Category Archives: Venezuela

(BBC) Venezuela: US withdraws all staff from Caracas embassy

(BBC)

Image shows the entrance of the embassy of the United States in Caracas
Image captionSecretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that staff would be withdrawn from the Caracas embassy

The US will withdraw all diplomatic staff from Venezuela this week due to the “deteriorating situation” there, the state department has said.

In a tweet, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said having staff in Caracas had “become a constraint on US policy”.

The US ordered all non-essential staff to leave Venezuela in January amid an ongoing diplomatic crisis.

Widespread power cuts and a worsening humanitarian crisis have sparked mass protests.

Amid the crisis, a well-known journalist was detained on Tuesday. Luis Carlos Diaz became the latest journalist targeted by Venezuelan authorities, after he was accused by a radical pro-government TV programme of playing a role in the blackout.

The decision to vacate the embassy came late on Monday and followed critical comments Mr Pompeo made to reporters about Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Relations between the two countries have deteriorated in recent months.

On Tuesday, in a statement published on Twitter by Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, Venezuela’s government gave the remaining US diplomats in the country 72 hours to leave. The US said the “former president” no longer had the authority to order them out.

US President Donald Trump backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó as president after Mr Guaidó declared himself interim leader on 23 January. Venezuela then broke off diplomatic relations in response.

“Nicolás Maduro promised Venezuelans a better life in a socialist paradise,” Mr Pompeo said on Monday. “He delivered on the socialism part… the paradise part? Not so much.”

But in a televised address, Mr Maduro blamed the continuing power cuts on foreign sabotage. “The United States’ imperialist government ordered this attack,” he said, without offering evidence.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro speaks during a televised address on Monday
Image captionVenezuelan President Nicolás Maduro blamed the US for the ongoing power outage

What’s the latest?

Much of Venezuela has been without power since last Thursday. This has reportedly been caused by problems at the Guri hydroelectric plant in Bolívar state – one of the largest such facilities in Latin America.

Venezuela depends on its vast hydroelectric infrastructure, rather than its oil reserves, for its domestic electricity supply.

But decades of underinvestment have damaged the major dams, and sporadic blackouts are commonplace.

People detained by security forces lie on the street after looting broke out during an ongoing blackout in Caracas, Venezuela
Image captionPeople were detained by security forces after looting broke out during the blackout

The opposition says at least 17 people have reportedly died as a result of the blackout.

Over the weekend, pro-government and opposition groups staged rival demonstrations and there were sporadic clashes with police.

Further protests are expected in the capital on Tuesday.

A woman is detained by security forces after looting broke out
Image captionA woman is detained by police during the power cuts

What’s the background?

President Maduro has accused Mr Guaidó of trying to mount a coup against him with the help of “US imperialists”.

Mr Maduro narrowly won a presidential election in April 2013 after the death of his mentor, President Hugo Chávez. He and was elected to a second term in May 2018 in an election which has been widely described as “neither free nor fair”.

In recent years Venezuela has experienced economic collapse, with severe food shortages and inflation reaching at least 800,000% last year.

The Maduro government is becoming increasingly isolated as more and more countries blame it for the economic crisis, which has prompted more than three million people to leave Venezuela.

(ECO) Francisco Assis demite-se de cargo europeu em protesto

(ECO)

Assis queria falar sobre a Venezuela no Parlamento Europeu, mas alega ter sido impedido pelo grupo parlamentar do qual o PS faz parte.

Francisco Assis demitiu-se do cargo de coordenador da assembleia parlamentar EuroLat, acusando o grupo a que pertencem os eurodeputados do PS de o ter impedido de participar num debate de urgência no Parlamento Europeu convocado para discutir a crise na Venezuela. A notícia foi avançada pelo Observador.Rio afasta Mota Amaral da lista do PSD às europeias Ler Mais

Na carta de demissão, citada pelo mesmo jornal, o eurodeputado socialista explica o motivo que resultou na decisão. “Inexplicavelmente, fui impedido de participar no debate hoje [terça-feira] realizado no Parlamento Europeu, em Estrasburgo, sobre este tema, sem que me tenha sido apresentada uma explicação plausível”, refere Assis, considerando que foi posta em causa a sua “dignidade parlamentar e pessoal”. Para o eurodeputado, “a responsabilidade direta é de quem” não o deixou falar, isto é, a Aliança Progressista dos Socialistas e Democratas (S&D, sigla em inglês), disse em declarações aos jornalistas, citado pela Lusa.

A EuroLat é a Assembleia Parlamentar Euro-Latino-American. Francisco Assis ocupava o cargo de coordenador há dois anos e meio. A carta do eurodeputado do PS foi entregue a Udo Bullmann, presidente do Grupo da Aliança Progressista dos Socialistas e Democratas (S&D).

Confrontado com esta situação, o também eurodeputado socialista Pedro Silva Pereira vincou que “a delegação do PS não tem nenhuma interferência na distribuição dos tempos de intervenção” na sessão plenária, rejeitando responsabilidades da bancada socialista neste caso. “Isso é uma questão entre o deputado Francisco Assis e a direção do grupo parlamentar socialista europeia aqui no Parlamento Europeu”, salientou, afirmando, porém, desconhecer “os termos desse processo” de demissão.

O debate de urgência sobre a Venezuela decorreu na terça-feira à tarde em plenário, sendo que quem interveio pelo PS foi a eurodeputada Ana Gomes. Paulo Rangel (PSD), José Inácio Faria (eleito pelo MPT) e João Pimenta Lopes (CDU) foram os outros eurodeputados portugueses que discursaram.

Gabriel Bastidas@Gbastidas · 20hRespondendo a @Gbastidas

Eurodiputada @charanzova: El apagón de los últimos días confirma que Maduro no es el líder que Venezuela necesita; es un tirano. Es un ejemplo más de lo que sufren los venezolanos. Tenemos que ampliar las sanciones y asegurar que el régimen ceda el poder. #12Mar

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Gabriel Bastidas@Gbastidas

Eurodiputado @PauloRangel_pt: La situación de Venezuela es de emergencia. Con el apagón hemos visto más clara la situación de miseria y de hambre, hay urgencia para tener agua. Es un problema de vida o muerte. Maduro es un homicida. #12Mar pic.twitter.com/eUtgNKIQJM20117:19 – 12 de mar de 2019Informações e privacidade no Twitter Ads

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O debate surgiu numa altura de crise política na Venezuela, que se agravou desde o passado dia 23 de janeiro, quando Juan Guaidó se autoproclamou Presidente da República interino e declarou que assumia os poderes executivos de Nicolás Maduro.

(NYT) No End in Sight to Venezuela’s Blackout, Experts Warn

(NYT)

Sunday was the fourth day since Venezuela’s power system went down, plunging most of the country, including Caracas, the capital, into darkness.CreditMeridith Kohut for The New York Times

Sunday was the fourth day since Venezuela’s power system went down, plunging most of the country, including Caracas, the capital, into darkness.CreditCreditMeridith Kohut for The New York Times

VALLE DE LA PASCUA, Venezuela — Sporadic looting and spontaneous protests. Desperate patients begging doctors to be kept alive. Residents bracing for wider attacks on markets and restaurants after the sun goes down.

Sunday was the fourth day since Venezuela’s power system went down, plunging most of the country, including Caracas, the capital, into sporadic darkness and dampening hopes of imminent resolution to a devastating blackout that has brought the country to the verge of social implosion.

“We’re going to arrive at a moment when we’re going to eat each other,” said Zuly González, 40, a resident of Caracas’s Chacao neighborhood.

The blackout is the latest crisis to befall a country in seemingly perpetual crisis. Venezuela has been devastated for years by hyperinflation and a failing economy that has led millions to flee. But the country has been further torn since January, when opposition political leaders refused to acknowledge as legitimate the re-election of President Nicolás Maduro.

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On Thursday, the San Geronimo B substation in the center of the country, which supplies electricity to four out of five Venezuelans from the massive Guri hydropower plant, went down.

No date has been set to restart the plant and most workers were told to stay home on Monday, said two of the substation’s workers and a manager at the national power monopoly, Corpoelec. Their names have been withheld to protect them from government reprisals.You have 1 free article remaining.SUBSCRIBE TO THE TIMES

The nearby San Geronimo A backup substation, which transmits much weaker current from the smaller Matagua hydropower plant, operated intermittently on Sunday. Supplies from Matagua and a few unreliable thermoelectric plants allowed the government to send sporadic power to Caracas throughout the day.

The government said the blackout was caused by an unspecified fault at Guri, which provides 80 percent of the country’s electricity. Mr. Maduro and his ministers have insisted the blackout is the result of sabotage and cyberattacks organized by the United States and the opposition, without providing any evidence.

The Trump administration has put a lot of pressure on Mr. Maduro, imposing sanctions that deprive his government of oil revenue and offering political support for the opposition. On Monday, the United States imposed new sanctions on a Russia-based bank that it accused of helping Mr. Maduro’s government circumvent earlier American sanctions.The San Geronimo B substation transmits 80 percent of Venezuela’s power.CreditAnatoly Kurmanaev/The New York Times

The San Geronimo B substation transmits 80 percent of Venezuela’s power.CreditAnatoly Kurmanaev/The New York Times

The bank, Evrofinance Mosnarbank, is based in Moscow and is jointly controlled by Venezuelan and Russian state-owned companies. The Treasury Department said that the bank’s assets grew by more than 50 percent last year, as the United States escalated its sanctions against Venezuela and as European financial institutions severed ties with the country.

Energy experts, Venezuelan power sector contractors and current and former Corpoelec employees have dismissed accusations of sabotage, saying the blackout was the result of years of underinvestment, corruption and brain drain.

The San Geronimo B substation connects eight out of Venezuela’s 10 largest cities to the Guri hydropower plant via one of the longest high-voltage lines in the world.

When visited on Sunday, the substation’s usual buzz of high-voltage cross currents had been replaced by total silence. A cow roamed amid the transformers. Several National Guard soldiers and a unit of police commandos were at the substation, but no employees were there.

The substation is vital “to supply the country in a stable way,” said José Aguilar, a Venezuelan power industry expert based in Chicago. Its paralysis means power is unlikely to be restored nationally until Tuesday at the earliest, he said.

The government declared Monday a holiday for schools and public workers.

What caused the blackout has been a source of speculation. A Corpoelec union leader, Ali Briceño, told reporters on Friday that a brush fire under a power trunk line destabilized the grid and caused Guri’s turbines to shut down. The government has struggled to restart the turbines since, he said.

Other experts said the magnitude of the blackout indicated the problem was caused by a major failure inside Guri’s turbines. A Corpoelec supervisor involved in dispatching Guri’s power said he was told by the plant’s managers on Thursday that the plant’s equipment was damaged.

After analyzing power levels across the country, Mr. Aguilar, who consults reinsurance companies on Venezuela’s power sector, said the government has tried to restart Guri four times since the start of the blackout on Thursday.

The latest attempt led to the explosion of a secondary substation near Guri on Saturday.

“Every time they attempt to restart, they fail and the disruption breaks something else in the system, destabilizing the grid yet further,” Mr. Aguilar said.

“Obviously, they are hiding something from us,” he said of the government.

Restarting the turbines requires skilled operators who can synchronize the speed of rotation on as many as nine of Guri’s operational turbines. Experts said the most experienced operators had long left the company because of meager wages and an atmosphere of paranoia fed by Mr. Maduro’s ever-present secret police.

(CNN) Venezuelan opposition leader will call for ‘state of national emergency’ as power blackout goes on

(CNN)

(CNN)A day after Venezuela’s embattled president and his opposition rival held dueling rallies in the capital Caracas, opposition leader Juan Guaido said he will call for a “state of national emergency” in a special session of parliament on Monday.The South American nation continues to struggle with an ongoing power outage — parts of Venezuela remained without power over the weekend after 70% of the country had an outage late last week, and officials warned that hospitals were at risk.Guaido, Venezuela’s self-declared interim president, said Sunday that 16 states continued to be completely without power, while six have partial power. He said the private sector has lost at least US $400 million from power outages.Meanwhile, embattled President Nicolas Maduro 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.”

View of Caracas during the partial power outage on March 9.

View of Caracas during the partial power outage on March 9.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.

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.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.

Guaido addresses supporters through a megaphone.

Venezuela has ‘already collapsed,’ Guaido says

As Venezuelans continue to struggle with the nationwide power failure, Guaido said the people who died during the blackouts had been “murdered” by the government.”Venezuela has truly collapsed already,” Guaido told CNN 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. … You can say with all responsibility that Venezuela has already collapsed.”Guaido said 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.”

A dark corridor at Miguel Perez Carreno hospital, in Caracas, during the outage Thursday.

A dark corridor at Miguel Perez Carreno hospital, in Caracas, during the outage Thursday.

Maduro warns against encouraging US intervention

Maduro on Saturday 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 waves a Venezuelan flag at the rally at the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas.

Maduro waves a Venezuelan flag at the rally at the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas.Maduro also criticized opposition calls for a military intervention in Venezuela saying that if the US decided to carry military actions in the country, both pro-opposition and pro-government groups will be affected.On Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had rejected Maduro’s finger-pointing, blaming him for the 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.”

Massive power outage continues

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.

From Caracas, CNN’s Patrick Oppmann reported that electricity returned in some areas of the city on Friday but by Saturday afternoon the entire city was without power.”From the 26th floor of a building in Caracas there was nothing visible but a sea of blackness on Saturday. Except for a few pinpricks of light from the lucky few with generators, Venezuela’s capital and home to five million people remained in the dark,” Oppmann said.”Every so often the occasional gunshot would ring out in the night. There was a run on gas and food and water and a growing sense that the Venezuelan government is unable to restore power to its citizens,” he said.

(VOX) The collapse of Venezuela, explained

The country is in chaos, but its leaders aren’t going anywhere. Correction at 1:58: It’s been brought to our notice that the Supreme Court tried to strip the country’s National Assembly of its powers in March 2017 and not 2016. We regret the error. Subscribe to our channel! http://goo.gl/0bsAjO Venezuela was once the richest country in Latin America. It has the largest known oil reserves in the world and its democratic government was once praised world wide. But today, Venezuela’s democratic institutions and its economy are in shambles.The country has the highest inflation in the world, making food and medicine inaccessible to most Venezuelans. Over the last four years, its GDP has fallen 35%, which is a sharper drop than the one seen during the Great Depression in the US. The country’s murder rate has surpassed that of the most dangerous cities in the world. These conditions have sparked months of protests against the president, Nicolas Maduro. And it’s easy to see why: the country has become measurably worse since his election in 2013. Correction at 1:58: It’s been brought to our notice that the Supreme Court tried to strip the country’s National Assembly of its powers in March 2017 and not 2016. We regret the error. For more on the Supreme Court ruling: https://www.vox.com/world/2017/5/1/15… Sources: 0:56https://tradingeconomics.com/venezuel… , https://tradingeconomics.com/venezuel… , http://www.imf.org/external/datamappe… , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_i…https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ve…1:25https://www.scribd.com/document/35498… (Page 22) http://www.datanalisis.com/1:54https://www.wsj.com/articles/maduro-s…3:27https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/det…3:44https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Fi…4:00https://www.economist.com/news/financ…4:40https://www.cato.org/research/trouble… Vox.com is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what’s really driving the events in the headlines. Check out http://www.vox.com

(ZH) Venezuela Expels German Ambassador Over Support For Guaido

(ZH)

Socialist leader Nicolas Maduro has already backed down from demands that US diplomats leave Venezuela (backing off after the US threatened a military intervention to protect their diplomatic corps.), but it looks like he will have better luck with Germany.

Germany

To wit, on Tuesday, the Venezuelan strongman declared German ambassador to Venezuela Daniel Martin Kriener persona non grata and gave him 48 hours to leave the country, according to Reuters. The expulsion order was confirmed by the German government, which said it would obey the order and recall Kriener.

“Venezuela considers it unacceptable that a foreign diplomat carries out in its territory a public role closer to that of a political leader aligned with the conspiratorial agenda of extremist sectors of the Venezuelan opposition,” the government said in a statement.

A German foreign ministry spokeswoman confirmed Venezuela had expelled the ambassador and that the ministry was consulting with its allies on how to respond.

Kriener was expelled after he joined a group of other diplomats at the Caracas airport to welcome opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized by Germany and roughly 50 other countries as the legitimate democratically-elected ruler of Venezuela. Guaido risked arrest to return to Venezuela last week.

Most Western countries, including Germany, recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state and back his plan to install a transition government ahead of free elections. Guaido denounces Maduro as an usurper whose re-election last year resulted from a sham vote. Maduro says he is victim of a coup.

Kriener, along with ambassadors and diplomats from other European embassies, had gone to the airport on Monday to support Guaido, who had risked arrest on his return to Venezuela for flouting a court-imposed travel ban to visit other Latin American countries.

On Monday, the embassy said on its Twitter account that Kriener hoped Guaido’s return “was a step towards a peaceful and political process to overcome the Venezuelan crisis.”

The German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas blasted Maduro for the “incomprehensible decision” and said he had decided to recall Kriener to avoid any conflict.

GermanForeignOffice@GermanyDiplo

🇻🇪

FM @HeikoMaas on Ambassador Kriener being declared persona non grata in : Incomprehensible decision which will further escalate the situation. I have decided to call our Ambassador back to Berlin for consultations.786:08 PM – Mar 6, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy88 people are talking about this

(OBS) Jornalistas detidos durante entrevista a Maduro vão ser expulsos da Venezuela

(OBS)

Nicolás Maduro não terá gostado de uma pergunta sobre fraude eleitoral feita pelos jornalistas da Univision, nem de ver um vídeo com crianças a comer do lixo. Os repórteres vão ser deportados.Partilhe

O sindicato explica que Nicolás Maduro terá ficado chateado com as perguntas feitas pelo jornalista Jorge Ramos sobre acusações de fraude nas eleições venezuelanas

As autoridades venezuelanas vão expulsar do país a equipa de jornalistas do canal de televisão norte-americano Univisión que esteve detida, na segunda-feira, no palácio presidencial de Miraflores, denunciou o Sindicato Nacional de Trabalhadores da Imprensa (SNTP).

“Confirma-se que a equipa da Univisión será deportada. As autoridades migratórias apresentaram-se no hotel para notificar que seriam conduzidos ao aeroporto”, explica o SNTP na sua conta do Twitter. O sindicato não avança qualquer informação sobre o que acontecerá com os que têm nacionalidade venezuelana.

Uma equipa de sete pessoas do canal de televisão norte-americano Univisión esteve detida segunda-feira, durante três horas, no palácio presidencial de Miraflores, denunciou o SNTP. Entre os detidos estava o jornalista Jorge Ramos e o correspondente em Caracas da Univisión, Francisco Urreiztieta.

Segundo o SNTP, a equipa foi detida, na segunda-feira, “dentro de Miraflores, depois de entrevistarem” o Presidente de facto, Nicolás Maduro. “Confiscaram-lhes todo o equipamento técnico que levaram ao palácio para a entrevista”, acrescentou.

A detenção foi confirmada pela Univisión, que esta terça-feira divulgou imagens de um vídeo gravado pela equipa, com pessoas a alimentarem-se do lixo, o que terá, alegadamente, incomodado o Presidente de facto venezuelano, Nicolás Maduro.

Segundo o SNTP, “à saída de Miraflores, Jorge Ramos e toda a equipa da Univisión, foram gravados e escoltados durante todo o trajeto” até ao hotel onde se encontram hospedados, por funcionários do Serviço Bolivariano de Inteligência (SEBIN, serviços secretos).

Pelas 23h00 horas locais de segunda-feira (03h00 horas desta terça-feira em Lisboa), segundo o SNTP, o SEBIN mantinha “tomadas as instalações do hotel, em Caracas, onde se encontra hospedada a equipa da Univisión”. “Os funcionários (do SEBIN) impediram a entrada ou saída de qualquer pessoa”, explica, o SNTP na conta da rede social do Twitter.

A causa da detenção, segundo o SNTP, deveu-se ao facto de Nicolás Maduro ter ficado “chateado com as perguntas feitas pelo jornalista Jorge Ramos”.

Não gostou quando foi questionado sobre acusações de fraude [nas eleições] e saiu da sala quando o repórter lhe mostrou um vídeo com crianças a comerem do lixo”, explica

Em declarações à Univisión, Jorge Ramos afirmou ter dito a Nicolas Maduro que milhões de venezuelanos o consideram um “ditador” e “ele obviamente não gostou”, tendo sido uma das razões para que a entrevista fosse interrompida.

O SNTP denuncia ainda que o ministro de Comunicação e Informação venezuelano, Jorge Rodríguez e a vice-presidente da Venezuela Delcy Rodríguez, entraram na sala, “ofenderam a equipa” e chamaram Jorge Ramos de “provocador convencional”. “Vais engolir as tuas palavras com uma Coca Cola”, terão dito.

Jorge Ramos explicou ainda à Univisión que durante “mais de duas horas” estiveram “metidos num quarto de segurança, com as luzes apagadas”.

(ionline) Jornalistas sequestrados na Venezuela porque Maduro ficou chateado com perguntas

(ionline)

“Não gostou quando foi questionado sobre acusações de fraude”

Uma equipa de sete pessoas do canal de televisão norte-americano Univisión ficou detida durante três horas, no palácio presidencial de Miraflores, após uma entrevista a Nicolás Maduro.

O Sindicato Nacional de Trabalhadores da Imprensa (SNTP) denunciou a situação e alegou que de Nicolás Maduro terá ficado “chateado com as perguntas feitas pelo jornalista Jorge Ramos”.

“Não gostou quando foi questionado sobre acusações de fraude (nas eleições) e saiu da sala quando o repórter lhe mostrou um vídeo com crianças a comerem do lixo”, explicou o sindicato

O jornalista Jorge Ramos afirmou ter dito a Nicolás Maduro que milhões de venezuelanos o consideram um “ditador” e “ele obviamente não gostou”.

Segundo o SNTP, “confiscaram-lhes todo o equipamento técnico que levaram ao palácio para a entrevista.

De acordo com uma nota publicada no site da Univisión, os jornalistas só “foram libertados” depois de “quase três horas de detenção”.

No entanto, depois de ter sido permitida a saída da equipa, os profissionais foram “escoltados durante todo o trajeto” até ao hotel onde se encontram hospedados, pelos serviços secretos (SEBIN), que terá tomado as intalações do local, em Caracas.

“Os funcionários (do SEBIN) impediram a entrada ou saída de qualquer pessoa”, explica, o SNTP na conta da rede social do Twitter.

(BBC) Venezuela crisis: President Maduro’s ‘days numbered’ – Mike Pompeo

(BBC)

Opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro clash with members of Venezuelan police on the border between Brazil and Venezuela. Photo: 23 February 2019
Image captionSaturday saw deadly confrontations at border crossings as volunteers attempted to collect aid

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s “days are numbered” after deadly clashes over humanitarian aid.

“Picking exact days is difficult. I’m confident that the Venezuelan people will ensure that Maduro’s days are numbered,” Mr Pompeo told CNN.

Two people died in Saturday’s clashes between civilians and troops loyal to Mr Maduro, who blocked aid deliveries.

Self-declared interim President Juan Guaidó said Mr Maduro must resign.

Mr Guaidó, who has been recognised as interim leader by more than 50 countries, has called on other nations to consider “all measures” to oust Mr Maduro after opposition-led efforts to bring in aid descended into clashes.

He also said he would attend a meeting of mostly Latin American countries in Colombia on Monday, despite being under a travel ban imposed by Mr Maduro. US Vice-President Mike Pence will represent Washington at the talks in Bogota.

A senior White House official said on Sunday that Mr Pence was planning to announce “concrete steps” and “actions” in addressing the crisis at the talks on Monday, Reuters news agency reported.

Meanwhile, Colombia and Brazil said they would intensify pressure on Mr Maduro to relinquish power. US President Donald Trump has not ruled out an armed response to the Venezuela crisis.

Opposition protesters face Venezuelan police at the Simón Bolívar International Bridge in Cucuta, Colombia. Photo: 23 February 2019
Image captionVenezuelan police prevented aid crossing the Simon Bolivar International Bridge
Demonstrators clash with Venezuelan police on the Francisco de Paula Santander bridge on the border Colombia, and Venezuela. Photo: 23 February 2019
Image captionProtesters at the Francisco de Paula Santander bridge on the border between Cucuta, Colombia, and Venezuela

Separately on Sunday, a boat carrying US aid from Puerto Rico to Venezuela was forced to dock on the small Dutch territory island of Curaçao after it was intercepted by the Venezuelan navy off the northern coast, AFP news agency reports.

The vessel was reportedly loaded with nine cargo containers filled with food and medicine.

The Midnight Stone supply ship arrives from Puerto Rico with aid to Venezuela, at the port of Willemstad, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, on February 24, 2019
Image captionThe supply ship that was forced to dock on the island of Curaçao

Mr Maduro, who says he is the legitimate president and is backed by key economic allies including Russia, Cuba and China, has warned that deliveries of foreign aid would open the way for US military intervention.

Mr Guaidó, who declared himself interim president last month, argues that alleged irregularities with the nation’s 2018 election render Mr Maduro’s leadership illegitimate.

What happened at the border on Saturday?

Venezuela’s opposition had intended to peacefully bring aid trucks over the borders with Brazil and Colombia.

Mr Guaidó had pledged that the aid would come into the country on Saturday. In response, Mr Maduro partly closed the country’s borders.

Venezuelans civilians attempted to cross in order to get to the stores of food and medicine, but the attempt quickly descended into bloody violence.

Soldiers opened fire against civilians, using a mixture of live ammunition and rubber bullets.

A demonstrator hits a barbed wire while clashing with security forces in Ureña, Venezuela
Image captionA demonstrator runs into barbed wire strung across a street in Ureña

At least two people including a 14-year-old boy were killed, human rights groups said.

There were also reports that some aid stockpiled on the border had been burned. Mr Pompeo described the reports as “sickening”.

“Our deepest sympathies to the families of those who have died due to these criminal acts,” he wrote on Twitter. “We join their demand for justice.”

Media captionVenezuela-Colombia border turns violent

At least 60 soldiers had defected by late Saturday, according to Colombia’s migration service, but most of the military appeared to still be loyal to Mr Maduro.

Video footage showed Venezuelan soldiers crashing their armoured vehicles into the border with Colombia in order to defect.

Another video posted on social media appeared to show four soldiers publicly denouncing the president and announcing their support for Guaidó.

Media captionThe moment Venezuelan troops crashed through border into Colombia

Mr Guaidó promised the defectors amnesty if they joined the “right side of history”.

Late on Saturday, Colombia’s government estimated the number of injured at border crossings to be about 300.

Amnesty International described the use of live ammunition by Venezuelan troops as a crime under international law.

How has Maduro reacted?

President Maduro has ignored international calls to hold new elections. He has accused Mr Guaidó of being an “American pawn” and an “imperialist beggar”.

As protests got under way at Venezuela’s borders, Mr Maduro staged a rally in Caracas.

“Take your hands off Venezuela, Donald Trump,” he told a cheering crowd.

The US is leading the international effort to pressure Mr Maduro, and has implemented a raft of financial sanctions against his government.

How did we get to this point?

The humanitarian aid stockpiled in Colombia and Brazil is at the centre of a stand-off between Mr Maduro and Mr Guaidó that goes back to Mr Maduro’s disputed re-election in 2018.

For several years Venezuela has been in the grip of a political and economic crisis.

An out-of-control inflation rate has seen prices soar, leaving many Venezuelans struggling to afford basic items.

More than three million people have fled Venezuela in recent years, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

(Reuters) The battle for Citgo: How Venezuela’s opposition leaders seized control

(Reuters)

(Reuters) – Asdrubal Chavez, chief executive of Houston-based Citgo Petroleum Corp, boarded the Venezuelan-owned firm’s corporate jet in Caracas on Jan. 30, after meeting with top officials of the embattled administration of socialist President Nicolas Maduro about the latest U.S. oil sanctions.FILE PHOTO: The corporate logos of the state oil company PDVSA and Citgo Petroleum Corp are seen in Caracas, Venezuela April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Bello/File Photo

Upon landing in the Bahamas – where Chavez has worked for about a year after being denied a U.S. visa – he had received word from Houston that it would be his last trip on a company plane and that his Citgo email account had been shut off.

Day-to-day control of the company had passed to Citgo’s top U.S. executive, Rick Esser, who with the backing of Venezuela’s rising political opposition and the U.S. government would begin clearing the way for a new, anti-Maduro board of directors at Citgo. Esser oversaw the moves to isolate Chavez – a cousin of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez – and would soon start ousting other Citgo executives close to the Maduro administration.

The house-cleaning at the prized U.S.-based subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), marked a crucial early victory for the country’s rising opposition government – led by self-declared president Juan Guaido – as it struggles to remove Maduro from office and break his grip on the OPEC nation’s oil assets.

The account of the transition of power at Citgo is based on Reuters interviews with more than a dozen current and former Citgo and PDVSA executives, employees, and U.S. and Latin American advisors.

Guaido, head of the Venezuelan congress, announced he would seize the presidency on Jan. 23 because Maduro’s re-election last year was a sham, rendering the socialist leader illegitimate under Venezuela law. Guaido’s claim to interim leadership, until fair elections can be held, was quickly backed by the United States and dozens of other nations.

But Maduro remains in control of the military and PDVSA – making Citgo the obvious first target among national asset for Guaido’s opposition movement to claim, with the help of the U.S. government. The battle for Citgo could prove pivotal in the effort to unseat Maduro because full control of a major U.S. refiner would provide a crucial source of revenue to a post-Maduro administration.

Citgo, with more than $23 billion in annual sales and operations that supply about 4 percent of U.S. fuels, may be the last remaining asset owned by PDVSA with a healthy balance sheet. As PDVSA’s oil production and revenue have plummeted amid crippling debt, mismanagement and international political pressure, Citgo’s U.S. location and financial independence have shielded the firm from the worst of its parent company’s meltdown.

At the end of September, Citgo had net income of about $500 million, according to a creditor with access to financial statements that are not public. The company had almost $500 million in cash and an available credit line of $900 million.

(Graphic: An interactive look at Venezuela’s crude exports to the United States – tmsnrt.rs/2S4YIXB)

Inside Citgo’s Houston headquarters, many employees weary of operating under the control of a failing socialist state eagerly awaited an expected official announcement of the appointments of new company directors, who were chosen by Venezuela’s congress.

“We are not expecting any resistance” to the new board inside the company, said one manager who spoke on condition of anonymity. “On the contrary, we are waiting for directions to lay out the red carpet.”

The new board met together for the first time in Houston on Thursday and named executives to replace those who were ousted.

Board directors and a new executive team was confirmed by Citgo in a statement on Friday. Esser assumed responsibility for day-to-day strategic decisions and operations while a search for a new CEO has begun, it said, without mentioning former CEO Chavez.

“These officers were chosen not only for their experience and knowledge, but also because of their demonstrated commitment to the company over the years,” said Chairwoman Luisa Palacios in the statement.

PDVSA and the White House did not respond to requests for comment.

(Graphic: Citgo’s Louisiana refinery was 2018’s top U.S. consumer of Venezuela’s crude – tmsnrt.rs/2t4ullS.)

SHIFTING ALLEGIANCES

As U.S. sanctions on Jan. 28 shifted the balance of power to Citgo’s anti-Maduro faction of executives, Maduro loyalists scrambled to find their place in the emerging corporate structure.

Two of four senior executives appointed by Chavez openly pledged support for the incoming board of directors in meetings with employees, said two sources who attended the meetings.

But all four – Frank Gygax, Nepmar Escalona, Simon Suarez and Eladio Perez – were escorted out of the building on Monday, according to four people with knowledge of their departures. Gygax declined to comment and the others did not respond to requests.

It is unclear whether Chavez has yet been formally terminated, an action that can only be taken by company directors, but he has been effectively shut out of the firm, Citgo employees said. Chavez did not respond to a request for comment.

Esser has essentially run the company since Chavez’ ouster, in close consultation with U.S. government officials, according to three Citgo employees and two people close to the incoming company board.

A Jan. 30 meeting between White House National Security Advisor John Bolton and Citgo executives thrust the low-key Esser into the spotlight after Bolton tweeted a photo of the meeting, calling it “very productive.”

U.S. officials have voiced concern that Guaido and his supporters had been too slow in seizing control of Citgo and also have pushed for a say in choosing members of the refiner’s new board – a request Guaido’s team declined, according to two people familiar with the talks.

Since clearing Citgo’s upper ranks of Maduro allies, Esser has focused on securing alternatives to the Venezuelan oil that feeds its refineries. Recent U.S. sanctions prevent the firm from importing Venezuelan crude after April 28, which could cripple the company unless it can ensure it has the cash, credit and contracts for alternate supplies.

Advisors to the incoming Citgo board have separately urged U.S. officials to exempt Citgo from sanctions and protect its assets from creditors once it is officially controlled by Guaido’s team.

Esser saw this crisis coming two years ago and put together a group to find new suppliers and test their oils in the event Venezuelan crudes were restricted by sanctions, according to a person familiar with the effort.

The firm’s efforts to sustain operations face a threat from creditors owed money by Venezuela and PDVSA, who could try to use that leverage to hamstring Citgo’s finances, said Carlos Jorda, a former Citgo chairman and now a Houston business consultant. The U.S. government could help the company hold off that threat, he said.

“The U.S. Treasury could say, ‘Hold your horses, you’ll get paid – but not paid by Citgo, but by Venezuela – when the Maduro regime exits,’” Jorda said.

Esser and Citgo finance executive Curtis Rowe traveled to Washington this week to meet with U.S. government officials for at least the second time in three weeks, according to two Citgo employees.Slideshow (2 Images)

‘FROGS AND SNAKES’

Opposition leaders had difficulty recruiting candidates willing to join the new Citgo board, according to three people familiar with the recruitments.

“There are many risks,” one of the people said, “and if these people have family members in Venezuela, they could be putting them at risk, too.”

In late 2017, six Citgo executives were called to Caracas and jailed amid a graft probe over a failed debt refinancing. Their detention led to Chavez’s appointment as CEO and the arrival of several Maduro loyalists at Citgo’s Houston headquarters.

New Citgo Chairwoman Palacios has been huddling with newly appointed directors and legal advisers to guard against the threat of a potential U.S. court challenge by PDVSA to the new board’s legitimacy, according to two sources close to her team.

Palacios and other board members, which include former Citgo and PDVSA executives living in the United States, did not respond to requests for comment.

One of their priorities will be to audit the finances of a refinery project in Aruba, said the two people close to Palacios. PDVSA and Citgo agreed to a $685 million overhaul of the idled facility in 2016, causing some Citgo executives to resign in protest, arguing the deal made no business sense.

On Monday, Citgo Aruba Refining officially put the money-losing venture on hold and laid off workers, citing the impact of U.S. sanctions on PDVSA. The project has been clouded by corruption allegations, according to four former and current Citgo employees and two people close to the new Citgo board.

“There is also worry about the audits to come. We are expecting ‘frogs and snakes’ to come from there,” said a Citgo employee, using a Venezuelan figure of speech similar in meaning to the opening of a Pandora’s box.

REDECORATING

Since Esser took over Citgo operations, the company has sent clear signals of a return to its century-old American roots.

“We the people of Citgo have a story to tell you” read an advertisement in Tuesday’s Washington Post, borrowing language from the U.S. constitution. The text emphasized the firm’s 6,000 U.S. workers, fiscal strength and U.S. charity work.

Workers at the company’s Houston headquarters also have purged the company website and marketing materials of references to PDVSA and stripped the building of the symbols of Venezuela’s socialist government.

For years, the hallways have been decorated with renderings of a controversial painting of Latin American independence leader Simon Bolivar that had been commissioned by former president Hugo Chavez – and looked more like Chavez than any historical Bolivar painting.

The portraits began to disappear, Citgo employees said, soon after Venezuela’s congress appointed the company’s new board of directors.

(BBC) After the fight for humanitarian aid, what next for Venezuela’s opposition?

(BBC)

A demonstrator gestures in front of Venezuelan national policemen standing guard at the Simon Bolivar international bridge, in Cucuta, Colombia
Image captionDeadly border clashes have taken place after President Nicolás Maduro blocked humanitarian aid from crossing from Colombia and Brazil

After a weekend of violence, it is time for reflection. And Plan B.

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó will be meeting regional members of the Lima Group in Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, on Monday.

US Vice-President Mike Pence is also taking part to discuss the crisis in Venezuela. The Trump administration has been a big backer of Mr Guaidó since he declared himself interim president last month.

Juan Guaidó has said that after Saturday’s events, he has decided to formally ask the international community to keep all options on the table.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted over the weekend that America would “take action against those who oppose the peaceful restoration of democracy in Venezuela”.

Read between the lines, and military intervention, something that US President Donald Trump said he would not rule out, is clearly being left as a form of “action”.

Families divided

Keddy Moreno lives in Venezuela’s biggest slum, Petare, a neighbourhood of the capital, Caracas. She is prepared for military intervention – anything to end the hardships she faces on a daily basis.

I meet her just before she heads to Sunday evening Mass. The priest’s sermon touches upon the need for forgiveness in Venezuela – and the need to end the political fight so families are no longer divided.

Keddy Moreno
Image captionKeddy Moreno says efforts at the weekend to block the aid coming in were “a great injustice”

That is a story Keddy knows all too well. Her daughter left Venezuela to look for work in Peru two years ago, just four months after giving birth. Keddy’s now bringing up her little granddaughter alone.

“This weekend was a great injustice,” she says of the government’s efforts to block the aid coming in. “But it could have been worse. It gives us more encouragement that things can change.”

The neighbourhood of Petare
Image captionPetare, where Keddy lives, is Venezuela’s largest slum

Keddy thinks Juan Guaidó is the best man to take Venezuela forward.

“If only he had appeared before, things could have changed sooner.”

Intervention – more harm than good?

Not far from Petare, in one of Caracas’ wealthier suburbs, families are making the most of the sunny weekend on the Cota Mil ringroad which snakes along the north of the capital, under the iconic Avila mountain that overlooks the metropolis.

Petroleum engineer Renni Pavolini is out walking his seven-month-old spaniel Eva. He thinks the US needs to get involved in bringing the presidency of President Maduro to an end, despite fears from many that it could do more harm than good.

Renni Pavolini
Image captionRenni Pavolini says he supports foreign intervention if it will “make a big change for this country”

“They are always being interventionist,” he says, giving the past examples of Vietnam, Iraq and Cuba. “But if that intervention will make a big change for this country, I think it’s a good thing.”

Good or bad, there are not many options left, according to Margarita Lopez Maya, a professor at the Central University of Caracas.

Margarita Lopez Maya
Image captionMargarita Lopez Maya, a professor at the Central University of Caracas, says a peaceful solution to current hostilities is “very difficult”

“Venezuelans keep on betting on the possibility of a peaceful way out of this, but the nature of the Maduro government makes it very difficult for a peaceful way out,” she says.

“We have seen that they don’t care about the Venezuelan people. They don’t care about the cruelty or repression. They don’t have scruples. If they have to kill people, they will kill them. If they have to starve them, they will starve them.”

Fears of intervention

But people on both sides of the political argument fear military intervention.

“I think it would devastate an already dilapidated infrastructure, it would create divisions within the international community, it would raise questions about the legitimacy of the new Venezuelan authorities, it would set an awful precedent for the region,” says Benjamin Gedan of the Wilson Centre in Washington and former South America director on the National Security Council.

“It carries great risks and it’s not necessary.”

Media captionMaduro: US “warmongering” in order to take over Venezuela

Mr Gedan instead urges patience. The most recent sanctions placed on the state-oil company PDVSA will take effect in the coming weeks and that, he says, will pile more pressure on the government.

“Does he still have the rents to distribute to the elites?” he asks. “It’s not ideological loyalty any more, it’s shared impunity and it’s bribery.”

Once that money disappears, so too will the loyalty.

Concerts for peace

Mr Maduro is not giving up yet. In the centre of Caracas this weekend, the government put on a concert in the name of peace, hiring artists to belt out the political message that it does not need other countries to get involved and fix Venezuela.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a pro-government march in Caracas
Image captionPresident Maduro spoke at a pro-government concert this weekend in light of another, anti-Maduro concert organised by opposition groups and British billionaire Richard Branson

“What we want is for the whole world to call on Donald Trump, to call on the US, to call on the countries that want Venezuela choked, and remind them that we are a free country,” says Ezequiel Suarez who is in the crowd. “We can decide ourselves what kind of future we deserve and we want to construct.”

On a nearby building, there is a giant poster with the face of Nicolás Maduro overlooking the concert. The future belongs to us, it reads – but for how long?

(BBC) Venezuela crisis: Colombia border points closed amid aid stand-off

(BBC)

Media captionBattle of the concerts held on either side of the Venezuela-Colombia border

Venezuela has said that its border with Colombia has been partially closed, shortly after opposition leader Juan Guaidó defied a travel ban to cross it.

Vice President Delcy Rodriguez tweeted to say the “total, temporary closure” was due to serious threats against the country’s sovereignty and security.

Tensions have been rising over a row about the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Two people were killed by Venezuelan security forces on Saturday near the border with Brazil.

The violence was condemned by the United States government, which said in a statement: “The Venezuelan military must allow humanitarian aid to peacefully enter the country. The world is watching.”

Mr Guaidó, the leader of the country’s opposition-dominated National Assembly, last month declared himself the country’s interim leader.

He has since won the backing of dozens of nations, including the US. He has called the rule of President Nicolas Maduro constitutionally illegitimate, claiming that Mr Maduro’s re-election in 2018 was marred by voting irregularities.

What happened on Friday?

Hundreds of tonnes of humanitarian aid sitting just outside Venezuela’s borders have become a flashpoint between Mr Guaidó and President Maduro.

Mr Maduro has so far refused to allow the aid, which includes food and medicine, to cross over into Venezuela. Mr Guaidó has vowed that hundreds of thousands of volunteers will help bring it in on Saturday.

Chile's President Sebastian Pinera shakes hands with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido
Image captionMr Guaidó (centre) alongside Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera (left) and Paraguay’s President Mario Abdo Benitez (right) at a Cucuta aid warehouse

On Friday, rival concerts were held just 300m (980ft) away from each other on either side of the Venezuelan-Colombia border.

Mr Guaidó turned up at Venezuela Aid Live in Cucuta, organised by British businessman Richard Branson, on Friday.

He was greeted there by the presidents of Colombia, Chile and Paraguay – three of the nations who have recognised the 35-year-old lawmaker as interim president.

He alleged that he was able to cross over on Friday with the help of the Venezuelan armed forces. The claim is significant as President Nicolás Maduro has been able to retain power largely because of his military support.

Hours after his appearance, the announcement about the closure of bridges in Tachira state was made.

It follows a similar announcement made on Thursday about the closure of the border with Brazil – where another aid collection is being raised.

Violent clashes broke out there on Friday morning after members of an indigenous community reportedly confronted Venezuelan troops in the southern village of Kumarakapay.

Witnesses said that troops opened fire on individuals who tried to block a road to prevent military vehicles from passing.

Human rights campaigners said soldiers shot and killed two people and wounded 15 others.

An ambulance at the scene where several people were injured during clashes in the southern Venezuelan town of Kumarakapay
Image captionAn ambulance photographed responding to violent clashes near the border with Brazil

A spokeswoman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he had a meeting with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza on Friday in New York, in which he urged authorities to refrain from using lethal force against demonstrators.

Why is the aid delivery contentious?

Economic conditions have deteriorated rapidly since President Maduro took power in 2013.

The UN says about three million people have fled the country over the last few years.

Hyperinflation has caused the cost of essentials to soar, leaving many unable to afford basics like food and medicine.

Mr Guaidó has said the aid deliveries are necessary to stop Venezuelans dying. He has vowed to get his supporters to mobilise en-masse to get it in on Saturday.

Presentational grey line

‘Deeply uncertain’ day ahead

Analysis by Katy Watson, BBC News South America correspondent

This is the day Venezuela’s opposition has been waiting for. A day that will test the loyalty of the country’s armed forces towards Nicolas Maduro and determine his future.

Lorries laden with aid are expected to set off from both Colombia and Brazil and attempt to cross the border. A ship carrying aid is also travelling from Puerto Rico.

Throughout Venezuela, people will gather at military barracks to ask soldiers for their help in the aid effort.

Until now, senior officers have remained loyal to Mr Maduro – but with pressure being heaped on them to help the Venezuelan people, will they listen to their leader or change sides, support Juan Guaido and open the borders? These next few days are deeply uncertain.

Presentational grey line

President Maduro denies there is any crisis and has branded the aid plans a US-orchestrated show.

Performers at his rival concert on Friday performed in front of a backdrop that said #TrumpHandsoffVenezuela, the AFP news agency reports.

The US President has led the effort to recognise Mr Guaidó as president, and has implemented economic sanctions to put pressure on President Maduro’s government.

At a speech earlier this week, he urged the Venezuelan military to switch sides and abandon their support of the president.

He has repeatedly reiterated that “all options are open” in regards to the US response to the unfolding crisis.

(NYT) El Grupo de Contacto Internacional: la mejor oportunidad de Venezuela

(NYT)

Miles de personas marcharon en una protesta contra el gobierno de Nicolás Maduro el 2 de febrero en Caracas. CreditMeridith Kohut para The New York Times

[Si quieres recibir las mejores columnas de Opinión de The New York Times en Español en tu correo, suscríbete aquí a El Times]

La semana pasada, el Grupo de Contacto Internacional (GCI) tuvo su primera reunión para abordar la crisis en Venezuela. La instancia multilateral, que se originó por iniciativa de la Unión Europea —representada por Francia, Alemania, Italia, los Países Bajos, Portugal, España, Suecia y el Reino Unido— pero también con la presencia de varios países latinoamericanos —Costa Rica, Ecuador y Uruguay—, resolvió que trabajaría con socios internacionales para “establecer las garantías necesarias para un proceso electoral creíble, en el menor tiempo posible”, y permitir la entrega de ayuda humanitaria.

Mientras se realizaba la reunión, el enviado especial de Estados Unidos para Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, criticó la iniciativa con el argumento de que “Maduro ha demostrado que usará a su favor cualquier llamado a negociar y a menudo ha utilizado supuestos diálogos como una manera de ganar tiempo”. La discrepancia muestra que, aunque hay un consenso considerable entre los países de Occidente respecto de la ilegitimidad del gobierno de Maduro, todavía hay desacuerdos significativos sobre los pasos a seguir para salir de la actual encrucijada. La alternativa del GCI podría ser la mejor oportunidad para llegar a una transición democrática exitosa: no se trata de abrir un diálogo abstracto, sino de que un grupo de países negocie con el gobierno de Nicolás Maduro y la oposición unas nuevas elecciones libres y legítimas.

Estados Unidos ha respondido a la crisis venezolana no solo al reconocer a Juan Guaidó, el líder de la Asamblea Nacional, como presidente encargado, sino también con la imposición de sanciones al petróleo venezolano y al alentar abiertamente la deserción de las fuerzas armadas bolivarianas. La estrategia más reciente para sembrar la discordia entre Maduro y sus militares es enviar ayuda humanitaria a la frontera de Venezuela, ante lo cual los oficiales del ejército deben decidir entre ser leales a Maduro o a los venezolanos hambrientos. Al final, todos tenemos muy presentes los constantes recordatorios del presidente de Estados Unidos, Donald Trump, de que en Venezuela “todas las opciones están sobre la mesa”.

Hay buenas razones para rechazar el diálogo con el gobierno de Maduro. En 2014, cuatro meses de movilizaciones callejeras en contra del régimen terminaron cuando los líderes de la oposición aceptaron dialogar con el gobierno y no lograron nada. En 2016, un nuevo diálogo entre el gobierno y la oposición derivó en un acuerdo plausible que podría haber llevado al reconocimiento de la Asamblea Nacional. Sin embargo, el gobierno de Maduro muy pronto incumplió sus compromisos, lo cual generó que incluso el representante del Vaticano se rehusara a seguir involucrado. De diciembre de 2017 a principios de 2018, fracasó otra ronda de diálogo, pues el gobierno de Maduro se negó a firmar un acuerdo que habían redactado algunos de sus aliados. En cada uno de los casos, el diálogo le dio un respiro al gobierno de Maduro y la oposición se desmovilizó.

Sin embargo, es importante percatarse de que la iniciativa del GCI es muy distinta de las propuestas anteriores en un aspecto fundamental: el GCI tiene un mandato explícito de no ser un mediador ni tampoco tiene la intención de promover el diálogo. Su objetivo es más bien presionar al gobierno de Maduro para que se den las condiciones necesarias para convocar unas elecciones legítimas a fin de que los propios venezolanos puedan elegir a sus líderes. El único diálogo será entre los países que conforman el GCI y entre el GCI y las distintas facciones políticas de Venezuela por medio de una diplomacia itinerante.

Para que la iniciativa tenga éxito, el GCI tendrá que evadir la constante presión de impulsar un diálogo vacío. En la víspera de la reunión del GCI, México, Uruguay y algunas naciones del Caribe emitieron un comunicado en favor de un “Mecanismo de Montevideo”, el cual promovería un diálogo sin condiciones. No causó ninguna sorpresa que Nicolás Maduro respaldara la idea de inmediato. Sin embargo, esta iniciativa murió antes de nacer, pues la oposición venezolana ya había dejado claro que no participaría en un esfuerzo con esas características. Por fortuna, Uruguay fue anfitrión de una reunión del GCI al día siguiente en la que el grupo replanteó su compromiso para que haya nuevas elecciones.

Este esfuerzo también tendrá que enfrentar el escepticismo de Estados Unidos. Sin embargo, el gobierno de Trump podría estar más dispuesto a aceptar una solución electoral a la crisis de lo que sugiere su retórica draconiana. Recientemente, Mauricio Claver-Carone, el asesor del gobierno estadounidense en Seguridad Nacional para el hemisferio Occidental, dijo en una entrevista con el periódico colombiano El Tiempo que Estados Unidos podría apoyar una oferta de Maduro de realizar nuevas elecciones siempre y cuando la acepte Juan Guaidó.

Los dos rostros principales de la encrucijada en Venezuela: Juan Gauidó y Nicolás MaduroCreditYuri Cortez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

La oposición debe buscar algún tipo de contacto con miembros de la coalición del gobierno si quiere lograr algún avance en la solución electoral que está proponiendo el GCI. El hecho de que no hayamos visto importantes deserciones del ejército o de funcionarios del gobierno sugiere que quienes rodean a Maduro no ven sus intereses reflejados en la transición que plantea la oposición. La oferta de amnistía parece no tener el atractivo suficiente, lo que significa que la oposición debe considerar una oferta que incluya algún tipo de poder compartido o garantías para la supervivencia del chavismo.

La oposición también tendrá que ceder en sus aspiraciones de una reforma estructural significativa antes de que ocurran las elecciones. Sin legitimidad democrática, no se puede pedir al pueblo que haga los sacrificios dolorosos e inevitables necesarios para una reforma a profundidad. Esto podría parecer evidente, pero algunos analistas de la oposición que pecan de exceso de confianza dan estimados de un gobierno de transición que podría durar entre cuatro meses y cuatro años.

El tiempo no está del lado de la oposición ni del GCI. En cuestión de uno o dos meses, las sanciones petroleras de Estados Unidos podrían alterar considerablemente el escenario: solo los vehículos del gobierno tendrían gasolina y los funcionarios públicos serían los únicos que estarían comiendo bien. El efecto neto de estas sanciones será el debilitamiento de la capacidad de organización del pueblo en contra del gobierno y permitirá que Maduro endurezca su proyecto autoritario, como ocurrió en Cuba durante la década de los sesenta.

Una transición democrática exitosa requerirá que Nicolás Maduro haga concesiones importantes. El GCI ha comunicado que su gobierno tendrá que implementar medidas serias que restauren la confianza antes de que se puedan convocar elecciones creíbles. Entre estas se encuentran la liberación de presos políticos, el nombramiento de nuevos miembros del Consejo Nacional Electoral y el fin de las prohibiciones a todos los partidos políticos y a los políticos en el proceso electoral. También es evidente que Maduro tendrá que ceder el control del proceso electoral a organismos neutrales. Después de los abusos electorales de los últimos tres años, es difícil imaginar un comicio legítimo si Maduro está en el poder.

Llevar a cabo estas medidas casi garantizará que Maduro pierda las votaciones y salga del poder, y tanto él como su coalición lo saben. No obstante, deben estar conscientes de que esta tal vez sea su última oportunidad de renunciar al poder de una manera digna y no violenta que no solo garantice su supervivencia, sino también la representación política del amplio sector de la población que aún respalda al gobierno. Salir con una pizca de gracia podría salvar la memoria del chavismo de las profundidades ignominiosas en las que se ha hundido.

(ZH) Erdogan Says Venezuelan Gold Will Be Processed In Turkey

(ZH)

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday that Venezuelan gold would be processed in the Central Anatolian province of Çorum.

Speaking at a rally ahead of local elections on March 31, the president said Çorum would reach a new level in terms of gold trade amid reports that Venezuela sells most of its gold to Turkish refineries.

On Monday Reuters reported that Venezuela uses some of the proceeds to buy consumer goods such as pasta and powdered milk, citing people with direct knowledge of the trade.

Trade between the two nations grew eightfold last year.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s gold program has developed in tandem with his deepening relationship with Turkey’s Erdoğan. Both leaders have been criticized internationally for cracking down on political dissent and undermining democratic norms to concentrate power.

A Nov. 1 executive order signed by US President Donald Trump bars US persons and entities from buying gold from Venezuela.

It does not apply to foreigners.

Ankara has assured the US Treasury that all of Turkey’s trade with Venezuela is in accordance with international law.

Venezuela in December 2016 announced a direct flight from Caracas to İstanbul on Turkish Airlines. The development was surprising given the low demand for travel between the two nations.

Trade data show those planes are carrying more than passengers. On New Year’s Day, 2018, Venezuela’s central bank began shipping gold to Turkey with a $36 million air shipment of the metal to Istanbul. It came just weeks after a visit by Maduro to Turkey.

Shipments last year reached $900 million, according to Turkish government data and trade reports.

Venezuela’s central bank has been selling its artisan gold directly to Turkish refiners, according to two senior Venezuelan officials. Proceeds go to the Venezuelan state development bank Bandes to purchase Turkish consumer goods, the officials said.

Gold buyers include Istanbul Gold Refinery, or IGR, and Sardes Kıymetli Madenler, a Turkish trading firm, according to a person who works in Turkey’s gold industry as well as a Caracas-based diplomat and the two senior Venezuelan officials.

In an interview with Reuters, IGR CEO Ayşen Esen denied the company has been involved in any Venezuelan gold deals. In a written statement, she said she met with Venezuelan and Turkish officials in İstanbul in April to offer her views on compliance with international regulations.

Esen said she advised the Turkish government that working with Venezuela “would not be right for leading institutions or the state.”

As for Sardes Kıymetli Madenler, no one at its İstanbul offices responded to inquiries from Reuters.

Turkish consumer products, meanwhile, are making their way to Venezuelan tables. In early December 54 containers of Turkish powdered milk arrived at the port of La Guaira near Caracas, according to port records seen by Reuters.

The İstanbul-based shipper, Mulberry Proje Yatırım, shares an address with Marilyns Proje Yatırım, a mining company that signed a joint venture with Venezuela’s state mining firm Minerven last year, according to filings with a Turkish trade registry gazette in September.

(Express) Jeremy Corbyn slammed for ‘defending Venezuela dictator’

(Express) MURDERED MP Jo Cox’s widower has accused Jeremy Corbyn of “defending a dictator” over his stance on Venezuela.

Brendan Cox, a former chief strategist at Save the Children, spoke out after the Labour leader opposed “outside interference” in the socialist South American country. Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro’s leadership has left the country in the grip of a social and economic collapse that has triggered a humanitarian crisis and protests. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has called for sanctions on the regime as the EU joined the US in recognising its opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president on Thursday.

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn has been criticised over his stance on Venezuela (Image: PA)

Mr Cox, whose Labour MP wife was murdered by neo-Nazi killer Thomas Mair in 2016, tweeted yesterday: “The future of Venezuela has been taken out of the hands of Venezuelans by an increasingly corrupt and totalitarian state.

“By all means call for dialogue but if you don’t strongly condemn the subjugation of democracy it sounds like you are defending a dictator.”

Mr Corbyn said in a Friday tweet: “The future of Venezuela is a matter for Venezuelans. Jeremy Hunt’s call for more sanctions on Venezuela is wrong. There needs to be dialogue and a negotiated settlement to overcome the crisis.”

Tens of thousands of Mr Guaido’s supporters held rallies across the country yesterday to protest against Mr Maduro as international pressure mounted on him to step down.

Jo Cox

Jo Cox was murdered in 2016 (Image: PA)

Brendan Cox

Jo Cox’s widower Brendan Cox (Image: PA)

Yesterday Maduro caved in to calls for early elections, proposing bringing them forward from 2020 to this year.

Last night it emerged a Venezuelan general had defected from the Maduro regime and claimed 90 per cent of the country’s military had turned against the “dictator”.

General Francisco Yanez, of the air force’s high command, was accused of high treason after he recognised Mr Guaido as interim president in a video circulating on Twitter.

The Maduro regime also organised a rally yesterday to commemorate the 20th anniversary of late leader Hugo Chavez’s inauguration as president.

(Reuters) Venezuela open to barter trade with India to boost oil sales

(Reuters)

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Venezuela is open to barter-like payments from India to boost oil sales to the world’s third-biggest oil consumer, the South American country’s oil minister Manuel Quevedu said on Monday.Venezuela’s Oil Minister and President of Venezuelan state-run oil company PDVSA Manuel Quevedo (C) arrives to attend the Petrotech conference in Greater Noida, India, February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

Venezuela buys a slew of products including medicines from India, and it is looking for alternative payment mechanisms after application of the latest stringent U.S. sanctions.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has imposed sweeping sanctions on Venezuelan state-owned oil firm PDVSA, aimed at severely curbing the OPEC member’s crude exports to the United States to pressure socialist President Nicolas Maduro to step down.

“The relationships with India will continue, the trade will continue and we will simply expand all the trade and relationship,” Quevedu told reporters on the sidelines of Petrotech conference, without giving any further details on how a barter mechanism with India would work.

Venezuela’s oil production has dwindled in the last two decades, from more than 3 million barrels per day (bpd) at the beginning of the century to between 1.2 million and 1.4 million bpd by late 2018. Most of the crude oil it produces now is heavy or extra heavy.

Venezuela’s oil output is now at 1.57 million bpd, Quevedu said.

The Venezuelan oil minister, who now holds the rotating presidency of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), said it was important to listen to all the consuming countries that represent oil demand to maintain the balance of demand and supply in the markets.

“Inventory levels, demand, supply are the elements taken into account while trying to maintain the balance the global industry needs,” Quevedu said.

Unilateral sanctions by the United States have reduced PDVSA’s oil output and caused a loss of about $20 billion to its oil revenue-dependent economy, he said.

“U.S. exercises kidnapping of resources around the world … It is financial persecution. Now they want to steal Citgo Petroleum from Venezuela,” he said.

Citgo Petroleum Corp is a unit of PDVSA and Venezuela’s top foreign asset. Citgo operates three U.S. refineries that supply about 4 percent of total U.S. fuel production, and it is PDVSA’s largest U.S. customer for its oil exports.

Following the U.S. decision to impose sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry, both sides have engaged in aggressive moves for control of Citgo, which has roots in the United States dating back 100 years, but has been owned by Venezuela’s state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, for three decades.

Sanctions have forced Citgo and other U.S. refiners to seek crude oil supplies from other nations.

(MENAFN) Portugal blocks Venezuelan fund transfer

(MENAFN)

(MENAFN) A Portuguese bank has blocked Venezuela’s attempt to transfer USD1.2 billion to Uruguay, as the opposition to President Nicolas Maduro warned of the theft of public funds, while the U.S. sent food and medical aid to the Venezuelan-Colombian border.

Pressure is mounting on Maduro to step down amid an economic crisis marked by shortages and hyperinflation, with the United States and other nations recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president.

Pope Francis has expressed willingness for the Vatican to reconcile Venezuela’s crisis if both sides seek it. 

Guaido, who declared himself interim president in January, was scheduled to meet later with business leaders at Venezuela”s main business group, Fedecamaras, to discuss an economic recovery plan under a future transition government in the OPEC-member South American country.

Maduro”s adversaries have warned that Venezuelan officials are trying to consume state coffers ahead of a potential change of government.