Category Archives: Venezuela

Venezuela Drifts Into New Territory: Hunger, Blackouts and Government Shutdown

Nicholas Casey and Patricia Torres report for The New York Times:

[…] The growing economic crisis — fueled by low prices for oil, the country’s main export; a drought that has crippled Venezuela’s ability to generate hydroelectric power; and a long decline in manufacturing and agricultural production — has turned into an intensely political one for President Nicolás Maduro. This month, he declared a state of emergency, his second this year, and ordered military exercises, citing foreign threats.

But the president looks increasingly encircled.

American officials say the multiplying crises have led Mr. Maduro to fall out of favor with members of his own socialist party, who they believe may turn on him, leading to chaos in the streets.

Old allies like Brazil, whose leftist president, Dilma Rousseff, was removed this month pending an impeachment trial, are now openly criticizing Venezuela. José Mujica, the leftist former president of Uruguay last week called Mr. Maduro “crazy like a goat.”

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The Making of Leopoldo López

Roberto Lovato writes for Foreign Policy:

The Making of Leopoldo López In the nearly year and a half since street protests rocked Caracas, the U.S. press has been kind to Leopoldo López, the 44-year-old jailed leader of Venezuela’s radical opposition. He has been painted as a combination of Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, and his distant grand uncle, SimónBolívar, for his magnetic brand of in-your-face politics. Newsweek wrote of his “twinkling chocolate-colored eyes and high cheekbones” and called López a “revolutionary who has it all.” The New York Times published a photo of him, jaw out, fist in the air, in front of a crowd of screaming protesters and gave him a platform on its op-ed page. In New York, when the United Nations met last September, protestors rallied to show support for López, and President Barack Obama listed him among a group of political prisoners from repressive countries such as China and Egypt who “deserve to be free.” López, who has done interviews shirtless, came to embody freedom and democracy for audiences across the globe, with stars from Kevin Spacey to Cher rallying to his cause, while the hashtag #freeleopoldo rocketed across Twitter.

But in Venezuela the picture is far more complicated. López has been in jail since February 2014 on charges of arson, public incitement, and conspiracy related to the first big anti-government protest that year, on Feb. 12, 2014, which left three protesters dead and kicked off weeks of rallies, street blockades, vandalism, and violence. The charges against him, which Amnesty International has called “politically motivated,” could carry a prison sentence of 10 years. Outside the courtroom, the public debate continues to swirl between those who believe López is a freedom fighter facing trumped-up charges and those who believe he is the violent “fascista” the government of President Nicolás Maduro claims.

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State Department Announces New “Long-standing” Policy Against Backing Coups

Is Venezuela Really an “Extraordinary Threat”? Interview with Miguel Tinker Salas

‘Tensions between the United States and Venezuela are increasing after the Obama administration declared Venezuela to be an “unusual and extraordinary threat to national security” and slapped sanctions on seven top officials for alleged human right violations and corruption. On Tuesday, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro asked the National Assembly for increased power to protect the country’s integrity and sovereignty from what he described as “imperialist aggression.” Relations between the United States and Venezuela have been decaying for the past few months. In December, President Obama signed legislation to impose sanctions on Venezuelan government officials accused of violating protesters’ rights during demonstrations last year when 43 people died, including demonstrators, government supporters and security officials. On February 19, the mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, was arrested for allegedly being involved in a U.S.-backed coup plot. Days later, Venezuela announced it had arrested an unspecified number of Americans for engaging in espionage and recruitment activities. Venezuela also announced a series of measures, including visa requirements for U.S. citizens and restrictions and the downsizing of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas. This all comes as Venezuela faces an economic crisis in part because of the plummeting price of oil. We are joined by Miguel Tinker Salas, professor at Pomona College and author of the forthcoming book, “Venezuela: What Everyone Needs to Know.”‘ (Democracy Now!)

Venezuela says it has detained a U.S. pilot for allegedly taking part in a coup

Compare and Contrast: Obama’s Reaction to the Deaths of King Abdullah and Hugo Chávez

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Compare and Contrast: Obama’s Reaction to the Deaths of King Abdullah and Hugo Chávez‘Hugo Chávez was elected President of Venezuela four times from 1998 through 2012 and was admired and supported by a large majority of that country’s citizens, largely due to his policies that helped the poor. King Abdullah was the dictator and tyrant who ran one of the most repressive regimes on the planet.

The effusive praise being heaped on the brutal Saudi despot by western media and political figures has been nothing short of nauseating; the UK Government, which arouses itself on a daily basis by issuing self-consciously eloquent lectures to the world about democracy, actually ordered flags flown all day at half-mast to honor this repulsive monarch. My Intercept colleague Murtaza Hussain has an excellent article about this whole spectacle, along with a real obituary, here.’

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21st-century censorship: Governments around the world are using stealthy strategies to manipulate the media

Philip Bennett and Moises Naim report for Columbia Review of Journalism:

Two beliefs safely inhabit the canon of contemporary thinking about journalism. The first is that the internet is the most powerful force disrupting the news media. The second is that the internet and the communication and information tools it spawned, like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, are shifting power from governments to civil society and to individual bloggers, netizens, or “citizen journalists.”

It is hard to disagree with these two beliefs. Yet they obscure evidence that governments are having as much success as the internet in disrupting independent media and determining the information that reaches society. Moreover, in many poor countries or in those with autocratic regimes, government actions are more important than the internet in defining how information is produced and consumed, and by whom.

Illustrating this point is a curious fact: Censorship is flourishing in the information age. In theory, new technologies make it more difficult, and ultimately impossible, for governments to control the flow of information. Some have argued that the birth of the internet foreshadowed the death of censorship. In 1993, John Gilmore, an internet pioneer, told Time, “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.”

Today, many governments are routing around the liberating effects of the internet. Like entrepreneurs, they are relying on innovation and imitation. In countries such as Hungary, Ecuador, Turkey, and Kenya, officials are mimicking autocracies like Russia, Iran, or China by redacting critical news and building state media brands. They are also creating more subtle tools to complement the blunt instruments of attacking journalists.

As a result, the internet’s promise of open access to independent and diverse sources of information is a reality mostly for the minority of humanity living in mature democracies.’

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What ‘Democracy’ Really Means in U.S. and New York Times Jargon: Latin America Edition

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - What ‘Democracy’ Really Means in U.S. and New York Times Jargon: Latin America Edition‘One of the most accidentally revealing media accounts highlighting the real meaning of “democracy” in U.S. discourse is a still-remarkable 2002 New York Times Editorial on the U.S.-backed military coup in Venezuela, which temporarily removed that country’s democratically elected (and very popular) president, Hugo Chávez. Rather than describe that coup as what it was by definition – a direct attack on democracy by a foreign power and domestic military which disliked the popularly elected president – the Times, in the most Orwellian fashion imaginable, literally celebrated the coup as a victory for democracy:

With yesterday’s resignation of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona.

Thankfully, said the NYT, democracy in Venezuela was no longer in danger . . . because the democratically-elected leader was forcibly removed by the military and replaced by an unelected, pro-U.S. “business leader.” The Champions of Democracy at the NYT then demanded a ruler more to their liking: “Venezuela urgently needs a leader with a strong democratic mandate to clean up the mess, encourage entrepreneurial freedom and slim down and professionalize the bureaucracy.”’

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Venezuela, Malaysia, Angola, New Zealand and Spain win U.N. Security Council seats, Turkey bid fails

Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau report for Reuters:

‘Venezuela, Malaysia, Angola, New Zealand and Spain won seats on the United Nations Security Council on Thursday for two years from Jan. 1, 2015. The 193-member U.N. General Assembly elected Venezuela with 181 votes, Malaysia with 187 votes, Angola with 190 votes.

All three countries campaigned unopposed for their seats after being chosen as the candidates for their respective regional groups, but still needed to win the votes of two-thirds of the General Assembly to secure their spots.

The only contest was between New Zealand, Spain and Turkey for two seats given to the Western European and others group. New Zealand won a seat during the first round of voting with 145 votes. Spain beat Turkey in a third round of run-off voting.’

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Venezuelans looking to bypass dysfunctional economic controls are turning to bitcoin

Girish Gupta reports for Reuters:

‘Tech-savvy Venezuelans looking to bypass dysfunctional economic controls are turning to the bitcoin virtual currency to obtain dollars, make Internet purchases — and launch a little subversion.

Two New York-based Venezuelan brothers hope this week to start trading on the first bitcoin exchange in the socialist-run country, which already has at least several hundred bitcoin enthusiasts.

Due to currency controls introduced by late president Hugo Chavez a decade ago, acquiring hard currency now means either requesting it from the state, which struggles to satisfy demand, or tapping a shadowy black market. Even small dollar transactions are out of the question for most Venezuelans.’

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Venezuela accused of forging Maduro assassination plot evidence

Reuters reports:

‘Venezuelan officials used forged emails to accuse government adversaries of plotting to kill President Nicolas Maduro, according to a private investigation firm hired by one of the accused.

Ruling Socialist Party leaders in May said a group of ardent government critics were preparing to “annihilate” Maduro as part of a planned coup, showing images of emails they said were evidence of the plot.

The images of the emails showed “many indications of user manipulation,” according to the report released on Tuesday by Kivu Consulting. Records subpoenaed from Google also showed that messages attributed to consultant Pedro Burelli had never actually been sent, the report added.’

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Cuba’s Raul Castro urges defence of ally President Maduro in Venezuela

From AFP:

‘Cuban President Raul Castro warned allies on Saturday that Havana’s closest ally Venezuela needed support amid fallout from deadly anti-government protests. “Venezuela today needs our staunchest support,” Castro, 83, said in a rare international speech at a Group of 77 and China meeting in Bolivia.  “The oligarchs who could not get rid of President Hugo Chavez think the time has come to topple the Bolivarian revolution and President (Nicolas) Maduro,” Castro argued, calling the elected socialist government in Caracas “the front line of independence, freedom and dignity”.

Maduro is the closest regional ally of Cuba, the region’s only one-party communist state. Venezuelan economic support is critical to keeping the Cuban government and economy afloat. Cash-strapped Havana still has a centrally planned economy and cannot get access to international loans, and Venezuela supplies it with cut-rate oil. But inflation near 60 percent, widespread shortages of basic goods and soaring crime have plunged Venezuela — an oil-rich OPEC member — into political and economic crisis.’

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Ecuador transfers half of its gold reserves to Goldman Sachs in exchange for “liquidity”

Mike Krieger writes for Liberty Blitzkrieg:

‘This is a great example of how the game works. In a world in which every government on earth needs “liquidity” to survive, and the primary goal of every government is and always has been survival (the retention of arbitrary power at all costs), the provider of liquidity is king. So what is liquidity and who provides it?

In the current financial system (post Bretton Woods), the primary engine of global liquidity is the U.S. dollar and dollar based assets generally as a result of  its reserve currency status. Ever since Nixon defaulted on the U.S. dollar’s gold backing in 1971, the creation of this “liquidity” has zero restrictions whatsoever and is merely based on the whims and desires of the central planners in chief, i.e., the Federal Reserve. As the primary creator of the liquidity that every government on earth needs to survive, the Federal Reserve is thus the most powerful player globally in not only economic, but also geopolitical affairs.

The example of the so-called sovereign nation of Ecuador relinquishing its gold reserves to Goldman Sachs for “liquidity” which can be conjured up by the Fed on a whim and at zero cost tells you all you need to know about how the world works.’

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From Havana to Kiev: The US State Department as a Covert Operative

Howard Friel writes for Common Dreams:

Photo: Andrew Kravchenko/AP

‘I begin with three examples of State Department covert operations. The first examples start with Cuba (for context) and end with Venezuela, the target of the first two covert operations described below. The third example begins and ends with Cuba. These examples function as case studies that can be applied paradigmatically to Ukraine around the events of February 2014, when Ukraine’s elected president was overthrown in a coup supported by the United States. I conclude with commentary about the State Department’s likely evolution into a covert operations wing of the executive branch, and why such operations are illegal and threaten to ignite war in Europe among nations with nuclear weapons.’

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Venezuela One Year After Chavez’s Passing: Interview with Miguel Tinker Salas and Ewan Robertson

Flashback: Chavez Cites Chomsky at UN General Assembly

Was Twitter censored by the Venezuelan government or did a complicit media spread disinformation at Washington’s behest?

Justin Raimondo writes for Antiwar:

[…] There was no censorship of Twitter, either of photos or text. Yet the Bloomberg story went out over the wires, was picked up by every major news outlet in the Western world, and soon achieved the status of the undisputed Conventional Wisdom. Those dirty rotten commies in Venezuela were not only clubbing and shooting their own citizens, but they also were hiding the evidence!

Except they weren’t hiding the evidence: it was and is there for all to see.

Washington’s war on the Chavistas is a matter of public record: the US government has been funding the opposition since the now departed Hugo Chavez came to power, and the heavy hand of the Bush administration was no doubt involved in a 2002 coup attempt – a brazenly stupid move that only served to cement Chavez’s rule.

Governments want to control the flow the information, and the Venezuelan regime is hardly an exception to that inflexible rule. Maduro and his avowedly socialist party have moved to muzzle opposition media outlets, and mobilized mobs of their supporters in order to tamp down rising criticism of their haplessly incompetent rule. The country is a mess, with skyrocketing inflation, endemic shortages of basic necessities, and a crime rate shocking to our delicate Western sensibilities. Yet the Chavistas aren’t stupid: they know they’d face a backlash at home and abroad if they dared clamp down the way some of them would probably like to.

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What’s going on in Venezuela?

Venezuelan rivals trade blame over protest deaths

From Al Jazeera:

Venezuela’s government and the opposition traded accusations on Thursday after at least three people were shot dead in the worst unrest since protests that followed President Nicolas Maduro’s narrow election victory last year. Thousands of students accompanied by opposition leaders marched through the capital Caracas and other cities on Wednesday, demonstrating over poor security, inflation and a lack of basic commodities, in a further escalation of university protests that took place two weeks ago. A government official said 23 people were injured, 25 arrested, four police vehicles torched and some government offices were vandalised on Wednesday.

Some opposition protesters, many with their faces covered, threw stones and burned tires in what is Maduro’s biggest political test since taking over from the late Hugo Chavez last year. “There will be no coup d’etat in Venezuela; you can rest assured. Democracy will continue, and the revolution will continue,” said Maduro, who ordered the arrest of an opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez. Opposition and government supporters took to social media to blame their foes for Wednesday’s bloodshed.

The opposition blamed armed pro-government militant groups known as “colectivos” for attacking dozens of their marches over the years, scattering their supporters and spreading fear. Maduro blamed “small fascist groups” that, according to him, infiltrated the opposition protest. He further accused the opposition of wanting to recreate a similar situation that occurred in 2002, when huge street protests led to a coup that briefly ousted Chavez. He later returned to power with the help of loyal soldiers and hundreds of thousands of “Chavistas” who took to the streets to protest the coup.

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Venezuela Tightens State Control Over Its Economy

Venezuela’s president granted wide powers

From Al Jazeera:

Venezuela’s National Assembly has granted President Nicolas Maduro wide-ranging special powers to rule by decree for one year so that he can fix the economy.

Tuesday’s vote over the Enabling Law is the latest move by the elected Venezuelan leader, a protégé of the late President Hugo Chavez, to strengthen his hand as he faces an important political test in municipal elections next month.

The decree will essentially allow Maduro to create laws without parliamentary approval.

He says he needs greater personal power to stamp out opponents who are waging “economic warfare against his government” as the country struggles with soaring inflation and shortages of basic goods.

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Venezuela’s foreign minister says relations with Washington not likely to improve soon

Venezuela's foreign minister says relations with Washington not likely to improve soonFrom AP:

Venezuela’s foreign minister says efforts to re-establish diplomatic relations between his country and the United States remain frozen.

Elias Jaua says relations won’t improve as long as the United States keeps up what Venezuela’s government considers “interventionist activities,” including spying on foreign leaders.

Jaua said at a news conference in Mexico City that he isn’t surprised the United States spied on the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He says the acknowledgment to The New York Times by the U.S. government make it difficult for Venezuela to have a good relationship with Washington.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Jaua had agreed to meet last June to work on restoring relations, but new tensions arose and they didn’t follow up.

Venezuelan president: Latin America needs to be ‘liberated’ from Twitter

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (AFP Photo / Leo Ramirez)From RT:

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has called for the liberation of Latin America from Twitter, arguing that the American company attacked 6,600 accounts, including his own.

[…] According to a Thursday statement from the president, Maduro’s Twitter account was attacked to spark unrest and suspend the upcoming December 8 elections.

Communications Minister Delsy Rodriguez stated that nearly 6,600 of the leader’s Twitter followers disappeared from the president’s account within 10 minutes. No details were provided regarding the time of the attack. As of Friday, Maduro had 1.4 million followers.

The opposition has been criticizing the president for obsessing over social media and not paying enough attention to the country’s economic problems.

Since his election as Venezuelan president in April, Maduro has spoken about a number of alleged plots against his government – including five attempts on his life.

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Venezuela shoots down two ‘hostile’ planes

Disabled plane in VenezuelaFrom BBC News:

Venezuela says two light aircraft have been shot down after entering the country’s airspace over the weekend.

These were the first mid-air attacks by fighter jets since a bill authorising such action against illegal planes was approved earlier this month, the Bolivarian Armed Forces said.

The aircraft were allegedly smuggling drugs from Central America and refused to follow the military pilots’ orders.

Another 11 unauthorised planes have been disabled on the ground this year.

Venezuelan security forces say more than 35 tonnes of drugs have been found this year.

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Latin America vs American Exceptionalism

OTHER RECENT NEWS:

Bolivian president to sue US govt for crimes against humanity

Bolivia's President Evo Morales.(AFP Photo / Filippo Monteforte)From RT:

Bolivian President Evo Morales will file a lawsuit against the US government for crimes against humanity. He has decried the US for its intimidation tactics and fear-mongering after the Venezuelan presidential jet was blocked from entering US airspace.

“I would like to announce that we are preparing a lawsuit against Barack Obama to condemn him for crimes against humanity,” said President Morales at a press conference in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz. He branded the US president as a “criminal” who violates international law.

In solidarity with Venezuela, Bolivia will begin preparing a lawsuit against the US head of state to be taken to the international court. Furthermore, Morales has called an emergency meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to discuss what has been condemned by Venezuela as “an act of intimidation by North American imperialism.”

The Bolivian president has suggested that the members of CELAC withdraw their ambassadors from the US to send a message to the Obama Administration. As an additional measure he will call on the member nations of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas to boycott the next meeting of the UN. Members of the Alliance include Antigua and Barbuda, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Saint Lucia.

“The US cannot be allowed to continue with its policy of intimidation and blockading presidential flights,”
stressed Morales.

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Snowden has ‘no regrets,’ seeks asylum in Russia ~ USA Today

Edward Snowden along with Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks (left) at a press conference in Sheremetyevoby Doug Stanglin
USA Today

Edward Snowden said Friday that he has no regrets over leaking details about U.S. electronic spying networks and is seeking temporary asylum in Russia until he can reach one of the Latin American countries that has offered to take him in.

“That moral decision to tell the public about spying that affects all of us has been costly, but it was the right thing to do and I have no regrets,” he told a group of human rights activists and other public officials at a meeting at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, where he has taken refuge since June 23.

FULL ARTICLE @ USA TODAY

US allies Mexico, Chile and Brazil seek spying answers ~ BBC

A woman burns US flags during a protest in support of Bolivian President Evo Morales in front of the US embassy in Mexico City, on 4 JulyBBC News

US allies Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Chile have joined other Latin American nations in demanding answers from Washington over spying allegations.

Brazilian media reported earlier this week that the US had seized web traffic and phone calls across the region.

Spying targets included oil and energy firms, Venezuela’s military purchases and information on Mexico’s drug wars.

FULL ARTICLE @ BBC NEWS

Snowden’s five dubious options for getting to Venezuela ~ Washington Post

by Max Fisher
The Washington Post

 

Should NSA leaker Edward Snowden decide to accept Venezuela’s offer of asylum, the tricky thing will be figuring how to get there from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. His big problem is that after the strange saga of Bolivian President Evo Morales’s flight over Europe, which included an unexpected stopover in Austria where the presidential plane may have been searched, Snowden might want to avoid flying over any countries friendly to the United States.

He appears to have, generally speaking, five options, each of which carries significant risk. Snowden may also end up seeking asylum in Nicaragua or Bolivia, which would entail similar routes. Here is a brief description of each, with pros and cons. They’re ranked from least risky to riskiest. Looking these over, it’s easy to wonder whether Snowden will ever get out of Moscow.

FULL ARTICLE @ THE WASHINGTON POST

Brazilian Paper: NSA ‘spied’ on most Latin American nations ~ Reuters

SEE ALSO: Alleged NSA surveillance in Brazil stirs regional tension – again (CS Monitor)

Reuters

The U.S. National Security Agency has targeted most Latin American countries in its spying programs, with Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil and Mexico ranking among those of highest priority for the U.S. intelligence agency, a leading Brazilian newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Citing documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the fugitive former American intelligence contractor, O Globo newspaper said the NSA programs went beyond military affairs to what it termed “commercial secrets.”

These included petroleum in Venezuela and energy in Mexico, according to a graphic O Globo identified as being from the NSA and dated February of this year.

Also swept up in what O Globo termed as U.S. spying were Argentina, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Paraguay, Chile, Peru and El Salvador.

FULL ARTICLE @ REUTERS