   #3
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European nations recognize Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim president
(CNN)A group of major European nations recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's interim president on Monday, urging him to hold free and fair elections.

The coordinated move came after President Nicolas Maduro ignored a demand set by some EU nations last week to call snap elections by the end of Sunday. Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Polandall said they would recognize Guadio as the legitimate Venezuelan leader.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called on the 35-year-old National Assembly leader to hold "free, democratic presidential elections, with guarantees and without exclusions."
British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said on Twitter that the UK would recognize Guaido as interim president "until credible elections can be held."







A spokesman for UK Prime Minister Theresa May said sanctions against Venezuela were also on the table, adding that the Maduro regime must end.
Nicolas Maduro has not called Presidential elections within 8 day limit we have set. So UK alongside European allies now recognises @jguaido as interim constitutional president until credible elections can be held. Let's hope this takes us closer to ending humanitarian crisis
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) February 4, 2019

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Maduro had rejected what he called the "ultimatum" set by EU leaders, asserting that previous elections that ushered him into another six-year term were fair. "We don't accept ultimatums from anyone," Maduro said in an interview with Spanish TV network LaSexta on Sunday.
Maduro also said he supported plans for a meeting of EU and Latin American countries in Montevideo, Uruguay, to be held on Thursday as part of a newly formed "international contact group" aimed at fostering a peaceful political process.

French President Emmanuel Macron backed the contact group's role in Venezuela's transition period on Monday, after recognizing Guaido as "acting President" in a tweet.
Speaking on France Inter radio on Monday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the decision to recognize Guaido was "not foreign meddling," as Russia, one of Maduro's key allies, has suggested.
Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov condemned Europe's interference in the oil-rich country on Monday, calling it an attempt to "legitimize the usurped authority."
Les Vénézuéliens ont le droit de s'exprimer librement et démocratiquement. La France reconnaît @jguaido comme « président en charge » pour mettre en œuvre un processus électoral. Nous soutenons le Groupe de contact, créé avec l'UE, dans cette période de transition.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) February 4, 2019
Since declaring himself acting president on January 23 -- invoking a constitutional rule to open a rare challenge to Maduro's presidency -- Guaido's leadership has already been recognized by Canada, the United States, Australia, and Latin American countries.
Guaido, who spoke with Trudeau in a phone call on Sunday, thanked the prime minister for Canada's support on Twitter: "Thanks for joining us on this path. It is very important for the country to count on your support during the peaceful transition of Venezuela."


Who is Venezuela's Juan Guaido?


In the call, Trudeau noted that Canada will host a meeting of the Lima Group regional bloc on Monday to discuss how the international community can further aid the people of Venezuela, including through immediate humanitarian assistance.


Guaido has said that humanitarian aid will begin to flow into Venezuela in the coming days, defying Maduro's repeated refusal of assistance. He outlined the move as part of a plan to push the military into cooperating with the opposition.
Maduro has repeatedly denied that Venezuela is in a crisis, suggesting aid efforts were part of an international plan to destabilize his socialist regime. During Maduro's tenure as president, the once-wealthy oil nation has descended into economic collapse and a humanitarian crisis.
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Unread 2019-02-04, 01:09 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by jwdb1fish View Post
I’d suggest Maduro keep Trump’s name out of his mouth if he knows what’s good for him.
He is watching and believes the American Fake news that people don't like Trump and that Nancy is in charge.

Maduro is already executing his escape plan to Russia by moving his gold.

He will leave before our DEA agents haul him off to the US on drug charges.
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Unread 2019-02-07, 09:32 AM   #5
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The transformation of Juan Guaido, Venezuela's self-declared president


Caracas, Venezuela (CNN)Juan Guaido spent his entire adult life living under the promises of a socialist utopia, first under Hugo Chavez, then Nicolas Maduro. Now as he battles for Venezuela's presidency, the 35-year-old has adopted the early campaign slogan and stylings of a US president.

"Can we do it?" He roared to a vast crowd in the capital, Caracas last Saturday.

"Yes we can!" They shouted back, their right hands held high as they joined him in pledging a swift and peaceful transition to democratic presidential elections.

Intentionally or not, there's a lot of Barack Obama about Guaido, a former industrial engineer, current head of Venezuela's National Assembly and self-declared president of the nation.







Guaido has adopted the former US president's white open-neck shirt and suit combo, and shares his broad smile.




He's good with a crowd, ploughing his way to the podium at a recent rally through adoring fans and hopping over barriers with a youthful ease that might rekindle memories of his days as a student activist in Caracas' Catholic University.

And perhaps most important, he's managed to bend the rage that many Venezuelans feel at their collapsed economy, crumbling social service, food shortages and astronomical inflation into something more powerful -- hope.

"It's something that we've always told him. When Obama became president, we told him 'You walk like Obama," Guaido's mother Norka told CNN. "Obama roll up his sleeves, and [Guaido] also does that, but it's not like he's mimicking Obama," she added.

"Juan has emerged and he is surprised by it because he did not imagine he'd be president even for an interim period," said Roberto Patino, a senior aide to Guaido who will soon be running Guaido's humanitarian relief effort.

"But we've seen what this government has done and we're all trying to do something about it," he added. "For the first time in many years, there is a kind of hope that we'll get new presidential elections."

Juan Guaido's political awakening
Asked what was most irritating about Guaido, his wife Fabiana admitted he could be a little bottled-up. "I think his strength, the strength that he also transmits, sometimes does not allow anything to break him, and maybe blocks many feelings," she said. "And I believe this path has taken him to that, to take his feelings and grab them and keep them here, not let to them out, not to express them."
But Guaido is "completely different' with their 21-month-old daughter, she said. "With her, he expresses himself maybe different from what we see when he is on the streets. We see a man with great strength, and with his daughter you see such a great love."

Norka describes the young Guaido, one of four boys, as gregarious, beach-loving and athletic. He frequently showed signs of leadership and an aptitude for mediation, she says. Though her family was not involved in politics, she says there has never been a particular party affiliation.




Guaido's political awakening came, perhaps, as a result of his first confrontation with the failings of the state: His home town, La Guira, was all but wiped off the map by the 1999 Vargas landslide.

Guaido's home was destroyed, and several of his friends died in the disaster. "We lost everything, but thank God we survived. We were given a second chance at life," Norka said. "It scarred him deeply."

Guadio was frustrated at what he perceived to be the government's failure, under Hugo Chavez, to adequately respond to the catastrophe. He believed the government ignored the plight of too many, failed to rehouse people, and was too slow to deal with the disaster. An estimated 19,000 people were killed by the landslide, according to the US Geological Survey.

His political ambitions crystallized after university, when he joined a failed campaign to prevent Chavez's closure of Radio Caraca Television in 2007. He went on to join Leopoldo Lopez in founding the nationwide political party Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) in 2009. He joined the National Assembly in 2011, and assumed its chief leadership role in early January.



Stand off on a global stage

Guaido has a flair for theatrical politics. In 2015, he went on hunger strike for two weeks as part of a campaign to force the government to hold parliamentary elections.

Now he is organizing humanitarian aid to be shipped to three crossings into Venezuela from Colombia, Brazil, and Caribbean islands, while incumbent president Maduro insists that the country does not need aid. In doing so, Guaido is challenging the military to either maintain a national blockade out of loyalty to Maduro, or let much-needed food and supplies finally enter the impoverished country.

Maduro, who briefly detained Guaido in early January and recently hinted at doing so again, has a few dramatic tricks of his own. Last week, Guaido publicly accused the Venezuelan special forces, who are loyal to Maduro, of surrounding his family's home in an alleged intimidation attempt.

As humans, we have moments of weakness or when one thinks that something bad is about to happen," Fabiana, his wife, said. "Last week [when special forces surrounded their home] I did not feel fear, but rather frustration because of what could have happened to my daughter."
Venezuela's constitution empowers the National Assembly leader to assume the presidency if there is "a vacuum of power." Guaido, who argues that Maduro's election to the presidency last year was illegitimate, claims that such a vacuum exists and that he has a constitutional mandate to fill it.


The United States, much of the European Union, and most countries in South America have recognized Guaido as the legitimate interim president, and called for new elections in Venezuela. But Guaido has so far failed to secure the support of the armed forces, at least in public.

Meanwhile Maduro, who enjoys the backing of the Supreme Court, has rejected demands for new presidential elections, offering "dialogue" instead. So far, that suggestion has been brushed off by Guaido's camp.
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Unread 2019-02-08, 10:29 AM   #6
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Losing grip on power, Venezuela's Maduro leans on Cuban security forces, senior US officials say

A top U.S. admiral told senators that Havana "owns the security around Maduro."


Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro is increasingly leaning on the protection and support of his Cuban backers, amid mounting global pressure to leave office, according to several senior U.S. officials.

Adm. Craig Faller, head of U.S. Southern Command, told U.S. senators on Thursday that Havana "owns the security around Maduro and is deeply entrenched in the intelligence service."

The U.S. and dozens of other nations have recognized Juan Guaido, president of the country's National Assembly, as Venezuela's interim president, saying Maduro is no longer fit to govern. But despite international calls to step down and protests against his regime over the weekend, Maduro has clung to power, retaining allegiance from Venezuela's military.

But while the military remains on his side, the Pentagon said it's not the embattled president's own forces ensuring his safety -- it's members of Cuba's security service.

"I think it's a good sense for where the loyalty of the Venezuelan people are that his immediate security force is made up of Cubans," Faller told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Cuba is "inextricably intertwined in all areas of Venezuela," he said.
Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the United Nations Security Council, "No regime has done more to sustain the nightmarish condition of the Venezuelan people than the regime in Havana."

Elliott Abrams, the State Department's newly appointed envoy for the country, was more blunt, telling ABC News last week, "The only people willing to die for Maduro may be Cubans, who are his security guards."
Maduro's faith in his own military may continue to wane. The top Venezuelan air force general and the military attache in Washington already have defected from Maduro's government, and Guaido has been quick to call for others to abandon the man who has governed Venezuela since 2013, promising amnesty in exchange.

But -- at least for now -- Maduro has the support of his armed forces, which has really kept him in power.
"I think Maduro relies on more than just the Cuban people around him to stay in power," Ted Piccone, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told ABC News. "The Venezuela military is fragmenting a little bit, but still unified at least at the senior level behind Maduro."
If that changes, Maduro could be forced to leave the country entirely, and Abrams suggested he could find safe haven with "friends" like Cuba or Russia.
Cuba has long involved itself in Venezuela, but the relationship became particularly close after Venezuela's former president, Hugo Chavez, came to power two decades ago.
"The Cuba-Venezuela relationship is very close and has been this way since Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro embraced each other," Piccone said, describing it as a son-father relationship.
Havana benefited from subsidized oil from Venezuela that floated Cuba's economy for a long time, he added. In return, Cuba provided social welfare services, including hundreds of doctors, to Venezuela.
But the nation also sent its security and intelligence advisers, who have trained and influenced Venezuela's military.
Adm. Faller at #SASC: The situation in #Venezuela is dire. Maduro’s illegitimate gov’t starves people by using food as a weapon while corrupt generals are rewarded w/ money from drug trade; oil profits & other businesses, all at the expense of the population & military. pic.twitter.com/QQUQP8WtaF
— US Southern Command (@Southcom) February 7, 2019
"Russia and Cuba are both complicit in Venezuela's descent into dictatorship, but Cuba is particularly influential in supporting Maduro," Faller wrote in written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee. "Following the Cuban government’s advice and assisted by its intelligence machinery, Maduro is adhering to the autocratic blueprint Cuban leaders have ruthlessly executed for over six decades."
Piccone warned that even if Maduro transitions out of power, the Venezuelan military won't "suddenly become pro-American overnight."
"It's going to take some time for that to happen," he said.
The next anti-Maduro protest in Venezuela is scheduled for Tuesday.
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Unread 2019-02-11, 09:05 PM   #7
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As Maduro Digs In, His Aides Hunt for an Emergency Escape Route

Nicolas Maduro is under pressure at home and abroad, and being encouraged by the U.S. to go to “a nice beach somewhere far from Venezuela.” The question is where would -- or could -- he go?



The Venezuelan leader has held on for years in the face of protests, a collapsed economy and international sanctions, via a tight grip on the military and by cracking down on the opposition. But the stress has never been greater. The financial noose is tightening globally, many neighbors and western nations are calling on him to hold elections or step aside, and the opposition has galvanized under Juan Guaido into a more cohesive force.


#lazy-img-334568206:before{padding-top:66.75%;}

Nicolas Maduro on Feb. 8.

Photographer: Carlos Becerra/Bloomberg
Maduro has insisted publicly he’s going nowhere and a departure could be several steps away, if it happened at all. He has spoken frequently to denounce what he says are U.S.-led coup efforts against him, and all signs are he is digging in. Still, contingency plans are being drawn up in case he needs to leave Venezuela at short notice, according to four people with knowledge of the discussions.









Any potential safe havens bring risks, both for Maduro and the countries involved. While the U.S. has said he should leave, it may not take too kindly to any nation that gave him sanctuary. And Maduro would want to feel safe from the reach of Venezuelan and international law.

Our men and women of the #FANB, are highly trained and with maximum moral to defend, of any empire, our sacred ground. Long live the Soldiers of the Homeland! pic.twitter.com/kKZebstkIJ
— Nicolás Maduro (@maduro_en) February 11, 2019
Some unsurprising destinations are being discussed, including Cuba, Russia and Turkey. In Cuba, the communist government of Miguel Diaz-Canel is an ideological ally to Maduro’s Bolivarian republic.




Some conversations have also taken place about the possibility of him going to Mexico, two of the people said, asking not to be identified given the sensitivity of the matter. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is one of a handful of Latin American leaders not to have recognized Guaido, the National Assembly leader, as Venezuela’s rightful president. Maduro attended Lopez Obrador’s inauguration in December.




Discussions have been stepped up because Maduro’s wife Cilia Flores -- who has two nephews serving 18 years in a U.S. prison for conspiring to traffic cocaine -- is raising pressure on her husband to have a plan B ready, another person said. Venezuela’s information ministry did not respond to requests for comment.




“I think it is better for the transition to democracy in Venezuela that he be outside the country,” Elliott Abrams, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s special representative for Venezuela, said of Maduro. “And there are a number of countries that I think would be willing to accept him,” he told reporters, citing “friends in places like Cuba and Russia.”

The fate of Maduro, his family and top lieutenants is key to any transition of power in Venezuela, an OPEC member whose population is suffering chronic shortages of food, medicines and basic amenities. A summit of European and Latin American countries held in the Uruguayan capital Montevideo last week agreed to work toward a peaceful political process that leads to new presidential elections in Venezuela.

Speaking in Washington last week, Abrams said that countries other than Russia and Cuba “have come to us privately and said they’d be willing to take members of the current illegitimate regime if it would help the transition.” He declined to name them.

Any flight to Cuba by Maduro or his people would give the U.S. justification to put Havana back on the radar, said a person familiar with the thinking, citing the potential for evidence linking some officials to drug or weapons trafficking in the region. It would allow Washington to push ahead with a package of extraordinary measures targeting Cuba for encouraging state-sponsored terrorism across the region, the person said.
I wish Nicolas Maduro and his top advisors a long, quiet retirement, living on a nice beach somewhere far from Venezuela. They should take advantage of President Guaido’s amnesty and move on. The sooner the better.
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) January 31, 2019
Jorge Rodriguez, Venezuela’s communications minister, was in Mexico last month around the time of a visit by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. One person said the topic of possible escape routes had come up late last year.



Roberto Velasco, the spokesman for Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, said that Lopez Obrador’s government and the Maduro administration haven’t discussed asylum. A spokesperson for Sanchez wasn’t immediately available for comment.

#lazy-img-334568272:before{padding-top:66.50602409638554%;}



At his daily news conference on Friday, Lopez Obrador reiterated his government is guided by the constitutional prohibition on intervening in the affairs of other nations but would be open to helping mediate a dialogue between the two sides in Venezuela.




Mexico has a long tradition of granting asylum to foreign leaders. The Shah of Iran, who fled during the revolution in 1979, took refuge in the resort city of Cuernavaca, with former U.S. President Richard Nixon coming to visit him. Soviet Marxist Leon Trotsky, who became an exile after clashing with Joseph Stalin, moved to Mexico in 1937 and was welcomed by leftist President Lazaro Cardenas, who is a hero for Lopez Obrador.

There is the possibility Maduro could seek refuge further afield if he decided to leave. A French official said the issue of Maduro’s fate is under active discussion in the international community, though a solution has yet to be found.

An added complication surrounds what to do with the vice president of Maduro’s United Socialist Party, Diosdado Cabello, according to another person with knowledge of the deliberations. Prosecutors in the U.S. have been compiling evidence against Cabello since at least 2015 on alleged drug trafficking, as the Wall Street Journal and Spanish daily ABC reported at the time.

The air is getting thinner for Maduro either way. The economy is in free fall, oil exports are subject to U.S. sanction, rank-and-file soldiers are deserting the military, while the International Monetary Fund said that it sees hyperinflation and outward migration intensifying this year. Russia, a traditional ally, is showing signs of doubt over Maduro’s ability to hold on to power.




Moscow is not fond of Maduro, but has little choice in the matter, according to a person with knowledge of the internal discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity. The Kremlin won’t encourage him to flee unless there is a clear alternative -- and for Moscow that is not Guaido, the person said.

“He is not planning to go anywhere,” Russian lawmaker Andrey Klimov, deputy head of the upper house of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said by phone. He dismissed talk of Maduro’s evacuation as “psychological warfare” aimed at “sowing panic and hysteria.”
“I think Maduro and his people are more likely to become guerrillas and make a second Vietnam of Venezuela,” he said. Russia, he added, is “talking to Maduro in order to ease tensions inside the country and abroad. But we can’t command him.”




According to a person familiar with Guaido’s thinking, the National Assembly leader’s priority is to secure a significant humanitarian package to win over mid- and lower-ranking military members. As for the government, his stance is there is nothing to talk about except the terms of Maduro’s exit; anything else would allow Maduro to gain time to regroup, the person said.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Maduro last month to assure him of his support, addressing him as “my brother!” The destination for tons of Venezuelan gold, Turkey has offered to take in Maduro, although only as a last recourse, according to a person familiar with the discussions. Any decision would be taken by Erdogan directly, and right now the priority is on backing him at home, a senior Turkish official said.

The Vatican may also have a role to play in organizing some kind of exit for Maduro, another person said. Guaido urged Pope Francis in an interview with Italy’s Sky TG24 broadcast last week to act as a mediator in Venezuela.

If Maduro turned to Russia, President Vladimir Putin would give him refuge, said Andrey Kortunov, head of the Russian International Affairs Council, a research organization set up by the Kremlin. “It’s not in our rules to give up our own -- and he is still one of ours,” he said.

Russia, however, thinks Maduro can survive the crisis, according to Kortunov. “I believe Maduro has boltholes closer than Russia,” he said. “But this is still premature. So far, the regime has shown some resilience.”




— With assistance by Gregory Viscusi, Nick Wadhams, Stepan Kravchenko, Patricia Laya, and Selcan Hacaoglu
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Unread 2019-02-13, 06:54 PM   #8
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seeing as its being done in our names...
a bit of info on the guy that Trump has given a ton of responsibility to regarding Venezuela:
https://theintercept.com/2019/01/30/...enezuela-coup/
Quote:
On December 11, 1981 in El Salvador, a Salvadoran military unit created and trained by the U.S. Army began slaughtering everyone they could find in a remote village called El Mozote. Before murdering the women and girls, the soldiers raped them repeatedly, including some as young as 10 years old, and joked that their favorites were the 12-year-olds. One witness described a soldier tossing a 3-year-old child into the air and impaling him with his bayonet. The final death toll was over 800 people.

The next day, December 12, was the first day on the job for Elliott Abrams as assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs in the Reagan administration. Abrams snapped into action, helping to lead a cover-up of the massacre. News reports of what had happened, Abrams told the Senate, were “not credible,” and the whole thing was being “significantly misused” as propaganda by anti-government guerillas.

This past Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo named Abrams as America’s special envoy for Venezuela. According to Pompeo, Abrams “will have responsibility for all things related to our efforts to restore democracy” in the oil-rich nation.

The choice of Abrams sends a clear message to Venezuela and the world: The Trump administration intends to brutalize Venezuela, while producing a stream of unctuous rhetoric about America’s love for democracy and human rights. Combining these two factors — the brutality and the unctuousness — is Abrams’s core competency.

Abrams previously served in a multitude of positions in the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, often with titles declaring their focus on morality. First, he was assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs (in 1981); then the State Department “human rights” position mentioned above (1981-85); assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs (1985-89); senior director for democracy, human rights, and international operations for the National Security Council (2001-05); and finally, Bush’s deputy national security adviser for global democracy strategy (2005-09).

In these positions, Abrams participated in many of the most ghastly acts of U.S. foreign policy from the past 40 years, all the while proclaiming how deeply he cared about the foreigners he and his friends were murdering. Looking back, it’s uncanny to see how Abrams has almost always been there when U.S. actions were at their most sordid.

Abrams, a graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law School, joined the Reagan administration in 1981, at age 33. He soon received a promotion due to a stroke of luck: Reagan wanted to name Ernest Lefever as assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs, but Lefever’s nomination ran aground when two of his own brothers revealed that he believed African-Americans were “inferior, intellectually speaking.” A disappointed Reagan was forced to turn to Abrams as a second choice.

A key Reagan administration concern at the time was Central America — in particular, the four adjoining nations of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. All had been dominated by tiny, cruel, white elites since their founding, with a century’s worth of help from U.S. interventions. In each country, the ruling families saw their society’s other inhabitants as human-shaped animals, who could be harnessed or killed as needed.

But shortly before Reagan took office, Anastasio Somoza, the dictator of Nicaragua and a U.S. ally, had been overthrown by a socialist revolution. The Reaganites rationally saw this as a threat to the governments of Nicaragua’s neighbors. Each country had large populations who similarly did not enjoy being worked to death on coffee plantations or watching their children die of easily treated diseases. Some would take up arms, and some would simply try to keep their heads down, but all, from the perspective of the cold warriors in the White House, were likely “communists” taking orders from Moscow. They needed to be taught a lesson.

El Salvador

The extermination of El Mozote was just a drop in the river of what happened in El Salvador during the 1980s. About 75,000 Salvadorans died during what’s called a “civil war,” although almost all the killing was done by the government and its associated death squads.

The numbers alone don’t tell the whole story. El Salvador is a small country, about the size of New Jersey. The equivalent number of deaths in the U.S. would be almost 5 million. Moreover, the Salvadoran regime continually engaged in acts of barbarism so heinous that there is no contemporary equivalent, except perhaps ISIS. In one instance, a Catholic priest reported that a peasant woman briefly left her three small children in the care of her mother and sister. When she returned, she found that all five had been decapitated by the Salvadoran National Guard. Their bodies were sitting around a table, with their hands placed on their heads in front of them, “as though each body was stroking its own head.” The hand of one, a toddler, apparently kept slipping off her small head, so it had been nailed onto it. At the center of the table was a large bowl full of blood.

Criticism of U.S. policy at the time was not confined to the left. During this period, Charles Maechling Jr., who had led State Department planning for counterinsurgencies during the 1960s, wrote in the Los Angeles Times that the U.S. was supporting “Mafia-like oligarchies” in El Salvador and elsewhere and was directly complicit in “the methods of Heinrich Himmler’s extermination squads.”

Abrams was one of the architects of the Reagan administration’s policy of full-throated support for the Salvadoran government. He had no qualms about any of it and no mercy for anyone who escaped the Salvadoran abattoir. In 1984, sounding exactly like Trump officials today, he explained that Salvadorans who were in the U.S. illegally should not receive any kind of special status. “Some groups argue that illegal aliens who are sent back to El Salvador meet persecution and often death,” he told the House of Representatives. “Obviously, we do not believe these claims or we would not deport these people.”

Even when out of office, 10 years after the El Mozote massacre, Abrams expressed doubt that anything untoward had occurred there. In 1993, when a United Nations truth commission found that 95 percent of the acts of violence that had taken place in El Salvador since 1980 had been committed by Abrams’s friends in the Salvadoran government, he called what he and his colleagues in the Reagan administration had done a “fabulous achievement.”

Guatemala

The situation in Guatemala during the 1980s was much the same, as were Abrams’s actions. After the U.S. engineered the overthrow of Guatemala’s democratically elected president in 1954, the country had descended into a nightmare of revolving military dictatorships. Between 1960 and 1996, in another “civil war,” 200,000 Guatemalans were killed — the equivalent of maybe 8 million people in America. A U.N. commission later found that the Guatemalan state was responsible for 93 percent of the human rights violations.

Efraín Ríos Montt, who served as Guatemala’s president in the early 1980s, was found guilty in 2013, by Guatemala’s own justice system, of committing genocide against the country’s indigenous Mayans. During Ríos Montt’s administration, Abrams called for the lifting of an embargo on U.S. arms shipments to Guatemala, claiming that Ríos Montt had “brought considerable progress.” The U.S. had to support the Guatemalan government, Abrams argued, because “if we take the attitude ‘don’t come to us until you’re perfect, we’re going to walk away from this problem until Guatemala has a perfect human rights record,’ then we’re going to be leaving in the lurch people there who are trying to make progress.” One example of the people making an honest effort, according to Abrams, was Ríos Montt. Thanks to Ríos Montt, “there has been a tremendous change, especially in the attitude of the government toward the Indian population.” (Ríos Montt’s conviction was later set aside by Guatemala’s highest civilian court, and he died before a new trial could finish.)
Nicaragua

Abrams would become best known for his enthusiastic involvement with the Reagan administration’s push to overthrow Nicaragua’s revolutionary Sandinista government. He advocated for a full invasion of Nicaragua in 1983, immediately after the successful U.S. attack on the teeny island nation of Grenada. When Congress cut off funds to the Contras, an anti-Sandinista guerrilla force created by the U.S., Abrams successfully persuaded the Sultan of Brunei to cough up $10 million for the cause. Unfortunately, Abrams, acting under the code name “Kenilworth,” provided the Sultan with the wrong Swiss bank account number, so the money was wired instead to a random lucky recipient.

Abrams was questioned by Congress about his Contra-related activities and lied voluminously. He later pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information. One was about the Sultan and his money, and another was about Abrams’s knowledge of a Contra resupply C-123 plane that had been shot down in 1986. In a nice historical rhyme with his new job in the Trump administration, Abrams had previously attempted to obtain two C-123s for the Contras from the military of Venezuela.

Abrams received a sentence of 100 hours of community service and perceived the whole affair as an injustice of cosmic proportions. He soon wrote a book in which he described his inner monologue about his prosecutors, which went: “You miserable, filthy bastards, you bloodsuckers!” He was later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush on the latter’s way out the door after he lost the 1992 election.
Panama

While it’s been forgotten now, before America invaded Panama to oust Manuel Noriega in 1989, he was a close ally of the U.S. — despite the fact the Reagan administration knew he was a large-scale drug trafficker.

In 1985, Hugo Spadafora, a popular figure in Panama and its one-time vice minister for health, believed he had obtained proof of Noriega’s involvement in cocaine smuggling. He was on a bus on his way to Panama City to release it publicly when he was seized by Noriega’s thugs.

According to the book “Overthrow” by former New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer, U.S. intelligence picked up Noriega giving his underlings the go-ahead to put Spadafora down like “a rabid dog.” They tortured Spadafora for a long night and then sawed off his head while he was still alive. When Spadafora’s body was found, his stomach was full of blood he’d swallowed.

This was so horrific that it got people’s attention. But Abrams leapt to Noriega’s defense, blocking the U.S. ambassador to Panama from increasing pressure on the Panamanian leader. When Spadafora’s brother persuaded North Carolina’s hyper-conservative GOP Sen. Jesse Helms to hold hearings on Panama, Abrams told Helms that Noriega was “being really helpful to us” and was “really not that big a problem. … The Panamanians have promised they are going to help us with the Contras. If you have the hearings, it’ll alienate them.”
… And That’s Not All

Abrams also engaged in malfeasance for no discernible reason, perhaps just to stay in shape. In 1986 a Colombian journalist named Patricia Lara was invited to the U.S. to attend a dinner honoring writers who’d advanced “inter-American understanding and freedom of information.” When Lara arrived at New York’s Kennedy airport, she was taken into custody, then put on a plane back home. Soon afterward, Abrams went on “60 Minutes” to claim that Lara was a member of the “ruling committees” of M-19, a Colombian guerrilla movement. She also, according to Abrams, was ”an active liaison” between M-19 ”and the Cuban secret police.”

Given the frequent right-wing paramilitary violence against Colombian reporters, this painted a target on Lara’s back. There was no evidence then that Abrams’s assertions were true — Colombia’s own conservative government denied it — and none has appeared since.

Abrams’s never-ending, shameless deceptions wore down American reporters. “They said that black was white,” Joanne Omang at the Washington Post later explained about Abrams and his White House colleague Robert McFarlane. “Although I had used all my professional resources I had misled my readers.” Omang was so exhausted by the experience that she quit her job trying to describe the real world to try to write fiction.

Post-conviction Abrams was seen as damaged goods who couldn’t return to government. This underestimated him. Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., the one-time chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tangled fiercely with Abrams in 1989 over the proper U.S. policy toward Noriega once it become clear he was more trouble than he was worth. Crowe strongly opposed a bright idea that Abrams had come up with: that the U.S. should establish a government-in-exile on Panamanian soil, which would require thousands of U.S. troops to guard. This was deeply boneheaded, Crowe said, but it didn’t matter. Crowe presciently issued a warning about Abrams: “This snake’s hard to kill.”

To the surprise of Washington’s more naive insiders, Abrams was back in business soon after George W. Bush entered the White House. It might have been difficult to get Senate approval for someone who had deceived Congress, so Bush put him in a slot at the National Security Council — where no legislative branch approval was needed. Just like 20 years before, Abrams was handed a portfolio involving “democracy” and “human rights.”

Venezuela

By the beginning of 2002, Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez, had become deeply irritating to the Bush White House, which was filled with veterans of the battles of the 1980s. That April, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, Chavez was pushed out of power in a coup. Whether and how the U.S. was involved is not yet known, and probably won’t be for decades until the relevant documents are declassified. But based on the previous 100 years, it would be surprising indeed if America didn’t play any behind-the-scenes role. For what it’s worth, the London Observer reported at the time that “the crucial figure around the coup was Abrams” and he “gave a nod” to the plotters. In any case, Chavez had enough popular support that he was able to regroup and return to office within days.
Iran

Abrams apparently did play a key role in squelching a peace proposal from Iran in 2003, just after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The plan arrived by fax, and should have gone to Abrams, and then to Condoleezza Rice, at the time Bush’s national security adviser. Instead it somehow never made it to Rice’s desk. When later asked about this, Abrams’s spokesperson replied that he “had no memory of any such fax.” (Abrams, like so many people who thrive at the highest level of politics, has a terrible memory for anything political. In 1984, he told Ted Koppel that he couldn’t recall for sure whether the U.S. had investigated reports of massacres in El Salvador. In 1986, when asked by the Senate Intelligence Committee if he’d discussed fundraising for the contras with anyone on the NSC’s staff, he likewise couldn’t remember.)
Israel and Palestine

Abrams was also at the center of another attempt to thwart the outcome of a democratic election, in 2006. Bush had pushed for legislative elections in the West Bank and Gaza in order to give Fatah, the highly corrupt Palestinian organization headed by Yasser Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, some badly needed legitimacy. To everyone’s surprise, Fatah’s rival Hamas won, giving it the right to form a government.

This unpleasant outburst of democracy was not acceptable to the Bush administration, in particular Rice and Abrams. They hatched a plan to form a Fatah militia to take over the Gaza Strip, and crush Hamas in its home territory. As reported by Vanity Fair, this involved a great deal of torture and executions. But Hamas stole a march on Fatah with their own ultra-violence. David Wurmser, a neoconservative who worked for Dick Cheney at the time, told Vanity Fair, “It looks to me that what happened wasn’t so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen.” Yet ever since, these events have been turned upside down in the U.S. media, with Hamas being presented as the aggressors.

While the U.S. plan was not a total success, it also was not a total failure from the perspective of America and Israel. The Palestinian civil war split the West Bank and Gaza into two entities, with rival governments in both. For the past 13 years, there’s been little sign of the political unity necessary for Palestinians to get a decent life for themselves.

Abrams then left office with Bush’s exit. But now he’s back for a third rotation through the corridors of power – with the same kinds of schemes he’s executed the first two times.

Looking back at Abrams’s lifetime of lies and savagery, it’s hard to imagine what he could say to justify it. But he does have a defense for everything he’s done — and it’s a good one.

In 1995, Abrams appeared on “The Charlie Rose Show” with Allan Nairn, one of the most knowledgable American reporters about U.S. foreign policy. Nairn noted that George H.W. Bush had once discussed putting Saddam Hussein on trial for crimes against humanity. This was a good idea, said Nairn, but “if you’re serious, you have to be even-handed” — which would mean also prosecuting officials like Abrams.

Abrams chuckled at the ludicrousness of such a concept. That would require, he said, “putting all the American officials who won the Cold War in the dock.”

Abrams was largely right. The distressing reality is that Abrams is no rogue outlier, but a respected, honored member of the center right of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. His first jobs before joining the Reagan administration were working for two Democratic senators, Henry Jackson and Daniel Moynihan. He was a senior fellow at the centrist Council on Foreign Relations. He’s been a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and now is on the board of the National Endowment for Democracy. He’s taught the next generation of foreign policy officials at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He didn’t somehow fool Reagan and George W. Bush — they wanted exactly what Abrams provided.

So no matter the gruesome particulars of Abrams’s career, the important thing to remember — as the U.S. eagle tightens its razor-sharp talons around yet another Latin American country — is that Abrams isn’t that exceptional. He’s mostly a cog in a machine. It’s the machine that’s the problem, not its malevolent parts.
cliffs:
Trump's pick to head up organizing out efforts and interests in Venezuela is no stranger to war crimes and to lying to Congress in an effort to cover up those war crimes being done in our name.
__________________
Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that ”all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty -- to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocricy. - Lincoln
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Unread 2019-02-13, 06:54 PM   #9
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seeing as its being done in our names...
a bit of info on the guy that Trump has given a ton of responsibility to regarding Venezuela:
https://theintercept.com/2019/01/30/...enezuela-coup/
Quote:
On December 11, 1981 in El Salvador, a Salvadoran military unit created and trained by the U.S. Army began slaughtering everyone they could find in a remote village called El Mozote. Before murdering the women and girls, the soldiers raped them repeatedly, including some as young as 10 years old, and joked that their favorites were the 12-year-olds. One witness described a soldier tossing a 3-year-old child into the air and impaling him with his bayonet. The final death toll was over 800 people.

The next day, December 12, was the first day on the job for Elliott Abrams as assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs in the Reagan administration. Abrams snapped into action, helping to lead a cover-up of the massacre. News reports of what had happened, Abrams told the Senate, were “not credible,” and the whole thing was being “significantly misused” as propaganda by anti-government guerillas.

This past Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo named Abrams as America’s special envoy for Venezuela. According to Pompeo, Abrams “will have responsibility for all things related to our efforts to restore democracy” in the oil-rich nation.

The choice of Abrams sends a clear message to Venezuela and the world: The Trump administration intends to brutalize Venezuela, while producing a stream of unctuous rhetoric about America’s love for democracy and human rights. Combining these two factors — the brutality and the unctuousness — is Abrams’s core competency.

Abrams previously served in a multitude of positions in the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, often with titles declaring their focus on morality. First, he was assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs (in 1981); then the State Department “human rights” position mentioned above (1981-85); assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs (1985-89); senior director for democracy, human rights, and international operations for the National Security Council (2001-05); and finally, Bush’s deputy national security adviser for global democracy strategy (2005-09).

In these positions, Abrams participated in many of the most ghastly acts of U.S. foreign policy from the past 40 years, all the while proclaiming how deeply he cared about the foreigners he and his friends were murdering. Looking back, it’s uncanny to see how Abrams has almost always been there when U.S. actions were at their most sordid.

Abrams, a graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law School, joined the Reagan administration in 1981, at age 33. He soon received a promotion due to a stroke of luck: Reagan wanted to name Ernest Lefever as assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs, but Lefever’s nomination ran aground when two of his own brothers revealed that he believed African-Americans were “inferior, intellectually speaking.” A disappointed Reagan was forced to turn to Abrams as a second choice.

A key Reagan administration concern at the time was Central America — in particular, the four adjoining nations of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. All had been dominated by tiny, cruel, white elites since their founding, with a century’s worth of help from U.S. interventions. In each country, the ruling families saw their society’s other inhabitants as human-shaped animals, who could be harnessed or killed as needed.

But shortly before Reagan took office, Anastasio Somoza, the dictator of Nicaragua and a U.S. ally, had been overthrown by a socialist revolution. The Reaganites rationally saw this as a threat to the governments of Nicaragua’s neighbors. Each country had large populations who similarly did not enjoy being worked to death on coffee plantations or watching their children die of easily treated diseases. Some would take up arms, and some would simply try to keep their heads down, but all, from the perspective of the cold warriors in the White House, were likely “communists” taking orders from Moscow. They needed to be taught a lesson.

El Salvador

The extermination of El Mozote was just a drop in the river of what happened in El Salvador during the 1980s. About 75,000 Salvadorans died during what’s called a “civil war,” although almost all the killing was done by the government and its associated death squads.

The numbers alone don’t tell the whole story. El Salvador is a small country, about the size of New Jersey. The equivalent number of deaths in the U.S. would be almost 5 million. Moreover, the Salvadoran regime continually engaged in acts of barbarism so heinous that there is no contemporary equivalent, except perhaps ISIS. In one instance, a Catholic priest reported that a peasant woman briefly left her three small children in the care of her mother and sister. When she returned, she found that all five had been decapitated by the Salvadoran National Guard. Their bodies were sitting around a table, with their hands placed on their heads in front of them, “as though each body was stroking its own head.” The hand of one, a toddler, apparently kept slipping off her small head, so it had been nailed onto it. At the center of the table was a large bowl full of blood.

Criticism of U.S. policy at the time was not confined to the left. During this period, Charles Maechling Jr., who had led State Department planning for counterinsurgencies during the 1960s, wrote in the Los Angeles Times that the U.S. was supporting “Mafia-like oligarchies” in El Salvador and elsewhere and was directly complicit in “the methods of Heinrich Himmler’s extermination squads.”

Abrams was one of the architects of the Reagan administration’s policy of full-throated support for the Salvadoran government. He had no qualms about any of it and no mercy for anyone who escaped the Salvadoran abattoir. In 1984, sounding exactly like Trump officials today, he explained that Salvadorans who were in the U.S. illegally should not receive any kind of special status. “Some groups argue that illegal aliens who are sent back to El Salvador meet persecution and often death,” he told the House of Representatives. “Obviously, we do not believe these claims or we would not deport these people.”

Even when out of office, 10 years after the El Mozote massacre, Abrams expressed doubt that anything untoward had occurred there. In 1993, when a United Nations truth commission found that 95 percent of the acts of violence that had taken place in El Salvador since 1980 had been committed by Abrams’s friends in the Salvadoran government, he called what he and his colleagues in the Reagan administration had done a “fabulous achievement.”

Guatemala

The situation in Guatemala during the 1980s was much the same, as were Abrams’s actions. After the U.S. engineered the overthrow of Guatemala’s democratically elected president in 1954, the country had descended into a nightmare of revolving military dictatorships. Between 1960 and 1996, in another “civil war,” 200,000 Guatemalans were killed — the equivalent of maybe 8 million people in America. A U.N. commission later found that the Guatemalan state was responsible for 93 percent of the human rights violations.

Efraín Ríos Montt, who served as Guatemala’s president in the early 1980s, was found guilty in 2013, by Guatemala’s own justice system, of committing genocide against the country’s indigenous Mayans. During Ríos Montt’s administration, Abrams called for the lifting of an embargo on U.S. arms shipments to Guatemala, claiming that Ríos Montt had “brought considerable progress.” The U.S. had to support the Guatemalan government, Abrams argued, because “if we take the attitude ‘don’t come to us until you’re perfect, we’re going to walk away from this problem until Guatemala has a perfect human rights record,’ then we’re going to be leaving in the lurch people there who are trying to make progress.” One example of the people making an honest effort, according to Abrams, was Ríos Montt. Thanks to Ríos Montt, “there has been a tremendous change, especially in the attitude of the government toward the Indian population.” (Ríos Montt’s conviction was later set aside by Guatemala’s highest civilian court, and he died before a new trial could finish.)
Nicaragua

Abrams would become best known for his enthusiastic involvement with the Reagan administration’s push to overthrow Nicaragua’s revolutionary Sandinista government. He advocated for a full invasion of Nicaragua in 1983, immediately after the successful U.S. attack on the teeny island nation of Grenada. When Congress cut off funds to the Contras, an anti-Sandinista guerrilla force created by the U.S., Abrams successfully persuaded the Sultan of Brunei to cough up $10 million for the cause. Unfortunately, Abrams, acting under the code name “Kenilworth,” provided the Sultan with the wrong Swiss bank account number, so the money was wired instead to a random lucky recipient.

Abrams was questioned by Congress about his Contra-related activities and lied voluminously. He later pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information. One was about the Sultan and his money, and another was about Abrams’s knowledge of a Contra resupply C-123 plane that had been shot down in 1986. In a nice historical rhyme with his new job in the Trump administration, Abrams had previously attempted to obtain two C-123s for the Contras from the military of Venezuela.

Abrams received a sentence of 100 hours of community service and perceived the whole affair as an injustice of cosmic proportions. He soon wrote a book in which he described his inner monologue about his prosecutors, which went: “You miserable, filthy bastards, you bloodsuckers!” He was later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush on the latter’s way out the door after he lost the 1992 election.
Panama

While it’s been forgotten now, before America invaded Panama to oust Manuel Noriega in 1989, he was a close ally of the U.S. — despite the fact the Reagan administration knew he was a large-scale drug trafficker.

In 1985, Hugo Spadafora, a popular figure in Panama and its one-time vice minister for health, believed he had obtained proof of Noriega’s involvement in cocaine smuggling. He was on a bus on his way to Panama City to release it publicly when he was seized by Noriega’s thugs.

According to the book “Overthrow” by former New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer, U.S. intelligence picked up Noriega giving his underlings the go-ahead to put Spadafora down like “a rabid dog.” They tortured Spadafora for a long night and then sawed off his head while he was still alive. When Spadafora’s body was found, his stomach was full of blood he’d swallowed.

This was so horrific that it got people’s attention. But Abrams leapt to Noriega’s defense, blocking the U.S. ambassador to Panama from increasing pressure on the Panamanian leader. When Spadafora’s brother persuaded North Carolina’s hyper-conservative GOP Sen. Jesse Helms to hold hearings on Panama, Abrams told Helms that Noriega was “being really helpful to us” and was “really not that big a problem. … The Panamanians have promised they are going to help us with the Contras. If you have the hearings, it’ll alienate them.”
… And That’s Not All

Abrams also engaged in malfeasance for no discernible reason, perhaps just to stay in shape. In 1986 a Colombian journalist named Patricia Lara was invited to the U.S. to attend a dinner honoring writers who’d advanced “inter-American understanding and freedom of information.” When Lara arrived at New York’s Kennedy airport, she was taken into custody, then put on a plane back home. Soon afterward, Abrams went on “60 Minutes” to claim that Lara was a member of the “ruling committees” of M-19, a Colombian guerrilla movement. She also, according to Abrams, was ”an active liaison” between M-19 ”and the Cuban secret police.”

Given the frequent right-wing paramilitary violence against Colombian reporters, this painted a target on Lara’s back. There was no evidence then that Abrams’s assertions were true — Colombia’s own conservative government denied it — and none has appeared since.

Abrams’s never-ending, shameless deceptions wore down American reporters. “They said that black was white,” Joanne Omang at the Washington Post later explained about Abrams and his White House colleague Robert McFarlane. “Although I had used all my professional resources I had misled my readers.” Omang was so exhausted by the experience that she quit her job trying to describe the real world to try to write fiction.

Post-conviction Abrams was seen as damaged goods who couldn’t return to government. This underestimated him. Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., the one-time chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tangled fiercely with Abrams in 1989 over the proper U.S. policy toward Noriega once it become clear he was more trouble than he was worth. Crowe strongly opposed a bright idea that Abrams had come up with: that the U.S. should establish a government-in-exile on Panamanian soil, which would require thousands of U.S. troops to guard. This was deeply boneheaded, Crowe said, but it didn’t matter. Crowe presciently issued a warning about Abrams: “This snake’s hard to kill.”

To the surprise of Washington’s more naive insiders, Abrams was back in business soon after George W. Bush entered the White House. It might have been difficult to get Senate approval for someone who had deceived Congress, so Bush put him in a slot at the National Security Council — where no legislative branch approval was needed. Just like 20 years before, Abrams was handed a portfolio involving “democracy” and “human rights.”

Venezuela

By the beginning of 2002, Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez, had become deeply irritating to the Bush White House, which was filled with veterans of the battles of the 1980s. That April, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, Chavez was pushed out of power in a coup. Whether and how the U.S. was involved is not yet known, and probably won’t be for decades until the relevant documents are declassified. But based on the previous 100 years, it would be surprising indeed if America didn’t play any behind-the-scenes role. For what it’s worth, the London Observer reported at the time that “the crucial figure around the coup was Abrams” and he “gave a nod” to the plotters. In any case, Chavez had enough popular support that he was able to regroup and return to office within days.
Iran

Abrams apparently did play a key role in squelching a peace proposal from Iran in 2003, just after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The plan arrived by fax, and should have gone to Abrams, and then to Condoleezza Rice, at the time Bush’s national security adviser. Instead it somehow never made it to Rice’s desk. When later asked about this, Abrams’s spokesperson replied that he “had no memory of any such fax.” (Abrams, like so many people who thrive at the highest level of politics, has a terrible memory for anything political. In 1984, he told Ted Koppel that he couldn’t recall for sure whether the U.S. had investigated reports of massacres in El Salvador. In 1986, when asked by the Senate Intelligence Committee if he’d discussed fundraising for the contras with anyone on the NSC’s staff, he likewise couldn’t remember.)
Israel and Palestine

Abrams was also at the center of another attempt to thwart the outcome of a democratic election, in 2006. Bush had pushed for legislative elections in the West Bank and Gaza in order to give Fatah, the highly corrupt Palestinian organization headed by Yasser Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, some badly needed legitimacy. To everyone’s surprise, Fatah’s rival Hamas won, giving it the right to form a government.

This unpleasant outburst of democracy was not acceptable to the Bush administration, in particular Rice and Abrams. They hatched a plan to form a Fatah militia to take over the Gaza Strip, and crush Hamas in its home territory. As reported by Vanity Fair, this involved a great deal of torture and executions. But Hamas stole a march on Fatah with their own ultra-violence. David Wurmser, a neoconservative who worked for Dick Cheney at the time, told Vanity Fair, “It looks to me that what happened wasn’t so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen.” Yet ever since, these events have been turned upside down in the U.S. media, with Hamas being presented as the aggressors.

While the U.S. plan was not a total success, it also was not a total failure from the perspective of America and Israel. The Palestinian civil war split the West Bank and Gaza into two entities, with rival governments in both. For the past 13 years, there’s been little sign of the political unity necessary for Palestinians to get a decent life for themselves.

Abrams then left office with Bush’s exit. But now he’s back for a third rotation through the corridors of power – with the same kinds of schemes he’s executed the first two times.

Looking back at Abrams’s lifetime of lies and savagery, it’s hard to imagine what he could say to justify it. But he does have a defense for everything he’s done — and it’s a good one.

In 1995, Abrams appeared on “The Charlie Rose Show” with Allan Nairn, one of the most knowledgable American reporters about U.S. foreign policy. Nairn noted that George H.W. Bush had once discussed putting Saddam Hussein on trial for crimes against humanity. This was a good idea, said Nairn, but “if you’re serious, you have to be even-handed” — which would mean also prosecuting officials like Abrams.

Abrams chuckled at the ludicrousness of such a concept. That would require, he said, “putting all the American officials who won the Cold War in the dock.”

Abrams was largely right. The distressing reality is that Abrams is no rogue outlier, but a respected, honored member of the center right of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. His first jobs before joining the Reagan administration were working for two Democratic senators, Henry Jackson and Daniel Moynihan. He was a senior fellow at the centrist Council on Foreign Relations. He’s been a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and now is on the board of the National Endowment for Democracy. He’s taught the next generation of foreign policy officials at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He didn’t somehow fool Reagan and George W. Bush — they wanted exactly what Abrams provided.

So no matter the gruesome particulars of Abrams’s career, the important thing to remember — as the U.S. eagle tightens its razor-sharp talons around yet another Latin American country — is that Abrams isn’t that exceptional. He’s mostly a cog in a machine. It’s the machine that’s the problem, not its malevolent parts.
cliffs:
- Trump's pick to head up organizing out efforts and interests in Venezuela is no stranger to war crimes and to lying to Congress in an effort to cover up those war crimes being done in our name.
- he was pardoned for his crimes relating to Iran-Contra and lying to Congress about it which, by necessity, means he has already legally admitted that he did the things he was accused of because that's how Presidential pardons work so JW and DIY you guys can put down your "fake news" pitchforks already
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Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that ”all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty -- to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocricy. - Lincoln

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Unread 2019-02-13, 08:34 PM   #10
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Venezuela opposition takes steps to seize control of oil revenue

Opposition-controlled congress named new temporary board of directors for country's state-oil firm PDVSA.







PDVSA's crude output has slumped to 70-year lows, due to crushing debts, widespread corruption, and little maintenance of its infrastructure [Jonathan Bachman/Reuters]


Venezuela's opposition-controlled congress named new transitional board of directors to state-oil firm PDVSA on Wednesday, in an effort to wrest the OPEC nation's oil revenue from President Nicolas Maduro.

An increasingly isolated Maduro lashed out at the congress leader Juan Guaido, saying in an interview that he would face the courts "sooner or later" for violating the constitution after he declared himself interim president last month.

Although many Western countries have recognised Guaido as legitimate head of state, Maduro retains control of state institutions and Guaido needs funds if he is to assemble an interim government.

Controlling PDVSA's US refiner Citgo Petroleum , Venezuela's most valuable foreign asset, would go some way to helping in that, though seizing the reigns of PDVSA itself seems improbable while Maduro remains in power.


"We have taken a step forward with the reconstruction of PDVSA," Guaido said on Twitter, just after congress named the directors. "With this decision, we are not only protecting our assets, we also avoid continued destruction."
"The new directive its conformed of capable Venezuelans, free of corruption and without a partisan affiliation. In addition, we will have the first woman to hold a position of this nature in our oil industry," he added.
La nueva Directiva estará conformada por venezolanos capaces, libres de corrupción y sin afiliación partidista. Además, tendremos la primera mujer en ocupar un cargo de esta naturaleza en nuestra industria petrolera.
¡Avanzamos en el rescate de Venezuela! #CITGOParaLosVenezolanos pic.twitter.com/hq7HpwJGqz
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) February 13, 2019
PDVSA's crude output has slumped to 70-year lows, due to crushing debts, widespread corruption, and little maintenance of its infrastructure. The administration of US President Donald Trump, which backs Guaido, imposed sanctions on Venezuela's oil sector on January 28, seeking to curb exports to the United States and upping the pressure on Maduro.

The proposed Citgo board would be composed of Venezuelans Luisa Palacios, Angel Olmeta, Luis Urdaneta and Edgar Rincon, all of whom are currently living in the United States, plus one American director.

The nominations fuel a growing duel for control between Guaido and Maduro, who has promised he will not allow Citgo to be "stolen". The mechanics of how the new board would take over are unclear, and there are likely to be court challenges to the board's authority, people familiar with the deliberations say.

Citgo and PDVSA did not immediately reply to requests to comment.

Bulgarian security officials said on Wednesday that the country has blocked transfers out of several bank accounts which have received millions of euros from PDVSA.
Guaido invoked a constitutional provision three weeks ago to assume Venezuela's presidency, arguing that Maduro's re-election last year was a sham.

Maduro, in an interview released on Wednesday by Lebanese television channel al-Mayadeen TV, said Guaido was seeking to divide the country and convince the Trump administration to launch a foreign intervention.

"This person, who believes that politics is a game and he can violate the constitution and the law, sooner or later will have to answer before the courts," Maduro said, adding he was "absolutely sure" of this.

"If the American empire dares to touch even one palm leaf in our territory, this will turn into a new Vietnam," he said.
US military intervention?

A senior US politician said on Wednesday that Congress would not give backing to any US military intervention in Venezuela.
The Trump administration has said it wants a peaceful resolution to the crisis but Trump has repeatedly refused to rule out military action.


"I think there are a number of solutions, a number of different options, and we look at all options," Trump said when asked about the issue on Wednesday, in an appearance at the White House with Colombian President Ivan Duque.

Separately, Elliott Abrams, the State Department point man for Venezuela, said on Wednesday that military intervention "is not a path that the US government is pursuing".

"I don't see a reason" for the use of force, he added during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

Abrams has come under fire from Democrats over his past embrace of American covert action in Latin America.
Meanwhile, the United States and other countries are trying to channel aid to Venezuela.

Guaido told a huge rally of supporters on Tuesday that humanitarian aid would enter the country on February 23, setting the stage for a showdown with Maduro, who has refused to let supplies in.

Maduro denies there is an economic crisis despite a widespread lack of food and medicine and hyperinflation.
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Unread 2019-02-14, 08:12 PM   #11
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AP Interview: Maduro reveals secret meetings with US envoy

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Nicolas Maduro has invited a U.S. special envoy to Venezuela after revealing in an AP interview that his foreign minister recently held secret meetings with the U.S. official in New York.

A senior Venezuelan official said the second of two meetings took place Feb. 11 — four days after the envoy, Elliott Abrams, said the "time for dialogue with Maduro had long passed," and as the Trump administration publicly backed an effort to unseat the embattled Venezuelan president.
Even while harshly criticizing Donald Trump's confrontational stance toward his socialist government, Maduro said he holds out hope of meeting the U.S. president soon to resolve a crisis over the U.S.' recognition of opponent Juan Guaido as Venezuela's rightful leader.
Maduro said that while in New York, his foreign minister invited Abrams to come to Venezuela "privately, publicly or secretly."
"If he wants to meet, just tell me when, where and how and I'll be there," Maduro said without providing more details. He said both New York meetings lasted several hours.
There was no immediate U.S. comment.
Venezuela is plunging deeper into a political chaos triggered by the U.S. demand that Maduro step down a month into a second term that the U.S. and its allies in Latin America consider illegitimate. The heated crisis is taking place against a backdrop of economic and social turmoil that has led to severe shortages of food and medicine that have force millions to flee the once-prosperous OPEC nation.
At turns conciliatory and combative, Maduro said all Venezuela needs to rebound is for Trump to remove his "infected hand" from the country that sits atop the world's largest petroleum reserves. He said U.S. sanctions on the oil industry are to blame for mounting hardships even though shortages and hyperinflation that economists say topped 1 million percent long predates Trump's recent action.
"The infected hand of Donald Trump is hurting Venezuela," Maduro said.
Amid the mounting pressure at home and abroad, Maduro said he won't give up power as a way to defuse the standoff.
He called boxes of U.S.-supplied humanitarian aid sitting in a warehouse on the border in Colombia mere "crumbs" after the U.S. administration froze billions of dollars in the nation's oil revenue and overseas assets.
"They hang us, steal our money and then say 'here, grab these crumbs' and make a global show out of it," said Maduro. "With dignity we say 'No to the global show.' Whoever wants to help Venezuela is welcome, but we have enough capacity to pay for everything that we need."
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Unread 2019-02-14, 09:51 PM   #12
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Venezuela unveils anti-US coalition at United Nations


UNITED NATIONS – It was almost a who’s who of America's foes as Venezuela’s foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, was surrounded on Thursday by some of the world’s most notorious human rights violators. He was announcing the formation of a group of countries that he said would defend the United Nations Charter.





In an attempt to fight off what the Nicolas Maduro government has claimed to be the threat of a U.S.-led coup, and flanked by more than a dozen ambassadors and diplomats from countries including Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, China and Russia, Arreaza read off a statement defending the charter and the principles of nonintervention.

Those principles included respect for sovereignty of all states. The principles also called for states to refrain from the use of force against any state, and to respect territorial integrity.

In reference to the sanctions put on his country by the United States, he said all people “have the right to live without the threat of use of force and without the application illegal, coercive, unilateral measures.”
Arreaza said that the new group would be conducting “a series of actions to increase awareness around the dangers that our peoples currently face, particularly the case of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. We call upon all the member states of the U.N. to join us in defending international law as the only guarantor of ... peaceful coexistence.”

One Western diplomat said the message of the new Venezuela-led group was "completely inconsistent with how the vast majority of those member states actually behave in the real world. So I think it was ridiculous, and the countries that they were able to pull together certainly underline that fact."
Jonathan Wachtel, a former director of communications for Ambassador Nikki Haley at the U.S. Mission to the U.N., told Fox News, “It is telling to see that these defenders of Maduro at the United Nations happen to be representatives of governments that have been accused of securing power for themselves rather than allowing the democratic process to give them legitimate power.”

Wachtel continued, “History will show that their stance was an affront to the majority of Venezuelans who want a government that truly represents them”

Palestinian U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour, who surprised some observers by showing his support for the besieged Maduro government, told reporters that the group had signed up 50 members.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said his country was very concerned that “some hotheads may be considering a military action against Venezuela,” saying that would be a very “bad development.”

He was asked if he was encouraged by the support for the Maduro government by some U.S. lawmakers, including Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., to which he said, “Reasonable people are everywhere, including in Congress.”
Both Russia and the United States have circulated dueling draft resolutions on Venezuela to the Security Council. While no vote is expected this week, it would seem that Russia and China would most likely have to use their veto to stop the U.S. draft from passing.
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Unread 2019-02-18, 08:19 PM   #13
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Trump urges Venezuelan military to abandon Maduro or 'lose everything'

MIAMI (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday warned members of Venezuela’s military who remain loyal to socialist President Nicolas Maduro that they are risking their future and their lives and urged them to allow humanitarian aid into the country.

Speaking to a cheering crowd mostly of Venezuelan and Cuban immigrants in Miami, Trump said if the Venezuelan military continues supporting Maduro, “you will find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out. You’ll lose everything.”
Maduro retaliated late on Monday that Trump’s speech was “nazi-style” and said he acted as if he were the owner of Venezuela and its citizens his slaves.




Trump offered strong backing for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, whom the United States, many of Venezuela’s neighbors and most Western countries have recognized as interim president of Venezuela.

But Maduro, who won a second term last year in an election that critics denounced as a sham, retains the backing of Russia and China and control of Venezuelan state institutions, including the security services.

Trump cautioned Venezuelan armed forces not to harm Guaido or other opposition politicians, urged them to accept the National Assembly leader’s offer of amnesty and demanded that they allow in food, medicine and other supplies.

Guaido, who invoked constitutional provisions to declare himself the country’s leader last month, has said that aid will enter Venezuela from neighboring countries by land and sea on Saturday.

The United States has sent tons of aid that is being stockpiled on Colombia’s border with Venezuela, but Maduro has refused to let it in.

Maduro calls the aid a U.S.-orchestrated show and denies any crisis despite many Venezuelans’ scant access to food and medicine.

“We will not make of the honorable Venezuela a Venezuela of beggars,” he said in televised comments on Monday. “We will not accept it.”




Maduro said Venezuela already received “humanitarian assistance” on a daily basis. Russia, for example, was sending 300 tonnes of aid to the country by plane on Wednesday, he said, albeit clarifying this was not a donation but supplies for which Venezuela had paid.
BROAD ATTACK ON SOCIALISM

“We seek a peaceful transition of power but all options are open,” Trump said. It was a further hint of Trump’s repeated insistence that military options remain on the table, though most Latin America experts believe such action is unlikely.The United States has had direct communications with members of Venezuela’s military urging them to abandon Maduro, a senior White House official told Reuters this month, and Trump’s aides have openly predicted more defections.

But so far, few military officers have turned against Maduro.




FILE PHOTO: Soldiers with their faces painted march during a military parade to celebrate the 205th anniversary of Venezuela's independence in Caracas, Venezuela July 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso/File Photo



A source in Washington close to the opposition expressed doubts whether the Trump administration has done sufficient groundwork to spur a wider mutiny in the ranks, where many officers are suspected of benefiting from corruption and drug trafficking.

Guaido, in a videotaped message to the crowd at Florida International University, called it a “decisive moment” to exert pressure on Maduro from inside and outside the country.

Trump also used his speech to rail against socialism as a “dying” ideology in the Western Hemisphere and to brand Maduro a “puppet” of communist-ruled Cuba.

While the Republican president did not directly equate socialism with the Democratic party, as he appeared to do in his State of the Union speech this month, he alluded to his earlier criticism of domestic policies proposed by some liberal Democrats.
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Unread 2019-02-19, 10:34 PM   #14
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Venezuela crisis: Brazil vows to deliver aid, defying Maduro

Brazil says it will send humanitarian aid to its border with Venezuela by the weekend, despite the protests of embattled President Nicolás Maduro.

The delivery and distribution of the aid is being organised by Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, the Brazilian presidential spokesman said.

Mr Maduro denies there is a crisis in Venezuela and calls the growing aid operation a US-orchestrated show.
Venezuela also closed its border with the Dutch island of Curacao.

The Caribbean island, off Venezuela's north coast, is planning to host US aid. Senior Venezuelan military commander Vladimir Quintero confirmed the closure of the air and sea border on Tuesday, but gave no further details.


The military has so far managed to block shipments of US aid from coming across the border with Colombia.

Meanwhile, Venezuela's military has reaffirmed its support for President Maduro, rejecting a call by US President Donald Trump to switch allegiance to Mr Guaidó.
Image copyright Reuters Image caption Juan Guaidó (r) has been recognised by several governments as interim president
Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino, appearing alongside senior officers, said any attempt to impose a new government would have to be done over "our dead bodies".
He said the armed forces would block the delivery of aid sent by the US and other countries that have recognised Mr Guaidó as interim president.
What has Brazil said?

The government of President Jair Bolsonaro is among those which recognises Mr Guaidó as Venezuela's legitimate leader, pending elections.

Presidential spokesman General Otávio Régo Barros said on Tuesday that, in co-ordination with the US, food and medicine would be available in the border town of Pacaraima to be collected by "the government of acting President Juan Guaidó in Venezuelan trucks driven by Venezuelans".

"Brazil is taking part in this important international initiative to support the Guaidó government and the Venezuelan people," he said.

However, it is not clear if the convoy of aid will be allowed to cross the border. Mr Padrino warned on Tuesday that the military was "deployed and on alert along the borders... to avoid any violations of territorial integrity".

Mr Guaidó has said 600,000 volunteers have already signed up to help carry aid into the country on 23 February - the deadline he has set.
What has the US said?

Mr Maduro insists the planned deliveries of aid to Venezuela are a smokescreen for a US-led invasion.

In a speech on Monday, President Trump described Mr Maduro as a "Cuban puppet" and accused a "small handful at the top of Maduro's regime" of stealing and hiding money.
Media playback is unsupported on your device

President Trump addressed Venezuelan Americans in southern Florida








He called on the military to abandon Mr Maduro, saying: "They are risking their future, they are risking their lives and Venezuela's future for a man controlled by the Cuban military and protected by a private army of Cuban soldiers."
On Tuesday Cuba denied it had security forces in Venezuela.
"Our government categorically and energetically rejects this slander," Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said in Havana.
What's the background?

Mr Guaidó, the head of the country's opposition-led National Assembly, declared himself interim leader during anti-government protests last month.

He has vowed to oversee fresh elections on the grounds that Mr Maduro's 2018 re-election for a second term was flawed. Many opposition candidates were barred from running or jailed and there were allegations of vote-rigging.
The UN say more than three million Venezuelans have fled in recent years as the country grapples with hyperinflation and shortages of essentials like food and medicine.
Mr Maduro, who has been in power since 2013, has been criticised at home and abroad for his handling of the economy.

He has, however, retained the support of key allies who have helped bankroll the country's economy, including Russia and China.
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Unread 2019-02-20, 09:51 PM   #15
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As Maduro holds on, Venezuela opposition eyes negotiated transition



CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s opposition is trying to convince ruling Socialist Party officials to join a transition government, shifting focus as it seeks to unseat President Nicolas Maduro, who has clung to power in the face of growing international pressure and U.S. sanctions.
FILE PHOTO: Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro attends a rally in support of his government and to commemorate the 61st anniversary of the end of the dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez next to his wife Cilia Flores in Caracas, Venezuela January 23, 2019. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo





Last month, Venezuelan opposition leader and Congress chief Juan Guaido invoked the constitution to assume the interim presidency after declaring Maduro’s reelection in May 2018 illegitimate. He swiftly received recognition from the United States and Latin American powers.



In an effort to secure the backing of Venezuela’s military, Guaido proposed an amnesty for officers who turn on Maduro’s government.



But defections have been minimal and top brass has declared allegiance to Maduro, dimming hopes of a quick end to an economic disaster that has prompted millions of desperate Venezuelans to flee abroad, fueling a regional humanitarian crisis.



Amid fears the changes have stalled, opposition leaders have begun to talk in the past week about bringing ruling Socialist Party stalwarts into a potential transition government.



“This transition requires a large national agreement between the country’s political forces,” Edgar Zambrano, vice president of the opposition-run National Assembly, said in an interview.



Zambrano said any transition must include “Chavismo,” the left-wing movement founded by Venezuela’s late leader Hugo Chavez, who hand-picked Maduro as his successor.
“You cannot disappear Chavismo and you cannot go from persecuted to persecutor. This is not political revenge,” he said.



It was not immediately clear how actively the opposition is building bridges. Opposition leaders say they maintain contact with government officials and military officers but keep such talks confidential to avoid affecting those involved.



Maduro says he is the victim of a U.S.-orchestrated coup attempt and has refused to resign.



Many rank-and-file opposition supporters hope to see Maduro and his allies exiled or behind bars, and would be frustrated by attempts to bring them into the transition.
Guaido’s decision to assume the interim presidency revitalized Venezuela’s fragmented and disillusioned opposition and led to a flurry of street protests.
Hopes of quick change were fueled by diplomatic support from numerous countries and tough U.S. sanctions on Venezuela’s vital oil industry, which has bankrolled Maduro’s government.



Some in the opposition quietly predicted a military pronouncement in favor of Guaido as early as Jan. 23, the day he proclaimed himself president at a rally in Caracas. Top military officials were silent for hours after Guaido’s pronouncement, leading to speculation that Maduro was frantically negotiating with officers not to switch sides.
Yet only a handful of active officers backed Guaido. Expectations of a quick military proclamation have given way to concerns over a slow and complicated path forward, both in Caracas and Washington.



“I don’t think (Washington) understood the complexities of the target, of Venezuela: all the overlapping security that Maduro has available; the things at his disposal,” said one former U.S. administration official in touch with current officials.
WHAT ABOUT JUSTICE?

The idea of a unity in Venezuela was in fact included in a little-noticed provision of a Transition Law passed by the National Assembly last month.


Venezuela’s four main opposition parties all back the idea, but in the past week have increasingly discussed the issue.
“People must understand that Chavismo is not just Maduro,” legislator Stalin Gonzalez said in an interview with Reuters last week, in comments that sparked a backlash on social media.



Some opposition supporters say they would be open to middle-ranking or dissident socialists being included in an interim government, but not the top brass.


“They must pay for what they have done,” said Maria Elena Fonseca, who at age 78 struggles to make ends meet despite working as a psychologist. Like countless Venezuelans, Fonseca has seen her income eroded by hyperinflation that now tops 2 million percent annually.
Fonseca receives remittance from her daughter abroad, who is among the estimated 3 million Venezuelans who have fled the once-prosperous nation since 2015.



“It’s not about revenge: it’s about justice,” she said.
STALLING MOMENTUM?

Back channels between the two sides are considerably better developed than might be expected from 20 years of acrimonious politics and the constant slew of vitriolic social media commentary.



Gonzalez and other young legislators developed relationships with Socialist Party politicians in 2016. The two sides coexisted in the legislature until Maduro backed the creation in 2017 of an all-powerful, government-controlled Constitution Assembly with the aim of sidelining Congress.



Guaido’s team is wielding a stick as well as a carrot. It has held massive protests nationwide over the past month and will face off with authorities when it attempts to bring humanitarian aid into the country on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Washington’s crippling sanctions on the oil sector are expected to take effect in the coming weeks, cutting off funding to Maduro.



The risk, however, is that a standoff will drag on for months, disillusioning opposition supporters while allowing Maduro to blame an escalating economic crisis on the U.S. sanctions.



“The longer times passes and the opposition doesn’t pose a legitimate threat to Maduro, the more confident he will get,” said Raul Gallegos, an analyst with the consultancy Control Risks. He noted that Cuba, Zimbabwe and Iran all resisted international opprobrium and sanctions for decades.
“Chavistas are willing to drive this country into a level of despondency and reduce the economy to a level Venezuela hasn’t seen in decades as long as they can remain in power,” he said.
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Unread 2019-02-21, 05:12 PM   #16
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Venezuela's Maduro closes Brazil border to block aid entry

Maduro denies a humanitarian crisis, accusing the U.S. of using the “show” of supposed humanitarian aid as military intervention.


Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro ordered the vast border with Brazil to be closed on Thursday, just days before opposition leaders plan to bring in foreign humanitarian aid he has refused to accept.
Maduro said he’s also weighing whether to shut down border with Colombia.


Maduro made the announcement on state TV surrounded by military commanders.


Opposition leaders led by Juan Guaido are vowing to bring in U.S. supplies of emergency food and medicine to dramatize the country’s hardships under Maduro, who has said the country doesn’t need such help.


“What the U.S. empire is doing with its puppets is an internal provocation,” Maduro said. “They wanted to generate a great national commotion, but they didn’t achieve it.”


Under Maduro’s orders, Venezuela this week blocked air and sea travel between Venezuela and the nearby Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao, another point where aid was being stockpiled.


A caravan of vehicles carrying Guaido left the Venezuelan capital of Caracas early Thursday, heading toward the border with Colombia as part of the effort to bring in aid stored in the city of Cucuta starting on Saturday.
Maduro denies a humanitarian crisis, accusing the United States of leading a coup to remove him from power and using the “show” of supposed humanitarian aid as military intervention.


The socialist president is under a mounting challenge by Guaido, who has declared himself acting president on the grounds that Maduro’s re-election was invalid.
Guaido is backed by the U.S. and dozens of nations, while Maduro is supported by Russia, China, Cuba, Turkey and many other countries.


Guaido spokesman Edward Rodriguez, confirmed that the opposition leader, who heads the congress, was among passengers in a caravan consisting of several vehicles and buses.


Opposition leaders said they also plan to bring emergency supplies of food and medicine from Curacao and across the jungle-covered border with Brazil.
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Unread 2019-03-03, 08:51 PM   #17
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‘Losing support by the hour’: Venezuela’s Maduro will be out of power soon, Colombian president says

BOGOTA, Colombia — Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s “days in power are about to end” because of growing international and domestic pressure on his “mafioso” government and increasing desertions by his military troops, Colombian President Iván Duque said Sunday.
“Maduro is facing his last days, whether that’s one month or two, or one week, or one day,” Duque said in an interview at a military base in Bogota. He said Maduro’s power has declined precipitously in recent weeks: “Nobody has seen Maduro weaker.”
Duque’s country has directly felt the impact of Maduro’s years of corrupt government, which have turned one of Latin America’s richest countries into an economic and humanitarian catastrophe.
Colombia, itself still recovering from decades of guerrilla violence, has accepted more than 1.2 million Venezuelan refugees across their shared border amid a deepening disaster that has left much of the Venezuelan population starved for food, water, medicine and power.
Duque said he felt a moral urgency to help lead the opposition to Maduro. He likened the situation to that of people who can hear their next-door neighbor beating his wife and children every night.
“What’s the moral duty?” he said. “Wait until the next morning and pretend that everything is okay and say hello to your neighbor in the elevator? You have to denounce. And you have to do something so that abuse does not continue.”


Maduro insists his government is legitimate and has the support of the Venezuelan people. He has said the opposition efforts against him amount to an illegal coup, and he has accused Duque and President Trump of working out “war plans” against him.
Duque, 42, a lawyer educated at American University and Georgetown University who took office last August, has emerged as one of the leading voices against Maduro’s failed socialist government and has called for international sanctions.
He said he was certain that Maduro would be forced to leave power soon as his public support dwindles to a small base of hardcore supporters, including armed groups known as colectivos.
“He is using terror to preserve power,” Duque said. “He is losing support by the hour.”
Duque’s optimism about Maduro’s ouster stands in contrast to analysts who fear that Maduro, who has been in power since 2013 and was reelected last year in balloting widely seen as tainted by fraud, has proven to be remarkably resilient in the face of an opposition that has long been disorganized and fractured.


A recent international effort to take humanitarian aid, much of it supplied by the United States, from Colombia into Venezuela ended with Maduro’s loyalists shooting activists at the border and setting truckloads of aid on fire.
[Amid chaos and defiance, Venezuelan opposition faces off against security forces as Maduro digs in]
While that was widely viewed as a momentum-busting setback for the opposition, Duque, who was at the border with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó that day, said he believed the movement to oust Maduro was gaining strength rapidly.
It is possible, Duque said, that Maduro could be forcibly removed by Venezuelans as more and more military officers desert him in a “domino effect” and pledge allegiance to Guaidó, the leader of the National Assembly. Duque said more than 600 Venezuelan military soldiers have taken refuge in Colombia and desertions in Venezuela are growing “exponentially,” even among high-ranking officers.
Duque said he hoped Maduro would leave without violence: “It can be prevented and should be prevented.”
He said he would not send Colombian troops into Venezuela, and he said he believed the United States would not, either. U.S. officials have downplayed the idea of any U.S. military involvement, but Trump and Vice President Pence have said “all options are on the table” as they have called for Maduro to go.
[Venezuela’s military may hold key to Maduro’s fate]
Duque, whose presidential office features a bust of Abraham Lincoln that he bought in a Georgetown antique shop, said the Trump administration has acted with “values and principles” in its stand against Maduro, and he praised bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress. He met with Pence in Bogota last week and with Trump in the White House last month.
Duque said Maduro is being squeezed hard by a growing “diplomatic blockade” from the United States and countries across Latin America and beyond, including new U.S. economic sanctions Pence announced last week in Bogota.
The U.S. sanctions have targeted the assets of Maduro and his allies. Washington has also imposed strict sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, known as PDVSA, which has cut off a key source of revenue to Maduro’s government. Washington and other nations who recognize Guaidó’s government have called for the transfer of any state assets from Maduro to Guaidó.
While Duque said the economic consequences of sanctions could mean even more refugees flooding into Colombia, he said it was worth it to end “the most brutal dictatorship we have seen in Latin America in recent history.”
Maduro “does not want to accept any humanitarian aid for the people that are dying in Venezuela, and that is a crime against humanity,” Duque said.
Sanctions and military defections, Duque said, have boosted Guaidó, who has emerged as the charismatic young face of efforts to chase Maduro from power. Most Western nations now recognize Guaidó, 35, a civil engineer turned legislator, as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.
Defying a Venezuelan government travel ban, Guaidó has spent the past week touring Latin American countries to build support. He announced over the weekend that he would return to Venezuela, where Maduro has vowed he will “face justice,” raising fears that Guaidó could be arrested or even killed.
“If he arrests him, the world pressure will pull him out of jail pretty soon,” Duque said. “But if he decides to do something nasty, nobody inside of Venezuela would support him. It would be like Nero burning Rome.”
Duque said he believed Guaidó could pressure Maduro to leave peacefully because he had consolidated power enough among the Venezuelan opposition, military defectors and disillusioned former supporters of Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chávez.
“If this happens without any military action, it would become a very important precedent for humanity,” Duque said. “The world should keep the accelerator on so that this happens sooner than later.”
Duque said he believed Maduro, if he left Venezuela, could find sanctuary in Cuba, which has long had a close relationship with Venezuela and helped build Maduro’s security and intelligence agencies.
“I think he would be very happy there; he has a lot of friends there,” Duque said.
It would also be important to Maduro, Duque said, that Cuba is not a party to the International Criminal Court and has no extradition agreement with the United States.
Along with Cuba, China and Russia have maintained their support for Maduro. Duque said countries aligned with Guaidó, particularly the United States, need to persuade China and Russia that it is in their interest to reject Maduro.
“If they want to have relationships in Latin America, I think they should evaluate why most of the countries in the hemisphere have denounced what’s going on in Venezuela,” Duque said.
Duque worked for 13 years in Washington at the Inter-American Development Bank, then returned to Colombia and spent four years in the national senate before becoming president last August.
He said Maduro’s treatment of his own people and corrupt links to drug cartels and armed guerrilla groups in his country and Colombia mean that “the Venezuelan dictatorship today is the biggest threat to regional security.”
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Unread 2019-03-04, 05:31 PM   #18
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Venezuela’s U.S.-supported opposition leader Juan Guaido returns home, risks arrest



Venezuela’s U.S.-supported opposition leader Juan Guaido returned home to Caracas on Monday after visiting with the leaders of several Latin American countries.
Guaido returned to Venezuela after a 10-day absence. He defied a travel ban imposed by Venezuela's supreme court – controlled by embattled leader Nicolas Maduro – when he left Venezuela on Feb. 22 as part of efforts to bring humanitarian aid into the country.
"We will keep pushing forward, without fear," Guaido told reporters in Venezuela's capital after landing at Simon Bolívar international airport. Outside, Guaido, 35, was greeted by cheering crowds of supporters who chanted "Yes we can!"
Many of his supporters feared he might be arrested on arrival. Guaido has been recognized by the U.S. and over 50 countries as Venezuela's interim president and Maduro has accused the U.S. of attempting to stage a coup against his government.
Maduro's government has brought Venezuela's economy to its knees. The country now has the highest annual inflation rate in the world – more than 100,000 percent – and it is plagued by shortages of essential medicines and food. In Venezuela's latest presidential election, a controversial vote which he won in May last year, Maduro barred most opposition candidates from running and he controls most branches of government.
Guaido visited Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and Ecuador.
On Sunday night, Guaido called for a new round of nationwide street protests.
"This process is unstoppable," he said in an online broadcast, insisting that Maduro would eventually be ousted from power. "The transition is already under way."
John Bolton, President Donald Trump's national security adviser, tweeted Sunday night: "Any threats or acts against (Guaido's) safe return will be met with a strong and significant response from the United States and the international community."
In a Q&A with the Washington Post published online on Sunday, Guaido said his "international visit has been very important to consolidate support from regional leaders – not just for humanitarian assistance but to continue to pressure Maduro."
Venezuelan Interim President Juan Guaido has announced his planned return to Venezuela. Any threats or acts against his safe return will be met with a strong and significant response from the United States and the international community.
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) March 4, 2019
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Unread 2019-03-05, 08:08 PM   #19
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Venezuela crisis: Maduro vows to defeat 'crazed minority'



Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro has vowed to defeat a "crazed minority" that wants to remove him from power.
In a challenge to opposition leader Juan Guaidó, he has called for "anti-imperialist marches" on Saturday to coincide with anti-government protests.


Mr Maduro's comments were the first since Mr Guaidó defied him and returned to the country on Monday.
Meeting trade union leaders, Mr Guaidó told public workers to defy management orders and observe a partial strike.
As head of the opposition-led National Assembly, Mr Guaidó proclaimed himself Venezuela's interim president in January after the legislature declared Mr Maduro's re-election last year illegitimate.
How did Mr Maduro address the Guaidó challenge?

He has accused the opposition of trying to organise a coup with US help.


Speaking at an event marking the sixth anniversary of the death of his predecessor and political mentor, Hugo Chávez, Mr Maduro said: "While a crazed minority continues with their hatred, with their bitterness, it's their problem. We won't pay attention to them, compatriots."


In front of gathered military personnel, he added: "We're going to stop them in their tracks, their work, the national union. Let the crazy minority continue with their bitterness, we'll defeat them. For Chávez we'll do it, for the great history of the country we'll do it."

Why is there pressure for change?

Venezuela's political crisis has been sparked by an economic meltdown in which hyperinflation has hit salaries and savings, leading many to flee the country. The country is also suffering chronic shortages of basic items including food and medicine.


While international pressure on the president has steadily increased - more than 50 countries, including the US and most Latin American nations, have recognised Mr Guaidó as interim leader - Mr Maduro has dismissed all calls for him to step down.


Backed by China and Russia, Mr Maduro insists he is the only legitimate president.


His call for marches on Saturday sets the stage for more confrontation with Mr Guaidó, the BBC's Will Grant in Caracas reports.


Given the potential for clashes, the authorities will, no doubt, try to keep the two sides well apart, our correspondent adds.


On Monday, Mr Guaidó arrived back in the capital, Caracas, despite the threat of arrest after he defied a Supreme Court-imposed travel ban on leaving the country. He visited several Latin American countries to lobby for international help.


In talks with public sector unions on Tuesday, he has vowed to stage strikes to help bring down the government.
"They thought the pressure had already maxed out... They better know that the pressure has barely begun."
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Unread 2019-03-06, 10:51 PM   #20
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American journalist detained in Venezuela released, mother says



An American journalist who was detained in Venezuela on Wednesday by government officials has been released.
The mother of Cody Weddle, a 29-year-old Virginia native who is based in Caracas, confirmed to Fox News that Weddle messaged mother Sherry Weddle, along with his sister, on Facebook, to tell them he was alright.


Weddle, who has lived in the Venezuelan capital city since 2014, and has worked as a freelancer for multiple news stations and newspapers, including the Miami Herald, Florida’s WPLG Local 10 and ABC, told his mother he's at an airport in Venezuela and is hoping to travel to Miami on Thursday morning.

The U.S. State Department confirmed earlier Wednesday that it was "aware of and deeply concerned with reports that another U.S. journalist has been detained" by President Nicolas Maduro.


"Being a journalist is not a crime," spokesperson Kimberly Breier tweeted. "We demanded the journalist's immediate release, unharmed."


Weddle was covering opposition leader Juan Guaido's "triumphant" return to Venezuela for WPLG when the country's counterintelligence military raided his apartment around 8 a.m., the news station reported.


Weddle, and his colleague, Carlos Camacho, were detained, according to the Venezuelan Union of Journalists (SNTP). The team’s equipment was also seized.

The journalist last made contact with WLPG employees on Tuesday afternoon, and his last on-air report was on Monday, detailing opposition leader Juan Guaido’s return to the South American country after defying a travel ban.


Weddle's reported detainment by Venezuelan officials comes days after Univision journalist Jorge Ramos and five others with his team were briefly detained after they interviewed Maduro at the Miraflores Palace.


Ramos said he showed the disputed president footage of hungry children picking through garbage in the street.

Florida Sen. Rick Scott called on the Maduro regime to immediately release the journalist, and tweeted "the U.S. will not stand for this kind of intimidation!"
Separately, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the U.S. plans to revoke 77 visas held by officials in the Maduro government or their relatives as it seeks to increase pressure on Maduro to give up power. The move comes after the U.S. revoked 49 visas last week and has imposed multiple rounds of sanctions as part of a campaign to force Maduro to turn over power to Guaido.
Fox News' Kathleen Reuschle and Lucia Suarez Sang and The Associated Press
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Unread 2019-03-08, 12:12 AM   #21
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Starving Venezuelans may lack strength to continue anti-Maduro fight, lawmakers warned



Washington (CNN)Six weeks after Juan Guaido declared himself Venezuela's President, US lawmakers are wrestling with the possibility that momentum behind his political movement could stall and the question of how to respond as the crisis ripples regionwide.




One reason: The Venezuelan people, once residents of Latin America's wealthiest country, may be too weakened by starvation to take to the streets for much longer, one expert told the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Latin America.



"People who are starving do not mobilize in the streets," Cynthia Arnson, director of the Latin America Program at the Wilson Center, told the subcommittee on Thursday. "There is actually widespread starvation."
'Hurting stalemate'


Embattled President Nicolas Maduro shows no signs of losing the critical support of elites and the military since Guaido's January 23 declaration, leading experts to warn that the situation could be settling into a "hurting stalemate" -- a standoff in which neither side can win and neither will agree to back down.


The impasse poses a test for the Trump administration, whose aggressive challenge to the Maduro regime has wide bipartisan and international support but has yet to peel away Maduro's power base. Now, time and the sheer daily suffering in Venezuela, where the average person lost 24 pounds last year and 90% live in poverty, according to subcommittee Chairman Marco Rubio, are becoming obstacles.


"The widespread opposition that President Guaido has been able to mobilize may not last," Arnson told lawmakers, one of whom made the comparison to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has clung to power despite years of US attempts to unseat him.



While the Maduro regime thinks that it can wait this crisis out, Arnson said, when it comes to the 35-year-old Guaido, "time may not be on his side."
'We are not going to forget'


Rubio made clear that US will sustain its campaign against Maduro, telling Venezuelans directly that "the free world will not forget you. Maduro believes he can wait it out, but we are not going to forget," adding that the US will stick with the fight for "as long as it takes."


The Florida Republican declared the Maduro regime "a clear danger and threat" to the US, while Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland and others flagged the dangers to the region, as floods of desperate Venezuelans seek refuge in neighboring countries. The economic fallout will have longer-term political ramifications, Arnson warned, pointing to the rise of populist parties in Europe in the wake of immigrant flows from war-torn Syria and Iraq.



Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming invoked Syria, noting that "the world saw the Assad regime stay in power propped up by Russia and Iran," both of which also back Maduro.



The comparison came up again later in the hearing when Arnson noted that "it is possible that (the Maduro regime) will survive much as Assad's Syria has survived," turning to allies like Russia and Libya for support and becoming more repressive as it does.
Finding an off-ramp


The key, she stressed, is finding practical ways to provide "an off-ramp to those allied with the regime. ... That is the key issue ... that we should be focused on. How do we bring that about? What combination of carrots, sticks, visas, off-ramps do we contemplate?" she asked.



Those considerations might require putting aside immediate questions of justice for abusers within the regime, Arnson stressed. The considerations are necessary, she said, because the situation is reaching deadlock.



"I would put on the table now whether a hurting stalemate is at hand," Arnson said. "I believe that it is."


To date, officials have used the carrot of some sort of clemency, emphasizing that their campaign of sanctions and the revocation of visas for top Venezuelan officials and their families can be reversed for those who switch allegiance to Guaido.



"Sanctions can be removed. Visa revocations can be reversed," Elliott Abrams, the administration's special envoy for Venezuela, told the subcommittee, adding that the US, as well as Guaido and his backers, is open to working with those who make a change.



"We're also making it clear that it is never too late to change," said Mark Green, the director of the US Agency for International Development. "We will provide off-ramps to those who will support democratic change in Venezuela and do what is right for the Venezuelan people."



Eric Farnsworth, a vice president at the Council of the Americas, said the US should "go hard after the assets people have outside Venezuela, those are ill-gotten gains." Farnsworth suggested the US work with other countries to cancel visas for members of the pro-Maduro Venezuelan elite who have parked their families and their money outside of the country.



"Work with countries worldwide to squeeze these people and their families," he said.



Arnson suggested a series of olive branches to make it easier for those backing Maduro to pull away. She said the US could make clear that Guaido's rise "doesn't require the end of Chavismo," the left-wing political ideology named after former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, but that it must be integrated into a democratic system.
The military option


She added, also, that the US could make clear that a change of political leadership "does not require immediate purging of Venezuelan military or extradition of officers to the US to face charges." *She also said the US should emphasize* the necessity of holding free and fair elections that include international monitors and lead, eventually, to reforms.


Talk of military intervention -- something Democratic lawmakers raised repeatedly -- is a bad idea, Arnson said, even as she recognized it was meant, in part, to unsettle and pressure the Maduro regime.



"I think continued talk of a military option ... is irresponsible," she said, adding that it could spark regional war and be an incentive for Colombian guerrillas and others to take up arms.



Abrams and Green denied there were any plans for US troops to intervene.



Green said he'd attended no meetings where a military option had been discussed. Abrams added that "it is certainly not desirable and it is not the path the administration is taking." Asked by Rubio whether "100%" of his time was spent seeking a peaceful transition to democracy, Abrams said, "Yes, that's correct."
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Unread 2019-03-13, 11:33 PM   #22
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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says power recovery will come 'little by little'



Caracas (CNN)In a televised address Monday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said the recovery from power outages will be "little by little," adding the outage was an "electronic coup" carried out by "criminal minds."

Maduro blamed the US for attacking the power structure, saying the "imperialist government of the United States ordered this attack," but offered no proof for the claim.
School and work in the country will be suspended for another 48 hours, Maduro said Monday.
"It isn't easy," he said, congratulating the people of Venezuela, and added the country will "recover slowly." He admitted large parts of the country "aren't stabilized" and warned "more attacks" could be on the way.
"We are on the right side of history," he said. "We are on the way to a great victory from the greatest blow ever delivered to Venezuela."





Meanwhile, Venezuela's National Assembly approved a request Monday from opposition leader Juan Guaido to respond to the widespread outages with a "national state of emergency." The decree will allow the National Assembly to seek international cooperation or foreign intervention.
Guaido told CNN's Patrick Oppmann in a weekend interview this could include military intervention.
US officials say all options are on the table with Venezuela, but military intervention is not likely at this point.
The decree started Monday and will last 30 days, and can be extended an additional 30 days under the vote just taken.
At a press conference Sunday, Guaido said talks have been held with Germany, Japan, Brazil and Colombia to seek their support. Guaido said there is $1.5 billion available from multilateral organizations to take care of services in Venezuela. He did not say where the money was or how the funds could be accessed.
Guaido again appealed to the military to "stop hiding the dictator," referring to Maduro.
Guaido says blackout victims 'murdered' by government


Guaido said Sunday that 16 states continued to be completely without power, while six had partial power. He said the private sector had lost at least $400 million from power outages.
Electricity was cut to 70% of the South American nation late last week, and officials warned that hospitals were at risk.
A dark corridor at Miguel Perez Carreno hospital, in Caracas, during the outage March 8.




"Venezuela has truly collapsed already," Guaido told CNN Sunday in an interview in a sweltering hotel room in the Venezuelan capital -- another byproduct of the blackouts.
"There is no service in the hospitals. These were the best hospitals in the country. If we are in the capital what is it like kilometers inside Venezuela where there hasn't been or there has been very little gasoline with periodic cuts in electricity, without basic goods, with inefficient public transportation? You can say with all responsibility that Venezuela has already collapsed."
Guaido said the opposition had recorded 17 "murders" during the blackout.
"I can't call it anything else, due to lack of electricity. Imagine if in your country, you wake to the news that there's been four days without electricity because they steal from electricity plants and 17 people died. That's murder," he said. CNN cannot independently confirm the number of dead from power outages that began in Venezuela on Thursday afternoon.
View of Caracas during the partial power outage on March 9.




Maduro has blamed the United States for the blackout, telling supporters at a rally Saturday that the nation's electric grid had been sabotaged. The United States has attributed the outage to the Maduro regime's "incompetence."
But Guaido told CNN that the Maduro government's accusations of a US cyberattack were absurd. Venezuela's main power plant is full of aging, analog machinery not connected to any network, he said.
"We are in the middle of a catastrophe that is not the result of a hurricane, that is not the result of a tsunami," Guaido said. "It's the product of the inefficiency, the incapability, the corruption of a regime that doesn't care about the lives of Venezuelans."
Rival rallies


Maduro and Guaido held separate and contentious rallies in Caracas on Saturday, with Maduro insisting that the country's power grid had been "hacked" and "sabotaged."
Maduro told supporters that almost 70% of power had been restored in the country Friday afternoon, but that progress was put off track by an "international cyberattack" carried out by the "US government" and Venezuela's opposition.
He announced changes inside Corpoelec, Venezuela's national electric company. The first step, he said, was to "clean" the company to get rid of "traitors" and "infiltrators."
Maduro also criticized opposition calls for a military intervention in Venezuela saying that if the US decided to carry out military actions in the country, both pro-opposition and pro-government groups will be affected.
Maduro waves a Venezuelan flag at the rally at the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas.




Guaido, at his rally, defiantly assured followers that all options were on the table to get Maduro out of office.
Using a megaphone and standing atop a bridge -- after police dismantled the stage he was supposed to use -- Guaido said constitutional options to promote regime change would only work if the opposition continued to protest regularly and called on citizens to travel to Caracas to protest.
Guaido also said that Article 187 of the Venezuelan Constitution is under consideration and will be activated "at the appropriate moment." Article 187 states that the National Assembly has the power to authorize the use of Venezuela military missions abroad or to allow foreign missions in the country.
He asked his supporters to remain strong in the face of the power outage.
"We have been reporting the electrical crisis for years, and now, we have to alert in a responsible manner that this could also become the gasoline crisis, in addition to the water crisis we already have."
Guaido addresses supporters through a megaphone.




US points finger back at Maduro


On Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the US will withdraw all remaining personnel from the country's embassy in Caracas this week.
Last week, Pompeo had rejected Maduro's finger-pointing, blaming him for the outage situation.
"The power outage and the devastation hurting ordinary Venezuelans is not because of the USA. It's not because of Colombia. It's not Ecuador or Brazil, Europe or anywhere else. Power shortages and starvation are the result of the Maduro regime's incompetence," Pompeo tweeted.
Pompeo posted a photo of Guaido's rally with the caption: "The people of #Venezuela have again responded to @jguaido's call to take to the streets in support of freedom and democracy. Public-sector workers, suffering economic & political repression, now stand with Guaido and the promise of a better future for Venezuela."
Rampant inflation and food scarcity have gripped Venezuela under Maduro, and thousands have fled to neighboring countries as shortages, political turmoil and crime rates have soared.
Blackouts have become a daily occurrence as the economic crisis has worsened, but one of the magnitude of the ongoing outage -- which has paralyzed most of the country -- is rare.
Guaidó said the exodus of millions of Venezuelans over the last several years likely meant there were not enough engineers left to help end the blackouts.
"They don't have the manpower. I doubt they have the capability to completely restore power," he told CNN Sunday.
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Unread 2019-03-14, 11:27 PM   #23
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Maduro's muscle: Motorcycle gangs known as 'colectivos' are the enforcers for Venezuela's authoritarian leader




Supporters of President Nicolas Maduro known as "colectivos," parade in on their motorbikes while anti-government supporters take part in a walkout against Maduro in Caracas on Jan. 30, 2019. Venezuelans are exiting their homes and workplaces in a walkout organized by the opposition to demand that Maduro leave power.
(Rodrigo Abd / AP)











The neighbors were fed up. For days, they'd had no electricity or running water because of a massive national blackout. So one morning this week, they piled logs and garbage into a makeshift barricade in their middle-class Caracas neighborhood and started yelling slogans against the government.


Then came the motorcycles.


There were at least 20 of them, their motors buzzing, driven by men with scarves over their faces, according to interviews with 10 witnesses. The demonstrators scattered. But as people in surrounding buildings started hurling bottles at the bikers, the men raised their weapons - pistols and rifles - and opened fire.


No one was injured. But the neighbors were terrified.
"Now we can't even protest, because they'll shoot at us," said Delia Arellano, 72, one of the demonstrators.
The attack on Sunday was a chilling sign of how President Nicolás Maduro is increasingly relying on paramilitary groups as he clings to power. This week, he publicly urged the motorcycle-riding "colectivos" to intensify their efforts, as the country teetered on the edge of economic collapse and a U.S.-backed opposition movement pressed for his ouster.


"I call on the colectivos; the hour of resistance has arrived, active resistance in the community," Maduro declared in the speech on Monday.

The colectivos aren't nearly as big as Venezuela's armed forces - they number perhaps 5,000 to 7,500 members nationwide, most of them in cities, according to Alejandro Velasco, a history professor at New York University who has studied the phenomenon. But they help explain how Maduro has remained in power even as the country's economy and poorly maintained power grid have broken down. The paramilitary forces are nimble and committed - and they have an extraordinary ability to sow terror.


Ingrid Maldonado witnessed Sunday's clash between the neighbors and colectivos in Chacao, a business district of apartment buildings, offices and hotels in eastern Caracas.
"Before, government repression just meant tear gas," said Maldonado, 49. "Now there are bullets. It's different. You think twice about going out."


The colectivos have their roots in the Cuban-inspired guerrilla forces that battled Venezuela's staunchly anti-communist governments in the 1960s. After that conflict, some former rebels returned to poor neighborhoods determined to spread socialism through community activities - offering classes, showing movies, giving out free bread - and to protect residents from corrupt police.
Under the "Bolivarian revolution" of Hugo Chávez, Maduro's predecessor, the number of these small armed groups grew. Some were permitted to control neighborhoods and run criminal rackets such as drug trafficking and extortion, analysts say. In return, they rounded up votes and provided other political support.


But Chávez, who ruled from 1999 until his death in 2013, was popular. He wasn't as dependent on the colectivos.
"He didn't need to use violence," said Rafael Uzcátegui, coordinator of the human rights group Provea. "Chávez could maintain political control of the country."



Maduro, in contrast, is widely reviled for the economic mismanagement that has brought hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine to this oil-rich nation.
"That's why resorting to violence and intimidation has been so important," Uzcátegui said.


Venezuela's Ministry of Communications did not respond to a request for comment.


Over the past several years, a new kind of colectivo has emerged, composed of current or former police personnel or government bodyguards.


"Their primary allegiance is not to 'chavismo' or an ideological project or a radical leftist vision of change, but basically to stay in power," Velasco said.


And "power," for colectivos, often means access to government funds or goods. While it is difficult to pin down the groups' exact ties to the state, some have been put in charge of the distribution of government food packages in poor areas - giving them control over hungry neighborhoods. Some might be paid by individuals in the government, analysts say.


The colectivos vary widely in their activities and organization. One group of about 100 black-helmeted riders in dark clothing roars regularly through the colonial center of Caracas, near the Miraflores presidential palace, waving the giant red flags of the ruling Socialist party. They are an intimidating sight - even if they don't flash their weapons.
Others don't hesitate to threaten violence. Recently, a community activist in the poor Caracasneighborhood of La Vega was leaving a meeting about organizing a teachers strike. Armed men on motorcycles roared up and demanded to know what he was doing, said the activist, Jose Gregorio Velásquéz. They warned him against closing off streets for protests. "We know where you live," the men said, according to Velásquéz.

That sort of grass-roots control could discourage poor Venezuelans from joining the protests that have swept the country in recent weeks in support of Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader recognized by the United States and dozens of other countries as the legitimate president.
While middle-class Venezuelans turn out, Velasco said, "it's difficult for Guaidó to have the barrios rise up. They are bearing the brunt of the oppression."


The paramilitary groups are effective in part because they enjoy impunity. While the traditional colectivos were embedded in their communities, many of the newer ones aren't, and it's difficult for citizens to identify their members. They mask their faces, and their motorcycles often lack license plates. As political instability grows, even bands of car thieves or other criminals are calling themselves'colectivos,' said David Smilde, a Venezuela expert at Tulane University.


"They fulfill the classic work of paramilitaries, doing violent security tasks that security agents in uniform would be held accountable for," he said.


Perhaps the colectivos' most important weapon, though, is their ability to sow fear.


Roberto Patiño, an opposition activist, helped lead demonstrations on Feb. 23 in the Venezuelan border city of Ureña aimed at pressuring security forces to allow humanitarian aid to cross from Colombia. When the Venezuelan National Guard launched tear gas, he said, the crowd persisted.


But then the colectivos turned up, firing their weapons.
"Most people fled to save themselves," Patiño said. "There was a high risk of being killed."



The colectivos have become particularly important as the government appears hesitant to use the army to put down demonstrations. While the military leadership has been loyal to Maduro, many rank-and-file soldiers are suffering the same hunger as other Venezuelans - and could defy orders.


The government has also turned to a relatively new branch of the national police, the Special Actions Force (known by its Spanish initials, FAES) to intimidate and kill young protesters in poor neighborhoods, according to human rights groups. Some activists say the new branch works closely with colectivos. The FAES says it is only going after criminals.


The clash in Chacao on Sunday was unusual in that it took place in wealthier East Caracas. Two bakery workers watched as neighbors threw up the barricade across Guaicaipuro Street at the intersection with a major avenue, Francisco de Miranda. At one point, a black government pickup truck tried to pass, the workers said, but the neighbors wouldn't allow it.


About a half-hour later, the colectivo roared up and the protesters scattered. As residents of apartments yelled and tossed bottles at the motorcyclists, the workers said, the leader of the colectivo issued an order: "Let them have it."
The motorcyclists opened fire, witnesses said, and eventually dismantled the barricade.


"I don't think the neighbors of Chacao will go out again to protest," said 18-year-old Ricardo Linares, one of the bakery workers.


"I'm not afraid to protest," insisted Junaiker Martínez, a 19-year-old co-worker. "It's the only power we have. But I'm not going to go out there alone."
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https://www.almasdarnews.com/article...ssian-miltary/

Quote:
Chinese army arrives in Venezuela just days after the Russian miltary

BEIRUT, LEBANON (7:00 A.M) – A group of Chinese soldiers arrived in Venezuela on Sunday as part of a cooperation program between Beijing and Caracas.

According to reports, more than 120 soldiers from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army arrived at Venezuela’s Margarita Island to deliver humanitarian aid and military supplies to the government forces.

The arrival of the People’s Liberation Army in Venezuela comes just days after the Russian armed forces deployed to the country to install a military helicopter training facility.

However, this move by the Russian military has not come without heavy criticism from the Trump administration and several U.S. congressmen.

“Maduro calls for hands off #Venezuela while he invites security forces from Cuba and Russia, so he and his cronies can keep plundering Venezuela. It is time for Venezuelan institutions to stand for their sovereignty. Russia and Cuba, #HandsOffVenezuela,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted on March 28th.

These moves by the Russian and Chinese armed forces appear to be a powerplay against the U.S. administration, who is actively pushing to remove Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from power.

The U.S. has attempted to deliver humanitarian aid to Venezuela from Colombia; however, the Maduro administration contends that the purpose of these deliveries is to transport weapons to the opposition.
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