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November 30, 2017

VENEZUELA GOVERNMENT SACKS UN REPRESENTATIVE, SOURCES SAY 

          CARACAS, VENEZUELA    --  Sources in Venezuela have indicated that Rafael Ramirez, the country’srepresentative to the United Nations in New York, has been removed from his job. Four sources with knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday that Ramirez, once known as Venezuela’s oil czar and a former powerful politician, was dismissed by the government of President Nicolas Maduro. “He was fired last night,” said a source who asked to remain anonymous. A Separate source in Venezuela’s office at UN headquarters said Ramirez had yet to be notified of his removal and was normally working at the UN on Wednesday.

     Two other sources said Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza travelled to New York this week, with one of them saying Ramirez had tried to fight back his way to office but was simply unable. A key ally of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, Ramirez served as the oil czar of the country for a decade starting in 2004. He was the oil minister and president of state oil company PDVSA. However, the leftist politician had begun to fall from grace under Maduro’s leadership when he was dismissed from his portfolio in the Cabinet and sent to New York to head the UN mission.

     Ramirez and Maduro has seen their differences grow, especially in recent times, and after the former oil czar published a series of online opinion pieces in which he criticized the Venezuelan oil company for allowing a reduction in the production of crude. Ramirez had also censured Maduro’s government for not doing enough to compensate for the economic woes that has gripped the country over the past years. Ramirez’ dismissal also comes against the backdrop of rumors that he was planning to run for presidency in next year’s election, something that could further boost rivalries among members of the ruling Socialist Party.

NICOLAS MADURO SAID HE IS WILLING TO STOP SELLING OIL TO THE UNITED STATES

       CAARACAS, VENEZUELA -- -- Venezuelan DICTATOR Nicolas Maduro, shown in this November 24, 2017 file photo, maintains that the United States is carrying out "financial persecution" against Caracas Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro floated the idea Tuesday of cutting off oil sales to the United States, which buys almost half its output. Never one to shy away from provocative rhetoric, socialist Maduro said that US sanctions against Caracas were over the top, and maybe not worth the trouble. Venezuela produces 1.9 million barrels per day of which the United States buys 750,000. "The day that they don't want us to sell them our oil, we are just picking up our stuff (and) we'll sell all our oil in Asia. No big deal," Maduro said while formally installing General Manuel Quevedo to lead state oil giant PDVSA.

     Maduro maintains the United States is carrying out "financial persecution" against Caracas, which gets most of its budget revenue from oil sales on a soft international market.PDVSA and Venezuela have been declared in selective default for failing to meet payments on certain bonds in time. Maduro is keen to renegotiate some of Venezuela's $150 billion in external debt, 30 percent of it at PDVSA. But the sanctions from Washington, which has labeled the Maduro regime a dictatorship, prohibit US individuals and banks from buying new Venezuelan bonds, usually a requirement for any debt resolution.

     "Mr President Donald Trump: you decide, dude," Maduro declared. "If you want us to keep selling oil, we'll sell oil. But if you start listening to far-right extremists, Venezuela is grabbing its little boats and taking its oil around the world, and we'll sell it just the very same," Maduro said, drawing whoops and cheers from oil workers. With barely $10 billion in its hard currency reserves, Maduro's government has been fighting to stay afloat. The prolonged economic crisis has brought crippling shortages of food, medicine and industrial inputs, fueling inflation which at 1,000 percent is the world's highest -- and the International Monetary Fund projects could exceed 2,300 percent next year.

SEOUL BELIEVES THAT NORTH KOREA COULD COMPLETE ITS NUCLEAR PROGRAM IN 2018

       SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA    -- South Korea’s unification minister said on Tuesday at the country’s capital that North Korea may announce the completion of its nuclear program within a year, given the progress that it was making in this field. Cho Myoung-gyon, speaking at a press conference at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents’ Club, said that experts estimated that Pyongyang may take some two or three years to complete its nuclear program, but given that they have surprised on previous occasions with the speed of their breakthroughs, it would not be strange if they were to announce its completion in 2018.

    He added that next year would be a landmark one for North Korea as it celebrates the 70th anniversary of its foundation. In relation to the nuclear program, Cho highlighted the fact that the Kim Jong-un-led regime has not carried out any tests in over two months, which may mean a good opportunity to initiate dialogue in the peninsula. However, he added, Pyongyang has not made any gesture that may help advance the resolution of the nuclear crisis – which for Seoul and its allies means the denuclearization of North Korea – or the improvement of relations between the North and the South.

    As to North Korea’s recent lack of weapons testing, the minister considered several possibilities, including the option that seasonal factors were at play, since historically Pyongyang has carried out very few weapons tests towards the end of the year, a season during which the country is focused on its winter drills.
Another factor, Cho suggested, was Pyongyang’s need to hone existing technology like missile reentry, which allows a long-range missile to reenter the atmosphere without disintegrating. Cho also considered the possibility of leader Kim Jong-un using a greater proportion of available resources to help the country grow economically, rather than funnel them to the military sector.

November 29, 2017

NORTH KOREA SPEEDING UP NUKE PROGRAM WITH AIM TO OBLITERATE 'HEINOUS GANGSTERS' IN US 

          WASHINGTON, D.C.    --  Kim Jong Un's regime is reportedly on the verge of announcing it's achieved full nuclear capability, as North Korea expedites its intercontinental ballistic missile program with the aim of being able to obliterate the "heinous gangsters" in the United States with a nuclear warhead. South Korean unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon told foreign correspondents in Seoul that 2018 will be a “key year” for the rogue regime, which will celebrate its 70th anniversary since being established, Yonhap News Agency reported. “North Korea has been developing its nuclear weapons at a faster-than-expected pace.

    We cannot rule out the possibility that North Korea could announce its completion of a clear force within one year," Cho said, according to the South Korean news site. Cho said though North Korea hasn’t tested a nuclear weapon or missile since September, people shouldn’t overlook the brief hiatus. The regime seems to be testing missile engines and fuels, Yonhap reported. Cho warned: "It is a fact that we have witnessed some noteworthy movements in North Korea. But it remains to be seen whether Pyongyang would make further provocations.”

     Japan’s Kyodo News claimed Monday there were radio signals that indicated a possible missile launch from North Korea was imminent. However, a missile or movable launch pad weren’t seen in satellite images, meaning the “signals” could be related to winter military training. Cho also touched on Kim’s need to boost North Korea’s economy to prosper as a state and compete with other world powers. Experts have previously told Fox News the North Korean despot looks at economic prosperity as a key “puzzle” to his regime’s success. North Korea's last missile test was in September. The missile flew over Japan before splashing into the ocean.

NORTH KOREA FIRES ANOTHER BALISTIC MISSILE

       PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA -- -- North Korea fired what the U.S. Pentagon said appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that landed close to Japan on Wednesday, Pyongyang's first test launch since sending a missile over its neighbor in mid-September. North Korea fired the missile a week after U.S. President Donald Trump put North Korea back on a U.S list of countries that Washington says support terrorism. The designation allows the United States to impose more sanctions, although some experts said it risked inflaming tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Trump said of North Korea's latest test missile: "It is a situation that we will handle."

     Trump said the launch did not change his administration's approach to North Korea, which has included new curbs to hurt trade between China and North Korea, which it sees as important to deterring Pyongyang from its ambition to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the United States. The Pentagon spokesman Col. Robert Manning said the Pentagon's initial assessment was that an ICBM was launched from Sain Ni in North Korea and traveled about 1,000 km before splashing down in the Sea of Japan. The missile did not pose a threat to the United States its territories or allies, the Pentagon said. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the ICBM went higher than any shot Pyongyang has taken.

    Japan's government estimated that the missile flew for about 50 minutes and landed in the sea in Japan's exclusive economic zone, Japanese broadcaster NHK said. A North Korean missile on Aug. 29 was airborne for 14 minutes over Japan. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tokyo was requesting an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council. "We can never accept this violence and have strongly protested to North Korea," Abe told reporters. He called on all countries to strictly implement sanctions against Pyongyang. South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday's missile was fired from Pyongsong, a city in South Pyongan Province, at around 1817 GMT over the sea between South Korea and Japan. The South Korean military said the missile had an altitude of around 4,500 km and flew 960 km.

LUIS ALMAGRO SAYS THAT THERE ARE SECTORS IN THE MUD THAT DO NO REPRESENT THE OPPOSITION

       MADRID, ESPAÑA    -- The OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, took a step further in his criticism of the Venezuelan parties participating in the dialogue with the Government, by ensuring that some sectors of the Democratic Unity Table (MUD) do not represent the opposition, without specifying who they were "We know that some sectors of the MUD can represent the Venezuelan opposition, we know that there are other sectors of the MUD that do not represent the Venezuelan opposition, that are not directly Venezuelan opposition and that, therefore, this scheme is definitely not enough inclusive, "said Almagro in reference to the new attempt at dialogue that begins in December.

     "The opposition will have to separate the chaff from the grain and add those political, social, economic elements that definitely imply a challenge to power and that lead to democratization (of Venezuela)," he insisted in statements to the press after meeting with the Venezuelan opponent Antonio Ledezma. Ledezma, the former political prisoner who escaped from Venezuela on November 17, Ledezma, arrived the night before in Washington, and met this morning with the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, to discuss the Venezuelan crisis.

      After the meeting, Ledezma met the press and said: "I was received this morning at the OAS by the Secretary General of this organization, Luis Almagro. I did not come to talk about my escape. I came to talk about the liberation of Venezuela, which is not precisely that parapet of dialogue that we want to do in the Dominican Republic, "Antonio Ledezma wrote through his account on the social network Twitter. During the two-hour meeting, Almagro and Ledezma discussed the current situation in Venezuela, and at the end, Ledezma offered statements on the agreements reached. The former political prisoner requested international help and assured that the country is kidnapped by a "narco-tyranny."

November 28, 2017

DICTATOR MADURO TAPS MAJOR GENERAL TO LEAD VENEZUELA'S DETERIORATING OIL INDUSTRY

          CARACAS, VENEZUELA    --  Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday tapped a National Guard major general to lead state oil company PDVSA and the Oil Ministry as the OPEC member labours under near 30-year lows in oil production. Industry analysts and sources said the surprise appointment of Manuel Quevedo, a former housing minister with no known energy experience, was a bad omen for the country’s already deteriorated oil industry. Quevedo takes over from two industry veterans to become one of the most powerful players in the country, which is home to the world’s largest crude reserves.

     He will have to tackle corruption scandals and an attempted debt restructuring, within the context of a deep recession and debilitating U.S. sanctions. “The time for a new oil revolution has come,” leftist Maduro said in his televised Sunday address, urging Quevedo to purge PDVSA of corruption. Last week, six executives from U.S.-based Citgo Petroleum Corp, or Citgo, a Venezuelan-owned refiner and marketer of oil and petrochemical products, were arrested in Caracas on graft allegations. About 50 officials at state oil company PDVSA have been arrested since August in what the state prosecutor says is a “crusade” against corruption.

     Sources within PDVSA and the oil industry said Maduro’s administration was using corruption allegations to sideline rivals and deepen its control of the industry, which accounts for over 90 percent of export revenue. Quevedo, whom two sources close to the military identified as a Maduro ally, will take over his new roles on Monday before he is officially sworn in on Tuesday. He vowed on Sunday to bring PDVSA closer to the ideals of late leftist leader Hugo Chavez. ”We’re going to turn PDVSA into the sacred temple of the people!“ tweeted Quevedo, who Maduro said would still dedicate 20 percent of his time to the “Grand Housing Mission,” a Chavez-era project.

ECUADOR'S EX-PRESIDENT RAFAEL CORREA RETURNED FROM BELGIUM VOWING TO SAVE HIS PARTY FROM "TRAITORS"

       QUITO, ECUADOR -- Ecuador's ex-president Rafael Correa is in a battle with his successor and former ally Lenin Moreno for control of their Country Alliance party. "We will not allow traitors to take Country Alliance," Correa told reporters after arriving in the southwestern city of Guayaquil, where he was greeted by crowds of cheering supporters, but also detractors. Correa will attend the party convention on December 3 in the northwestern city of Esmeraldas. The ex-president wants "professional imposter" Moreno ousted from the party, accusing him of governing with the opposition and breaking with the party's leftist program.

     "We believe that we are going to win that convention and we are going to maintain Country Alliance," said Correa, who served as president for a decade until stepping aside in May. He retired in Belgium, his wife's country, but could not leave Ecuadorian politics behind. In a September interview with AFP, he spoke of his displeasure with the country's path under Moreno, and talked of a possible return in defense of "the revolution." Ecuador had been dubbed ungovernable when Correa came to office in 2007 after seven different presidents over the preceding decade. He launched vigorous reforms, boosted social spending, curbed oil firms' profits and suspended some debt payments that he considered illegitimate.

     Correa's welfare spending, social equality policies and subsidies, which he says reduced poverty to below 23 percent, won the hearts of many. Unlike his allies in Argentina, Brazil and Peru, his side managed to stay in office and win re-election.Moreno was a quieter successor to Correa, and economists warned that he faced tougher conditions. Like other Latin American countries, Ecuador has suffered from falling prices for its oil and minerals. This led to strains in the Country Alliance over how to deal with the downturn while maintaining subsidies for the poor. Fractures in the ruling party were already evident in August when Moreno stripped Vice President Jorge Glas -- a Correa ally -- of his functions after Glas issued a long list of criticisms of the president. The opposition has leveled corruption allegations against Glas, and for them, it is Correa who is the "traitor," not Moreno.

SPAIN'S KING PHILLIP VI CANCELS VISIT TO KING RAUL IN CASTROGONIA

       MADRID, ESPAÑA    -- The king’s agenda is prepared long time in advance and it does not include any travel by Felipe VI or queen Letizia to Cuba. The trip was unofficially announced sometime ago and in April, Cuba’s foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez brought to Madrid two letters from Raul Castro inviting the king and Spain’s president Mariano Rajoy to visit the island.

      At the time it was said that the trip would take place “as soon as possible” and “at the highest level and responding to King Raul’s invitation before his retirement from the government, expected for February 28, 2018. Alfonso Dastis, Spain’s foreign minister visited Havana in early September and after meeting with his Cuban counterpart, it was reported the visit was planned for the first days of January.

     Havana made it known that it wish the king to travel to the island first, but the idea was not developed with enough time and in the proper manner with Spain, and the trip will not take place, at least on a short or medium term. The new Cuban “president” that replaces Raul Castro will have to send another invitation and the trip’s organization will take its normal course, after the necessary coordination with the government’s foreign policy priorities.
 

November 27, 2017

FORMER VENEZUELAN ATTORNEY GENERAL LUISA ORTEGA DIAZ ASSUMES THE ERRORS OF NOT STOPPING AUTHORITARIANISM IN VENEZUELA ON TIME

          BOGOTA, COLOMBIA    --  The deposed attorney general of Venezuela Luisa Ortega today assumed the "errors" that she did not stop in time "the authoritarian wave" that, she says, was imposed on the Public Ministry and the constitutional order of her country. "They are difficult times for everyone, but I know that the years in which we built a strong and modern institution, generated in you a sense of belonging and identity that will make us to overcome the pitfalls that the dictatorship has put to the good work of the Public Ministry", Ortega said in a document xhe posted on Twitter.

     In the message, which she announced on the occasion of what she called "atypical 48th anniversary of the Day of the Public Prosecutor," Ortega addressed the workers "to fill them with hope and faith that this period of difficulties and darkness will soon be over" in your country and in that institution. "With absolute responsibility and commitment for the future, I assume before you the errors that did not allow us on time to stop the authoritarian wave that was imposed on our institution and the constitutional order of the country," the former prosecutor added.

     Ortega, who is under the protection of the Government of Colombia, where she arrived last August 18, criticized that, "from the deepest ignorance of criminal law, want from the Public Ministry" to see an illusory effectiveness "attributed" to a war between criminal gangs that pass bills and use prosecutors to execute their revenge. " "We must have strength, because I'm sure they do not have much time left," added Ortega, who said that she communicates "daily" with officials who tell her of the "increase destruction to which they are subjecting the Public Ministry." She predicted that "there is very little time left to end the internal persecution of knowledge, honesty and probity" and stressed that "the only thing" that can not be assaulted militarily and rob from them "is the hope of recovering what they all" built.

DICTATOR NICOLAS MADURO APPOINTS FOUR NEW MINISTERS "TO GIVE THE BATTLE"

       CARACAS, VENEZUELA--  The Venezuelan dictator, Nicolás Maduro, appointed four new minister on Sunday, the information was released through his program Sundays With Maduro, broadcast by Venezolana de Televisión. The president appointed Major General Manuel Quevedo as the new oil minister and president of the state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa) to transform and achieve a "cleanup" in the company.

      He also appointed the former governor of the state Táchira José Gregorio Vielma Mora, as new foreign trade minister, "this 2017 we live the year of the start of the new economic model, despite sabotage and guarimba but, as always, persistence and perseverance is our main characteristic. " Vielma Mora as "is an expert in foreign trade, who knows the border issue well, is a serious man, honest, hardworking, patriotic, an expert in tax matters, in customs and ports, which is ready to give the battle."

      In the Ministry of Habit and Housing, he appointed Ildemaro Villarroel, and head of the GMBNBT, was vice minister of the M / G Quevedo and has the experience for a large goal: 600 thousand houses by 2018. And in the Ministry of Transportation was appointed the M / G Carlos Osorio Zambrano, "has a great responsibility, come great investments, Osorio, expand the Mission Transport and give happiness to the people," said Maduro. Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab announced last week that senior executives of the board of directors of PDVSA's Citgo Petroleum subsidiary were apprehended due to their relationship with a debt refinancing contract with two venture capital fund companies.

FUGITIVE  MAYOR OF CARACAS ANTONIO LEDEZMA'S OPINION ON THE UPCOMING DIALOGUE IN DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

       CARACAS, VENEZUELA    -- The fugitive metropolitan mayor and former political prisoner, Antonio Ledezma, offered on Sunday a first report on his first days in exile where he predicted that the dialogue scheduled for the first of December in the Dominican Republic will be a fictitious dialogue which will not produce any positive results for Venezuela. He emphasized that it is time to establish the terms for Maduro's departure.

that will bring more misfortune for Venezuelans, that is what it will be done in Santo Domingo, it will not produce the results that Venezuela needs. What they have to do is to establish, at this time, the terms to negotiate the departure of Maduro, "Ledezma said. He also said that wherever his messages arrive, it will always be "to take the country out of the voracious jaws of chavism-madurism of the 21st century, which has us going through hunger, misery and death," he said.

      He also announced that in the coming days he will travel to the United States (USA), Central America and several countries in Europe, to advocate for the path that leads to the freedom of Venezuela, while questioning the country's moral crisis, and indicated that the true Dialogue should be driven by religious movements. Ledezma said that the position of “I am Venezuela,” as a new scenario of citizen participation, is to advocate a true dialogue with results for the country.

November 26, 2017

U.S. ASKS AGAIN VENEZUELA FOR ACCESS TO DETAINED CITGO EXECUTIVES

          WASHINGTON, D.C.    --  Washington has asked the government of leftist Nicolas Maduro for access to Venezuelan-American executives of U.S.-based refiner Citgo detained in Caracas this week, a State Department official said on Thursday. Five of six Citgo [PDVSAC.UL] executives arrested on graft allegations are U.S. citizens, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday. All six men are being held in the headquarters of Venezuela's military counterintelligence department in Caracas, the country's state prosecutor said in a statement on Thursday. Socialist Maduro has said that the United States, his ideological foe, had requested the men be freed, but he vowed on Wednesday they would be tried as "corrupt, thieving traitors" for allegedly seeking to personally profit from a financial deal that was detrimental to the nation.

     "The U.S. Embassy in Venezuela has asked that (Venezuelan) authorities grant consular access to all U.S. citizen detainees in Venezuela. We call on the (Venezuelan government) to do so immediately in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations," the State Department official said. Relations between Caracas and Washington have long been tense. They have further soured under President Donald Trump since his administration imposed sanctions on Venezuelan officials including Maduro, and economic sanctions that have impeded the OPEC nation's access to international banks. U.S.-based Citgo Petroleum Corp (Citgo) is a Venezuelan-owned refiner and marketer of oil and petrochemical products and the arrests come amid a wider anti-corruption sweep in Venezuela's oil industry. Around 50 managers at state oil company PDVSA have been arrested since August.

    Sources in the energy sector say the arrests owe more to Maduro's move to sideline rivals and increase his control of money-making companies as the country struggles in a devastating recession. The political opposition says PDVSA is rife with corruption, and a congressional investigation concluded that at least $11 billion went "missing" between 2004 and 2014. "The legacy of socialism: To have destroyed PDVSA and the oil industry and turned it into a den of corruption and nepotism," opposition lawmaker Jose Guerra said on Twitter. They need to blame someone and some 'gringos' are ideal," Guerra later told Reuters.

VENEZUELAN ATTORNEY GENERAL TAREK WILLIAM SAAB ORDERED THE ARREST OF THE 6 CITGO EXECUTIVES

       CARACAS, VENEZUELA--  The administration of DICTATOR Nicolás Maduro called it a necessary move to ferret out “putrid” corruption and end impunity. Outside the government, however, many observers saw it as yet another strong-arm move by Mr. Maduro to consolidate power. Whatever the motivation, the arrests this week of six senior executives at Citgo, the United States refining subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, have purged the American company’s leadership and stunned the energy sector.

     The move, announced on Tuesday by Venezuela’s attorney general, was the latest in an inquiry that has led to the arrests in recent months of about 50 people associated with the vital national oil industry. The purge has come as the state-owned company, Petróleos de Venezuela, or Pdvsa, teeters on the brink of default on billions of dollars in bond debt amid the nation’s worsening economic crisis. Attorney General Tarek William Saab said the six Citgo executives, including the acting president, faced charges of embezzlement and other crimes in connection with a refinancing deal worth as much as $4 billion that had not been authorized by the appropriate authorities in the Maduro administration. He said the officials had offered the subsidiary as a guarantee, putting it “at risk.”

     Many of those Pdvsa managers arrested in recent months were seen as close to Rafael Ramírez, a former energy minister and head of Pdvsa. While Mr. Ramírez has served as Mr. Maduro’s ambassador to the United Nations since 2014, analysts say that tensions between them are deep and longstanding: They were rivals to succeed President Hugo Chávez. Ramírez has displayed some defensiveness in recent days on his Twitter account, writing on Monday, “Those who attack me should think a little, just a little, because Chavez had me at his side for 12 years.”

DICTATOR NICOLAS MADURO BLASTS "KIDNAPPING" OF VENEZUELAN FUNDS

       CARACAS, VENEZUELA    --  Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro demanded an “end to the kidnapping of Venezuelan money abroad” Thursday, accusing Belgian financial services company Euroclear of withholding USD$450 million from his government. “We have the homeland’s money circulating, some 450 million dollars in cash buying medicines and food and Euroclear have frozen [the funds] on us for the past six weeks to punish Venezuela so that we give in,” he said on state television.

     According to Euroclear’s website, it provides “settlement and related securities services for cross-border transactions involving domestic and international bonds, equities, derivatives and investment funds”. The financial company has not responded to Maduro’s comments. The Venezuelan president also went on to inform the public that Venezuela had USD $1.2 billion from Venezuelan bonds earmarked for food and medicine. However, the president said the money was being “withheld by financial payment systems”.

     “Come financial kidnapping and persecution, come economic war, nothing or nobody will stop me in the struggle for Venezuela’s future, prosperity, and happiness,” he said. The US government of Donald Trump imposed economic sanctions on Caracas in August, prohibiting US financial agencies from renegotiating Venezuelan debt. The move has been described by some economists as an attempt to starve-out Venezuela’s struggling economy.

November 25, 2017

AT LEAST 270 KILLED IN EGYPTT MOSQUE ATTACK

          CEL-ARISH, EGYPT    --  Militants attacked a crowded mosque during Friday prayers in the Sinai Peninsula, settling off explosives, spraying worshippers with gunfire and killing at least 270 people in the deadliest ever attack on Egyptian civilians by Islamic extremists. The attack targeted a mosque frequented by Sufis, members of Islam’s mystical movement, in the north Sinai town of Bir al-Abd. Islamic militants, including the local affiliate of the Islamic State group, consider Sufis heretics because of their less literal interpretations of the faith.

     The IS affiliate has been waging a stepped-up campaign of violence in northern Sinai for years and has claimed deadly bombings on churches in the capital, Cairo, and other cities, killing dozens of Christians. It also is believed to have been behind the 2016 downing of a Russian passenger jet that killed 226. But this was the first major militant attack on a Muslim mosque and the startling bloodshed eclipsed any past attacks of its kind, even dating back to a previousIslamic militant insurgency in the 1990s. The militants opened fire from four off-road vehicles on worshippers inside the mosque during the sermon, blocking off escape routes from the area by blowing up cars and leaving the burning wrecks blocking the roads, three police officers on the scene said.

     Victims including some 130 wounded were rushed to local hospitals, they added, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to brief reporters. No one claimed responsibility immediately following the attack, but IS has targeted Sufis several times in the area in the past, notably beheading a leading Sufi religious figure, the blind sheikh Suleiman Abu Heraz, last year and posting photos of the killing online. Images circulating on social media showed dozens of bloodied bodies wrapped up in sheets laid across the mosque floor, while others revealed dozens of relatives queuing up outside the hospital as ambulances raced back and forth.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION DEMANDS ACCESS TO DETAINED CITGO EXECUTIVES

       WASHINGTON, D.C. --  Washington has asked the government of dictator Nicolas Maduro for access to Venezuelan-American executives of U.S.-based refiner Citgo detained in Caracas this week, a State Department official said on Thursday. Five of six Citgo [PDVSAC.UL] executives arrested on graft allegations are U.S. citizens, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday. All six men are being held in the headquarters of Venezuela's military counterintelligence department in Caracas, the country's state prosecutor said in a statement on Thursday.

     Socialist Maduro has said that the United States, his ideological foe, had requested the men be freed, but he vowed on Wednesday they would be tried as "corrupt, thieving traitors" for allegedly seeking to personally profit from a financial deal that was detrimental to the nation. "The U.S. Embassy in Venezuela has asked that (Venezuelan) authorities grant consular access to all U.S. citizen detainees in Venezuela. We call on the (Venezuelan government) to do so immediately in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations," the State Department official said. Relations between Caracas and Washington have long been tense.

     They have further soured under President Donald Trump since his administration imposed sanctions on Venezuelan officials including Maduro, and economic sanctions that have impeded the OPEC nation's access to international banks. U.S.-based Citgo Petroleum Corp (Citgo) is a Venezuelan-owned refiner and marketer of oil and petrochemical products and the arrests come amid a wider anti-corruption sweep in Venezuela's oil industry. Around 50 managers at state oil company PDVSA have been arrested since August. Sources in the energy sector say the arrests owe more to Maduro's move to sideline rivals and increase his control of money-making companies as the country struggles in a devastating recession. The political opposition says PDVSA is rife with corruption, and a congressional investigation concluded that at least $11 billion went "missing" between 2004 and 2014.

OPPOSITION WILL DEMAND DESIGNATION OF A NEW CNE AT THE NEXT DIALOGUE MEETING IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

       CARACAS, VENEZUELA    --  The Venezuelan opposition alliance Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) said today that it will demand a change in the composition of the National Electoral Council (CNE) from the Government of Nicolás Maduro in the new round of negotiations to be held in the Dominican Republic on 1 and 2 from December. "The first requirement is the designation of a new CNE. It is not possible to hold elections with this fraudulent CNE, which is also overdue, "said MUD leader Carlos Ocariz, referring to the already exhausted mandate of some of the five rectors of this organization accused by the opposition of serving the government.

    Another of the demands of anti-Chavez in this process will be the "updating of the electoral registry", so that all Venezuelans who have left the country in recent years in the midst of the serious crisis facing the nation will be allowed to vote. According to Ocariz, the delegates of the MUD will ask to guarantee the neutrality of the members of the electoral tables and of the other organisms in charge of the votes, and they will demand an international observation to which the Chavez government continues denying during the last years. The control of the use of State resources and public resources to favor the ruling party will also be one of the main issues on the table at the meetings in Santo Domingo, where the MUD will also request greater guarantees in the audits of the voting machines and other electoral material.

     The opposition will also demand the prohibition during the elections of the so-called "red spots", street booths that gather supporters and militants of Chavez and that, according to Ocariz, are an unacceptable form of "abuse and persecution" for voters. The Venezuelan opposition denounced serious irregularities and fraud in one of the 23 states of the country in the regional elections of October 15, in which the ruling party won 18 governorates according to official results that the MUD does not recognize. The opposition coalition has made it a priority in its political agenda to obtain fair conditions to be able to compete with guarantees for the upcoming presidential elections, which must be held before Nicolás Maduro ends his mandate at the end of 2018.

November 24, 2017

PDVSA IN CREDIT TALKS WITH ROSNEFT, ENI, REPSOL, STATOIL TO REFINANCE ITS DEBT

          CARACAS, VENEZUELA   --  Venezuela and state-run oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., or PDVSA [PDVSA.UL], are seeking fresh funding as the country works to refinance $60 billion of debt in the face of U.S. sanctions against what the White House calls Nicolas Maduro’s “dictatorship.” “We are speaking to our allies, with our strategic partners, which are Rosneft, Eni, Repsol, Statoil, and they are willing to continue working with us, to continue financing our projects to boost crude and gas output in the short-term,” Cesar Triana, PDVSA’s vice president for gas, said.

     Venezuela’s overall crude output declined in October to less than 2 million barrels per day (bpd), the lowest since 1989, according to government data reported to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Output has declined year-on-year since 2012. Venezuela aims to boost oil output by 500,000 bpd next year, Triana said. Venezuela has failed to meet its own ambitious production targets in recent years. In August, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order prohibiting banks from inking fresh debt deals with the Venezuelan government or its state oil company, accelerating the South American nation’s slide into what two credit rating agencies have declared as a partial default.

    Triana said that the sanctions are mainly affecting the daily movement of payments, since banks have been refusing to accept dollars from Venezuela and PDVSA. Venezuela is negotiating with customers to switch the payment currency for some oil supply contracts from the dollars to the Chinese yuan and the Russian rouble as a way to sidestep limited access to the U.S. financial system, he said. PDVSA is also seeking financing from China and Russia, he said. Venezuela and Russia this month signed a $3.15 billion refinancing deal, which will reduce due payments in the coming decade. But the deal excluded $6 billion of PDVSA’s outstanding debt to state-run oil firm Rosneft. Russia has become Venezuela’s lender of last resort in recent years, providing cash to shore up Maduro’s administration.

DICTATOR NICOLAS MADURO'S PDVSA CONTINUES SEEKING FUNDS FROM CHINA

       CARACAS VENEZUELA  --  While debt servicing has been a Venezuelan government priority, declining external liquidity and a deteriorating domestic situation (three-digit hyperinflation, shortages, and a political crisis between the government and the National Assembly) make it a daunting task. By 2020, the country must repay 30 percent of the external debt due to expire in the next 23 years. Therefore, the country can get access to liquidity via three main ways. The first option is to borrow directly on the financial market which implies that the country must pay an increasingly prohibitive risk premium due to investors’ fear of sovereign default.

     The second option, used intensively in recent years, is to borrow from allies, and especially China. Since 2009, Venezuela has borrowed at least $60 billion from China (through the Venezuelan-China fund) in exchange for selling oil at a discounted price. Loans were used to pay foreign manufacturers and repay external debt, such as in 2015. This exchange of good practices persisted as long as oil prices were quite high and Venezuela’s political situation was fairly stable. Since 2016, China has made a strategic move to reduce exposure to Venezuela which resulted in the repatriation of Chinese oil engineers (who filled local labour shortages), the end of financial aid, and reduced oil imports.

    In this context, it is quite unlikely that Venezuela will be able to count on China for repayment of its loans, which increases the probability of sovereign default in the medium term. The last option is through the national oil company, PDVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela SA). As the country’s main source of income and access to foreign currency, PDVSA is key for those seeking to gain a real appreciation of Venezuela’s disarray and economic future. However, access to liquidity and foreign currency is being called into question by PDVSA’s increasing financial difficulties. This dates back to 2003-2004 when then-president Hugo Chavez decided to transfer the majority of PDVSA's revenues to the government budget in order to finance the Bolivarian missions – a series of social programmes – rather than investing in capex to increase the company’s productivity.

ASDRUBAL CHAVEZ, HUGO CHAVEZ COUSING, TO LEAD CITGO, PDVSA ARM IN US

       CARACAS, VENEZUELA    --  Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday named Asdrubal Chavez — a cousin of late leader Hugo Chavez — to lead Citgo, the state oil company’s US affiliate. “He’s straight off to be Citgo president, to restructure it, to get it back, to strengthen Citgo,” Maduro said in a speech broadcast on VTV state television. Asdrubal Chavez held the critical oil ministry portfolio from 2014-2015.

    Venezuela on Tuesday arrested the acting president and five other top executives in charge of Citgo, the US refinery subsidiary of troubled state oil company PDVSA, on corruption charges. Their arrests come just a week after the detention of a deputy minister and nine PDVSA officials for allegedly doctoring crude oil production figures. Oil sales generate 96 percent of Venezuela’s hard currency earnings. In all, around 50 PDVSA employees have been arrested under an anti-corruption drive led by new attorney general Tarek William Saab since he took office in August.

     The sweep underlines the debt woes swirling around PDVSA, which is the prime source of income for Venezuela, a country that sits atop the world’s biggest oil reserves. Both PDVSA and Venezuela are staring down the barrel of default on a debt pile estimated at up to $150 billion, around a third of which is paper issued by the oil company. A partial default has already been declared by major credit ratings agencies, and an influential creditors’ committee has ruled that PDVSA failed to make payments on time. That is setting the scene for all holders of Venezuela government and PDVSA debt to possibly call in their IOUs at once — an impossible situation for Caracas, which has less than $10 billion in hard currency reserves left.

November 23, 2017

VENEZUELAN GOVERNMENT SEIZES WHOLESALE CHAIN MAKRO FOR ALLEGED IRREGULARITIES

          CARACAS, VENEZUELA    --  The government has seized the Makro wholesale chain, one of the world’s largest with 37 stores in Venezuela, for allegedly putting unacceptable conditions on the sale of basic goods, generally scarce in this oil-producing nation, state media reported on Tuesday. “At this time we have taken over the Makro distribution network... that company placed unacceptable conditions on sales (to retailers),” the national superintendent for the defense of socioeconomic rights, William Contreras, announced Tuesday on state channel VTV.

      He said the measure was taken in response to “a generalized complaint by society,” which, he said, has reported restrictions on access to food products in those establishments, which chiefly sell wholesale to small retailers. Contreras said the company required clients to make “minimum purchases” of as much as 5 million bolivars (some $1,500 at the highest official rate of exchange, but around $60 at the black market rate) in order to acquire packs of precooked corn flour, an essential part of the Venezuelan diet. He said that similar practices were found at a number of branch outlets for items like pastas and rice. According to estimates by the opposition, the Chavismo that has ruled Venezuela since 1999 has seized hundreds of companies of different kinds, but mainly in the food sector.

     The scarcity of food products and medicines has grown even worse over the past few months in the Caribbean country as its economy entered a hyperinflationary spiral, and while the Nicolas Maduro government attempts to restructure the foreign debt, various financial entities have already declared it in default of payments. Opposition Congressman Jose Guerra, meanwhile, said on Tuesday that Venezuela is in default for more than $1.2 billion in interest owed to owners of its foreign debt. “The government and (state petroleum company) PDVSA are in debt for more than $1.2 billion in interest on those bonds, for which the insurance on a default of those payments has been activated.” Guerra, said.

HONDURAS DEPORTS VENEZUELAN BAND "LOS GUARAGUAO"

       TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS  --  The Honduran government announced a new visa requirement for Venezuelans Sunday, just days after it controversially deported the members of a popular leftist Venezuelan band. Under the new restrictions, Venezuelan nationals will have to pay a fee of US$100 as part of the visa request as well as an additional US$30 upon approval. In an official statement, Honduras’ Secretary of State for Foreign Relations justified the move as a measure of “reciprocity”, citing Caracas’ standing visa requirement for Honduran citizens.

      The announcement came two days after Honduran authorities deported the Venezuelan musical group Los Guaraguao on the grounds of alleged immigration irregularities. The band arrived in the Central American country Thursday with the intention of playing at the Opposition Alliance's closing electoral campaign rally this Monday. However, upon their arrival at the Ramon Villeda Morales International Airport, the members of Los Guaraguao were detained for eighteen hours and subsequently taken on Friday to in Panama,where they were informed that they were being deported directly to Venezuela.

     The incident occurred just a day after former US Under Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Otto Reich accused Venezuela’s United Socialist Party of sending 145 delegates to Honduras “disguised as tourists, experts, or businesspeople” in an alleged attempt to influence the country’s upcoming presidential elections on November 26. Reich claimed Venezuelan nationals were seeking to “join the perverse campaign that favors the friends of Manuel Zelaya Rosales”, referring to the former Honduran president who was deposed in a US-sponsored 2009 coup d’état.

 

VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION DENOUNCES THAT CNE MANIPULATES APPLICATIONS TO MAYORS

       CARACAS, VENEZUELA    --  Venezuelan opposition denounced today that the National Electoral Council (CNE) has not published the list of candidates for mayors for the December 10 elections because, It says, the body is manipulating the nominations of different political organizations. The representative of the Electoral Commission of the opposition alliance Democratic Unity Table (MUD), Vicente Bello, said that this is "the only reason that exists" not to publish the list of candidates a day to start the election campaign.

     Many of the manipulations have absolutely nothing to do with opposition parties, "Bello said. According to the deputy, within these allegedly manipulated nominations there are even organizations allied to the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) that nominated candidates other than those of the ruling party. The opponent claims that this situation occurs in several states of the country, including Anzoátegui (northeast), Falcón (northwest) and Portuguesa (center), where the candidates postulated "will not appear on the voting instruments" even when they signed up within the timings of the schedule, "in a clear manipulation" of the electoral referee.

     In that sense, Bello emphasized that the facts he denounces are a "demonstration" that, although the automated voting system works properly, in the application of the laws and regulations "there are manipulations by the CNE's governing bodies to benefit the candidates of a political party, in this case the PSUV ". This Thursday begins the election campaign for mayors elections on December 10, in which three of the four major anti-Chavez parties will not participate because they believe that the CNE does not guarantee the transparency and correctness of the elections, among other things.

November 22, 2017

ZIMBABWE'S MUGABE RESIGNS, ENDING FOUR DECADES OF RULE

          HARARE, ZIMBABWE    --  Robert Mugabe resigned as Zimbabwe's president on Tuesday a week after the army and his former political allies moved against him, ending four decades of rule by a man who turned from independence hero to archetypal African strongman. The 93-year-old had clung on for a week after an army takeover and expulsion from his own ruling ZANU-PF party, but resigned shortly after parliament began an impeachment process seen as the only legal way to force him out.

     Wild celebrations broke out at a joint sitting of parliament when Speaker Jacob Mudenda announced Mugabe's resignation and suspended the impeachment procedure. People danced and car horns blared on the streets of Harare at news that the era of Mugabe - who has led Zimbabwe since independence in 1980 - was finally over. Some people held posters of Zimbabwean army chief General Constantino Chiwenga and former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose sacking this month triggered the military takeover that forced Mugabe to resign. Mugabe is the only leader Zimbabwe has known since a guerrilla struggle ended white-minority rule in the former Rhodesia.

    The army seized power after Mugabe sacked Mnangagwa, ZANU-PF's favorite to succeed him, to smooth a path to the presidency for his wife Grace, 52, known to her critics as "Gucci Grace" for her reputed fondness for luxury shopping. But Mugabe refused to resign, prompting the impeachment procedure which would have been the only legal was to force him out. Mnangagwa, whose whereabouts are unknown after fleeing the country in fear for his safety, is expected to take over as president. A former security chief known as The Crocodile, he was a key lieutenant to Mugabe for decades and stands accused of participating in repression against Zimbabweans who challenged the leader.

VENEZUELAN AUTHORITIES ARRESTS SIX TOP EXECUTIVES FROM  US-BASED OIL COMPANY CITGO

       CARACAS, VENEZUELA  -- Venezuelan authorities have arrested six executives from a US-based oil refiner, the country’s chief prosecutor has revealed. Reports said authorities arrested Jose Pereira, the acting president of Citgo, a US-based and Venezuelan-owned refinery, during an event at state oil company PDVSA’s headquarters in Caracas. Five other executives from the company were also detained. Reuters said prosecutor Tarek Saab said he was leading a crusade against “organized crime” within PDVSA.

     Since taking office in August, he has arrested around 50 oil managers in the widening corruption investigation, the news agency said. Pereira was promoted in April as interim president of Citgo, the US refining and marketing unit of the nation’s state oil company PDVSA. Citgo owns three refineries and a network of terminals and pipelines in the United States. He was previously Citgo’s vice president of finance. He replaced Nelson Martinez, who was named as Venezuela’s oil minister in January.

    The news agency said that in the case of the Citgo arrests, Mr Saab said his office had uncovered a $4bn planned deal with foreign firms that would have seen Citgo “unfairly” indebt itself and even be offered as guarantee for the loan. “This board of directors put Citgo in danger. That’s corruption, corruption of the most rotten nature,” Mr Saab said in a statement. President Nicolas Maduro’s government and PDVSA, which is formally known as Petroleos de Venezuela SA, have repeatedly vowed to take steps to combat corruption. Yet opposition leaders say PDVSA has been crippled by poor management, corruption and under-investment during 18 years of socialist rule. They attribute the arrests to in-fighting among rival government factions.

CARITAS VENEZUELA WARNS THAT 280,000 CHILDREN COULD  DIE OF MALNUTRITION

       CARACAS, VENEZUELA    --  Caritas Venezuela has warned that some 280,000 children could die of malnutrition due to food shortages amidst the country’s grave economic crisis. Susanna Rafalli, a Caritas representative in Venezuela, sounded the alarm during a press conference with foreign media. Rafalli pointed out that besides the lack of food, the Venezuelan people are forced to deal with a shortage of medicine, a situation that is “silently decimating the population.”

     According to a Caritas report, the quantity and quality of food had dropped across Venezuela, due to the chronic shortage of products available and high inflation rates. Caritas, a Catholic organization, cares for the poorest and most vulnerable population in four Venezuelan states: the Caracas, Vargas, Miranda and Zulia. Nearly 10 percent of children in these states are severely malnourished. The Caritas report stated that each week five or six children die of malnutrition. Caritas projects that 280,000 children could eventually die from hunger.

     “Malnutrition has risen to 15 percent of children in August, therefore we declared a humanitarian emergency. 33 percent of the child population is already showing stunted growth. This damage, whether physical or mental, will accompany them throughout their lives.” Rafalli noted. According to figures from Caritas, maternal mortality grew 10 percent between 2006 and 1016. However, they pointed out that in the last year it skyrocketed to 65 percent. In addition, 63 percent of public hospitals do not have potable water, and 64 percent do not have milk for children, 51 percent do not have sufficient facilities for operations, Caritas warned.

November 21, 2017

PRESIDENT TRUMP NAMES NORTH KOREA A STATE SPONSOR OF TERRORISM 

          WASHINGTON, D.C.    -- President Donald Trump, in the latest demonstration of increased tensions on the Korean Peninsula, placed North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Trump announced the move Monday during a public meeting with his Cabinet at the White House and said the Treasury Department will announce new sanctions against North Korea on Tuesday. "Today the United States is designating the North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. Should have happened a long time ago. Should have happened years ago," Trump said.

     Trump said that North Korea has "repeatedly" sponsored acts of terrorism, including "assassinations on foreign soil." "This designation will impose further sanctions and penalties on North Korea ... and supports our maximum pressure campaign to isolate the murderous regime," Trump said. Trump said new sanctions announced over the coming weeks, including Tuesday by the Treasury Department, will bring US sanctions against Pyongyang to their highest level ever. The question of whether Trump would reinstall North Korea to the list hung over the President's recent Asia trip.

     Trump told reporters early in his visit that his administration would make an announcement on North Korea "very soon" and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters that the announcement would come "at the end of the trip." United Nations spokesperson Farhan Haq said the UN has "nothing to say" about the US designation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. "It's not our list," the deputy spokesman said. It became clear during Trump's time abroad that his administration viewed North Korea as a rogue nation that engages in terrorist acts. During a fiery speech in South Korea, Trump described North Korea as an out-of-control country led by Kim Jong Un, whom he cast as a maniacal and deranged man.

 ANTONIO LEDEZMA: "VENEZUELAN MILITARY INTERVENTION BEGAN WITH MY ESCAPE"

       MADRID, SPAIN  -- The former political prisoner, Antonio Ledezma, who escaped from Venezuela on Friday, November 17, said that "the military intervention in Venezuela began with his escape," as he reiterates that many soldiers are against this government "because they suffer for their country". When I was here after my hunger strike, Felipe González received me, and a phrase that I did not forget is that he said: 'you have a caudillo with an oil hose in his hand', and in the third place, he told me that it was necessary for us to be united. '" He also recounted how his "movie type" flight from Venezuela was possible because several members of the Sebin helped him escape and mentioned what was his most "complicated" moment during his escape.

     On the Colombian border a woman told me in good faith: 'Hi! Ledezma ', and the guard who was checking the suitcases looked at me and said:' go ahead '. When I arrived in the brother country with a fake Colombian identification, the military told me: 'No need, you already arrived to Colombian territory,' "said the opposition leader during a press conference in Madrid, Spain. The Mayor, said that currently in hi country there are "talks of a dialogue that the opposition has not denied", but the problem is that Ledezma fears "that the dialogue could be corrupted." He also spoke about what is currently happening with former President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who offered to be a mediator in the dialogue in which the opposition and government representatives will meet in the Dominican Republic.

     During his interview, Ledezma repudiated the attempt of dialogue that the opposition sectors have with the Maduro government in the Dominican Republic, stating that before "we have left empty-handed with the dialogues”. He remembered that "When Zapatero called to say hello to me, I told him it was too late, that he should bring flowers to the tombs of the 130 dead of the protests. Since Zapatero joined the dialogue in Venezuela there are more political prisoners, and after that fruitless dialogue, there were 130 more murders, "declared the Mayor. Ledezma, said in his press conference, he indicated that he had a conversation with the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, in which he revealed that the government had made a plan against the opposition, but the mayor assured that nobody from the opposition heard it.

SEBIN HAS ARRESTED 18 PEOPLE IN CARACAS AFTER ANTONIO LEDEZMA FLIGHT

       CARACAS, VENEZUELA    --  On Sunday, November 19, the government of Nicolás Maduro began a witch hunt affecting the friends and acquaintances of the metropolitan mayor, Antonio Ledezma, after his escape from his house arrest. This is what ntn24america.com reports: It stated that in Venezuela many "crimes against humanity have been committed", referring not only to the people who fell during the demonstrations but also to the children who are dying from malnutrition. "I will not feel free until they release all the political prisoners, they reopen the TV and radio stations and the businesses confiscated," he said.

     The complaint was made by the Metropolitan Mayor, Helen Fernandez, through her account on the social network Twitter and reported that some officials of the mayor's office are detained and placed in the hands of a Sebin group. "I denounce the persecution against our Metropolitan City Hall officials," Fernández wrote on Twitter, adding that the detainees are identified as: the two ex-employees, Carlos Luna and Elizabeth Cárdenas, and the Finance Manager Carmen, Catalina Andarcia. Opposition deputies have highlighted that 12 Sebin officials, who would have helped Ledezma escape from the country to take refuge in Colombia, have been deprived of their freedom .

     Among the uniformed detainees are the Bolivar and Castillo inspectors. According to accusations made by members of the opposition, Commissioner Carlos Calderón is indicated as the main collaborator. Likewise, the concierge and two private security guards of the building where Ledezma lived are "unjustly deprived of liberty." Antonio Ledezma, who fled to Colombia on Friday, November 17 with the help of several officials making mockery of his house arrest, left for Spain where he met with his family and the country's president, Mariano Rajoy. The Mayor of Caracas, 62, was arrested in February 2015 by agents who stormed his office with guns to capture him, accused of conspiracy and conspiracy to commit a crime.

November 20, 2017

OAS RECEIVED REPORTS OF SERIOUS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN VENEZUELA

          WASHINGTON, D.C.    -- In the third round of public hearings at the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS), the panel created at the request of Secretary General Luis Almagro heard the testimony of an ex-prosecutor, mayors, congressmen, relatives of victims during protests against Maduro and others representatives of Venezuelan civil society. "In Venezuela we are suffering a dictatorship without any scruples. That is why this report must be submitted to the ICC, "said Gustavo Maracano, mayor of Lechería (Anzoátegui state, east), exiled since July in the United States after being sentenced to prison for failing to prevent the demonstrations against Maduro.

     Ramón Muchacho, mayor of Chacao, the epicenter of the protests in Caracas, cried out for "urgent" help from the international community. "In Venezuela, weapons are in place," said the leader, who had to flee his country for the same reason as Marcano. Muchacho said he saw the body without life of Juan Pablo Pernalete, 20, died on April 26 by the impact of a tear gas bomb in the chest, according to the prosecution, although the government attributed his death to fellow demonstrators. "I had to bring the news to his parents.

    And that same drama was lived by hundreds and hundreds of parents, "he said, deploring the government's repression of the protests, which left some 125 dead between April and July, as" the most massive and most cowardly violation of human rights that has been seen in Venezuela". During the sessions on Thursday, the most extensive after an initial round in September and a second in October, the story of Juan Pablo's parents was especially moving. "My son was killed at point-blank range," said José Pernalete, who upon recalling the fatal incident several times broke into tears with his wife Elvia Llovera. "We are dead in life," he said, crying out for justice. Iván Urbina, was the father of Fabián Urbina (17), who died on June 20 during the protests. Three national guards were charged by the Prosecutor's Office for this case.

CHAOS IN ZIMBAWER AFTER MUGABE FAILS TO ANNOUNCE EXPECTED RESIGNATION

       HARERE, ZIMBAWE  -- President Robert Mugabe delivered a rambling address on live television offering no concessions, after ruling party Zanu-PF sacked him as leader. Zimbabwe’s ongoing crisis descended into outright chaos on Sunday after president Robert Mugabe failed to announce his resignation as widely expected in a national address on live television. Instead, in a rambling 30 minute address, Mugabe offered no concessions to his critics, the tens of thousands who marched calling for his resignation or the army commanders who led the military takeover last week.

    Robert Mugabe stuns Zimbabwe by failing to quit – as it happened
President addresses the nation after ruling party Zanu-PF gives him a deadline of noon on Monday to resign or face impeachment. Instead, the 93-year-old autocrat said that “we cannot be guided by bitterness or revengefulness which would not makes us any better ... Zimbabweans” and said that he would preside over a special congress of the ruling Zanu-PF party scheduled for next month – suggesting he has no immediate intention of stepping down.

     Mugabe, who repeatedly cited the legacy of Zimbabwe’s brutal liberations wars of the 1970s, said he believed that the military “operation” launched last Tuesday by army commanders was motivated by “a deep patriotic concern for the stability of the nation” and “did not amount to a threat to our well-cherished constitutional order”. “I am aware that many developments have occurred in the party, given the failings of the past, and anger they might have triggered in some quarters .... [but] I am confident that from tonight our whole nation will put shoulder to the wheel,” Mugabe said. Earlier in the day, the veteran leader, who has been in power for 37 years, was sacked as leader of the Zanu-PF and told by 200 of the party’s top officials gathered at an extraordinary meeting in Harare to resign as head of state or face impeachment when parliament reconvenes on Tuesday.

US DEPLOYS MORE RESOURCES IN SEARCH FOR MISSING ARGENTINE SUBMARINE WITH 44 CREW MEMBERS

       MIAMI, FLORIDA     --  The U.S. Navy and Air Force are sending more resources to join a massive search operation for an Argentine navy submarine with a 44-person crew that has been out of radio contact for several days. The first wave of sailors and equipment dispatched Saturday from San Diego by the Undersea Rescue Command is expected to arrive Sunday. The U.S. personnel and equipment have joined a growing international effort to find the ARA San Juan, which was sailing from Tierra del Fuego on the southern tip of South America to its base at Mar del Plata, south of Buenos Aires. As of late Saturday, five other countries have said they will send search parties.

     The area being searched off the country’s southern Atlantic coast has been doubled as concerns about the 44 crew members grew, Argentine navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said. “We are not discounting any hypothesis,” Balbi said. Possibilities could include “a problem with communications” or with its power system. The ARA San Juan is a German-built, electric-diesel powered submarine. The Argentine navy said the crew normally would bring the ship to the surface if it lost radio communication with the mainland.

     he missing Argentine navy submarine was sailing from Tierra del Fuego on the southern tip of South America to its base at Mar del Plata, south of Buenos Aires. he sub, which was on a routine mission when it went missing, was last heard from Wednesday morning. In a tweet, Argentine President Mauricio Macri said that his country will use “all resources national and international that are necessary to find the submarine.” Pledges of help also came from Brazil, Chile, Peru and Uruguay. Britain was sending a polar exploration vessel, the HMS Protector, which British officials said should arrive Sunday.

November 19, 2017

THE FUGITIVE MAYOR OF CARACAS, ANTONIO  LEDEZMA, MEETING WITH SPAIN'S PRIME MINISTER RAJOY IRK DICTATOR NICOLAS MADURO

          MADRID, SPAIN    -- Venezuelan opposition leader Antonio Ledezma's escape from house arrest this week and meeting Saturday with Spain's prime minister have provoked the ire of Venezuela's DICTATOR NICOLAS MADURO, who accuses Ledezma of being a violent extremist. A statement by Venezuela's Foreign Ministry said the assistance Spain's government is providing to Ledezma "is nothing more than the continuation of a long list of aggressions and interferences that have been committed against the Venezuelan people and government."

     Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy "insists, in violation of all the principles of international law, in providing sustained protection and support to an extremist group of the violent Venezuelan opposition, which has violated all democratic principles and promoted the destabilization of the government," the statement read. Ledezma, founder of the Fearless People's Alliance (ABP) party, fled across the border to Colombia on Friday and arrived in Madrid on Saturday, where he was reunited with his wife and daughters.

     The politician, who said upon his arrival that Venezuela is being governed by a "narco-dictatorship," was received Saturday by Rajoy at the Moncloa Palace. At the meeting, Ledezma received assurances from Spain that its government would work toward a fully democratic solution to the political crisis in the Caribbean nation. That solution, according to Spanish government sources, must necessarily involve the release of all "political" prisoners and the holding of fully "democratic" and "validated" elections. Separately, the ABP on Saturday reiterated its repudiation of new talks between Venezuela's government and some opposition parties due to begin on Dec. 1.

VENEZUELA'S GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION AGREE ON AGENDA FOR DIALOGUE IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

       SANTO DOMINGO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC   -- The Venezuelan government and opposition moved a step closer to agreeing on an agenda for upcoming crisis talks after a meeting in Santo Domingo on Thursday which both sides described as positive. The representative of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Jorge Rodriguez, and opposition leader Gustavo Velasquez confirmed that there had been progress in outlining the main topics at the negotiations to be held on Dec. 1-2 to resolve the ongoing Venezuelan crisis.

    “We are very close to reaching a definitive agreement. We have come a long way and I don’t think we will need another four years to reach an agreement of coexistence,” Rodriguez told the press at the end of the meeting. The deputy Venezuelan Minister of Communications added that the discussions between his government and the opposition had resulted in a “shared effort” in favor of democracy, peace and well-being of the country. “The main point of the discussions is to respect the political and economic guarantees when the elections are held in Venezuela next year, to stop the external violence against Venezuela,” he said, adding that the both sides ended the meeting “satisfied.”

    Thursday’s meeting in the Dominican capital was also attended by the Dominican Republic’s Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas and former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. The Dec. 1-2 talks in Santo Domingo will be also attended by foreign ministers from six countries, including Mexico, Chile, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Bolivia, in addition to Medina and Rodriguez Zapatero. The Venezuelan government was expected to announce the sixth country on Friday. “We have made a positive assessment of the meeting and its objectives are very clear: clean elections, attention to the humanitarian emergency and the release of prisoners.

NORTH KOREA SENDS ITS FOREIGN MINISTER TO CUBA AS CHINESE ARRIVE IN PYONGYANG

       PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA     --  The communist government of North Korea has dispatched Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho to Cuba for an “official visit,” state media confirmed on Friday, as Pyongyang prepares to receive an envoy from another communist country, China. The South Korean newswire service Yonhap reported on Friday that Ri and a North Korean delegation flew out of Pyongyang towards Havana on Friday, citing the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA, the state news service of North Korea, announced that a “delegation led by Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho left here Friday to pay an official visit to Cuba.”

     KCNA did not provide any details regarding what that delegation would be discussing with communist authorities in Cuba or why the trip was scheduled for this week. It also remains unclear how long the delegation would be there. China is also engaging in relations with Cuba. The People’s Daily published an interview showcasing Cuba’s Foreign Vice-Minister Marcelino Medina this week, which the Foreign Ministry highlighted on its website. “In the exchange, the Vice-Minister highlighted the development of bilateral relations in recent years where Cuba has become China’s largest trade partner in the Caribbean and China the second-largest trade partner of Cuba.” Medina also expressed support for China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative, a sprawling infrastructure plan designed for China to monopolize global trade.

    Cuba is one of North Korea’s most loyal allies on the world stage. In August, the North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun complimented the bilateral relationship as an “invincible friendship forged under the banner of socialism.” Granma, Rodong Sinmun‘s Cuban analog, praised North Korea that month for insisting on continuing its illegal nuclear weapons development—or, as they phrased it, “resisting without fear before Washington’s repeated military threats.” North Korea and Cuba have signed multiple intelligence-sharing agreements and many have suspected that Cuba engaged in prohibited trade with the country. In 2014, Panamanian authorities intercepted a North Korean ship attempting to cross the Panama Canal carrying undeclared Cuban weapons, hidden under large bags of sugar. North Korea paid a $700,000 fine and the ship’s three top crew members were arrested.

November 18, 2017

OUSTED CARACAS MAYOR FLEES HOUSE ARREST, ARRIVES IN COLOMBIA

          BOGOTA, COLOMBIA   -- Ousted Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma escaped house arrest and fled to Colombia on Friday, an apparent embarrassment for security forces who had been keeping close watch over one of Venezuela’s most prominent opposition leaders. Colombian immigration authorities said in a statement that Ledezma entered the country legally after crossing the Simon Bolivar bridge separating the two countries. In his first comments from an airport in the Colombian city of Cucuta, Ledezma described his escape as “movie-like,” requiring him to sneak past more than 20 police checkpoints in the long drive from the capital to the western border.

     Holding a Venezuelan flag, he said he would continue fighting to restore Venezuela’s democracy from exile, adding that the decision to flee was his alone and kept a secret even from his family, who have been living outside Venezuela. “This decision I took consulting only my conscience,” Ledezma told reporters before boarding a private plane for the Colombian capital of Bogota. As Venezuelans were waking up to the news of Ledezma’s escape, several heavily armed police officers surrounded Ledezma’s residence in Caracas as soon as news of his escape broke.

    Ledezma was removed as mayor of Caracas and detained in 2015 on charges of plotting to oust President Nicolas Maduro. He was one of the leaders of anti-government in protests that rocked Venezuela in 2014 that also led to the jailing of other prominent opponents, including Leopoldo Lopez, who remains under house arrest. Maria Corina Machado, another hardline opposition leader close to Ledezma, Ledezma departed this Friday from Bogotá at 14.25 local time (19.25 GMT) on an Avianca flight to Madrid where it will be known whether or not he will request political asylum. That flight with code AV26 lands at the Adolfo Suárez airport in Madrid, where his wife Mitzy Capriles resides.

MARIA CORINA MACHADO: ANTONIO LEDEZMA RECEIVED THREATS FOR REJECTING THE DIALOGUE ENDORSED BY MADURO

       CARACAS, VENEZUELA   --  María Corina Machado, leader of the opposition political organization, Vente Venezuela, said that former mayor Antonio Ledezma fled the country because in recent days he received threats aimed at changing his position of rejection of dialogue scheduled to be conducted in the Dominican Republic between a sector of the opposition and the Government. According to Machado, Ledezma told her days before that he felt "more pressure and danger" on himself and his family, because they threatened him to be transferred back to the Ramo Verde military prison and even that they could send him to La Tumba, center of underground detention at the headquarters in Plaza Venezuela of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin).

     They also made many offers to improve their conditions of captivity, however, he did not accept them because, as he told Machado, "the freedom of Venezuela is above my personal freedom." In a press conference, the opposition leader showed the flag that the former mayor gave her. In his first statements to the press after arriving in Colombia, Ledezma said: "I trust fully Corina Machado." Machado said that Ledezma was not going to lower his head and make concessions on his principles, plus he was not going to allow them to turn him into a hostage.

     Vente Venezuela and the Alianza Bravo Pueblo (ABP) of Ledezma have repeatedly expressed their rejection to participate in a dialogue with the government of President Nicolás Maduro; position that he maintains and for which it was created a new parliamentary fraction in the National Assembly, called "16 de Julio", in honor of the popular consultation that took place that year to ask the people what was the path that the opposition should follow and that decision has not being followed. "This is a fraudulent operation that only favors the regime," said Machado, who maintains the theory that this new dialogue has only three objectives: that the government obtain money by asking the opposition to demand the cessation of US sanctions, that the National Assembly approve the refinancing of the debt, that the National Constituent Assembly be recognized and to gain time to continue in power.

LUIS ALMAGRO: NOW ANTONIO LEDEZMA WILL LEAD THE FIGHT FOR VENEZUELA FROM EXILE

       WASHINGTON, D.C.    --  The Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, gave his full support to the former metropolitan mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, who escaped from his house arrest in the Venezuelan capital and undertook a dangerous trip to Colombia.

     Almagro said that Ledezma is a "moral reference of Venezuela" and that taking advantage of his freedom will be able to "lead the fight from exile for the establishment of the democratic system in his country". "My greetings to Antonio Ledezma, moral reference of #Venezuela, now free to lead the fight from exile for the establishment of the democratic system in his country," he wrote in his account @ Almagro_OEA2015, on the social network Twitter.

    Ledezma was one of the leaders of the protests that shook Venezuela in 2014. He was arrested on February 19, 2015, accused of conspiracy to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro; He was sent to the military prison of Ramo Verde where he spent two months and then was sent home to recover after undergoing surgery for an inguinal hernia. As this 62-year-old political leader was never convicted, he officially maintains the position of metropolitan mayor, although, due to his arrest, his position fell into the hands of Helen Fernández, as acting mayor.

November 17, 2017

SENATOR BOB MENENDEZ TRIAL ENDS IN MISTRIAL AFTER JURY DEADLOCKS

          NEWARK, NEW JERSEY   -- The federal corruption trial of New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez ended in a mistrial Thursday after the jury reported it was hopelessly deadlocked. The mistrial is a blow to the Justice Department, which has been investigating Menendez for nearly five years, and will be a sigh of relief to Democrats worried about possibly losing his Senate seat to Republicans. "I want to thank the jury, 12 New Jerseyans who saw through the government's false claims and used their Jersey common sense to reject it," he told reporters outside the courthouse before blasting the Justice Department.

     "The way this case started was wrong, the way it was investigated was wrong, the way it was prosecuted was wrong, and the way it was tried was wrong as well," he said. "Certain elements of the FBI and of our state cannot understand or, even worse, accept that the Latino kid from Union City and Hudson County can grow up and be a US senator and be honest." Menendez also had harsh words for those who predicted his political doom. "To those who were digging my political grave so that they could jump into my seat, I know who you are, and I won't forget you," he said.

    Prosecutors did not immediately announce whether they will refile charges against Menendez. "The Department of Justice appreciates the jury's service in this lengthy trial," DOJ spokesperson Nicole Navas said. "The Department will carefully consider next steps in this important matter and report to the court at the appropriate time." Any delay in refiling charges at this point helps Democrats who want to hold onto his Senate seat and virtually eliminates any realistic possibility that Republican Gov. Chris Christie -- who leaves office on January 16, 2018 -- could select the senator's replacement if he were to resign or be removed from the Senate.

VENEZUELAN GOVERNMENT AND OPPOSITION WILL MEET DECEMBER 1 AND 2 IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC; FOREIGN MINISTERS FROM ACCOMPANYING NATIONS WILL ATTEND

       CARACAS, VENEZUELA   --  The Venezuelan Government and the opposition will meet in Santo Domingo on December 1 and 2, the Dominican Foreign Ministry reported today. The meeting will be attended by "the countries accompanying the process, represented by their foreign ministers," the Dominican Foreign Ministry said in a statement, while reporting that a "preparatory meeting of the methodological and technical aspects" will take place in Santo Domingo today. In today's meeting, which will be held behind closed doors, representatives of the Venezuelan Government and opposition will participate, as well as the former President of the Government of Spain, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, and the Dominican Foreign Minister, Miguel Vargas.

    The members of the Technical Commission of the opposition that travel today to the preparatory meeting are Gustavo Velásquez and Vicente Díaz. In its statement, the local Foreign Ministry said it hoped "that the international community supports this process and the parties have the best disposition, for the benefit of democracy and the people of Venezuela." The Venezuelan government and the opposition were scheduled to meet yesterday in the Dominican Republic to begin a new round of negotiations and seek a way out of the political, economic and humanitarian crisis that the country is going through.

    However, the meeting was frustrated by the government not accepting the presence as "guarantors" of several Latin American foreign ministers (those of Mexico, Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia and Nicaragua) as demanded by the opposition. Representatives of the Government and the opposition of Venezuela began on September 13 in the Dominican capital talks to open a new dialogue, under the auspices of the Dominican President, Danilo Medina, and Rodríguez Zapatero. The parties were scheduled to meet again in Santo Domingo on September 28, but on that occasion only the pro-government delegation was moved to the country after the opposition demanded from Nicolás Maduro's government some "prerequisites" to comply "with respect to rights. human rights "and in the electoral process, so that the conversation process remained in the air.

VENEZUELA'S FORMER PROSECUTOR LUISA ORTEGA WANTS MADURO TRIED AT HAGUE

       THE HAGUE, SWITZERLAND    --  Venezuela’s sacked former chief prosecutor on Thursday asked the International Criminal Court to capture and try President Nicolas Maduro and other top officials for crimes against humanity over murders by police and military officers. Luisa Ortega, who broke with Maduro this year after working closely with the ruling Socialist Party for a decade, was fired in August after she opposed Maduro’s plan to create an all-powerful legislature called the Constituent Assembly. She fled the country and has traveled the world denouncing alleged acts of corruption and violations of human rights.

    Ortega said her complaint, filed on Wednesday with the Hague-based tribunal, was prompted by some 8,290 deaths between 2015 and 2017 at the hands of officials who received instructions the government. “(They happened) under the orders of the executive branch, as part of a social cleansing plan carried out by the government,” she told reporters in the Hague. The government did not immediately respond to a request for a comment. The accusation refers to incidents of torture, extrajudicial killings and arbitrary arrest. Some of them took place during a crackdown on anti-government protests that rocked the country between April and July and left at least 125 people dead, some of them at the hands of military and police officers.

    The Maduro government accused Ortega of turning a blind eye to violence by opposition supporters, and has also leveled a raft of corruption charges at her. Ortega’s request also makes reference to killings that took place during police raids known as “Operations to Free the People,” which have been heavily criticized by human rights groups since they began in 2015. “Nicolas Maduro and his government must pay for this,” she said. The complaint also accuses top officials such as Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino and intelligence chief Gustavo Gonzalez of involvement in the alleged abuses. Maduro’s government insists it respects human rights and says opposition demonstrations were Washington-backed efforts to violently overthrow him.

November 16, 2017

WHITE HOUSE CONSIDERS NICARAGUA SANCTIONS FOR VENEZUELA LINKS

    WASHINGTON, D.C.   --  The Venezuelan opposition met with members of Donald Trump’s administration last week to urge the White House to sanction Nicaragua and a company whose joint venture they say is helping to prop up the government in Caracas, according to multiple sources familiar with the conversations. Five Venezuelan opposition party officials and activists met Thursday on Capitol Hill with U.S. State Department officials and staffers for the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees.
  
      They urged Washington to investigate President Nicolas Maduro’s ties to Nicaragua and specifically the private company Albanisa, a joint venture between the Venezuelan state owned-oil company, PDVSA, and its Nicaraguan counterpart. “There are operations that PDVSA has with other countries that should be investigated and should be included in the sanctions, such as the company PDVSA created with Nicaragua, Albanisa,” Carlos Vecchio, national coordinator of the Voluntad Popular party in Venezuela, told McClatchy.

     Vecchio, in the meetings with the State Department and members of Congress, charged that Albanisa is involved in corruption, money laundering and financing for the Maduro regime. Albanisa officials could not be immediately reached for comment. The U.S. State Department confirmed the meeting with Venezuelan opposition leaders but administration officials would not specifically discuss the possibility of extending sanctions to entities outside of Venezuela.

VENEZUELAN FOREIGN MINISTER JORGE ARREAZA: EUROPEAN UNION SANCTIONS ARE DESIGNED TO CREATE CONDITIONS FOR INTERVENTION IN HIS COUNTRY

       CARACAS, VENEZUELA   --  Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said Tuesday that the sanctions the European Union imposed on Caracas are designed to create the conditions for an "intervention," and he reiterated his rejection of the move after meeting with European diplomats accredited to the oil-producing nation. At the Foreign Ministry, Arreaza told reporters that his country "reserves the right to respond, to defend itself with concrete responses in all areas." Venezuela's top diplomat repudiated the sanctions imposed by the EU, which impede the Caracas government in acquiring equipment to "repress" protests.

    The EU foreign ministers agreed to impose sanctions consisting of a weapons embargo and a veto on providing items that could be used for "internal repression" of Venezuelans, and the European body opened the door to the possibility of imposing selective measures against individuals deemed to be responsible for such actions. The Venezuelan government has said that the imposition of the sanctions was "unusual" and has asked for the EU to show respect for the country's sovereignty.

     "What we regret most of all is that the Europe ... which ... left conflicts, wars behind ... is being thwarted with such actions. That very beautiful idea is thwarted by actions such as the one taken yesterday," he added. Arreaza also mentioned the dialogue process between the Nicolas Maduro government and the Venezuelan opposition, telling the EU that those who have not wanted to attend those talks are anti-Chavista. The EU measures against Venezuelan officials will be used in a "gradual and flexible" manner and will be "extended" to those who "do not respect democratic principles or the state of law" or are implicated in "the violation of human rights."

RUSSIA, VENEZUELA SIGNED DEAL TO RESTRUCTURE MORE THAN $3 BILLION OF DEBT

       MOSCOW, RUSSIA    --  Russia and Venezuela have signed a debt-restructuring deal under which Caracas will pay Moscow back $3.15 billion over a 10-year period. The Russian Finance Ministry said on November 15 that debt repayments would be "minimal" during the first six years, as the South American country continues to face an economic and financial crisis. Addressing reporters in Moscow, Venezuelan Economy and Finance Minister Simon Zerpa said that funds borrowed from Russia by Venezuelan firms, including state oil company PDVSA, were not part of the agreement, .

     The terms of the deal are quite flexible and favorable for Caracas, according to Venezuelan Vice President for Economics Wilmar Castro Soteldo. Venezuela is seeking to restructure its foreign debts, estimated at more than $140 billion, after a drop in crude output and prices ravaged its economy, leading to triple-digit inflation and widespread shortages. Venezuela borrowed from Russia in late 2011, but failed to keep up with payments on the debt last year. This week, international credit-ratings agency Standard & Poor's declared the country to be in "selective default" after it failed to make $200 million in repayments on its foreign debt. PDVSA has also been declared in default by rating agencies Fitch and Moody's.

     Caracas has blamed sanctions imposed by the United States for Venezuela's difficulties in making debt repayments. Venezuela has been beset by political unrest for months, with President Nicolas Maduro's government being accused by protesters at home and Western governments of becoming increasingly authoritarian. At an informal UN Security Council meeting boycotted by permanent members Russia and China, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley called Venezuela "an increasingly violent narco-state" that threatens the world.
 

November 15, 2017

VENEZUELA OPPOSITION SAYS TALKS WITH GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS DELAYED BECAUSE MADURO HAS NOT APPROVED THE  INTERNATIONAL GUARANTORS

     CARACAS, VENEZUELA  --   Venezuela’s opposition said on Tuesday that this week’s planned political dialogue in the Dominican Republic with President Nicolas Maduro’s government was being postponed because regional guarantors were not going. Luis Florido, lawmaker of the Venezuelan coalition of opposition parties (MUD) talks to the media during a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela, September 16, 2017. “The international negotiation process cannot go ahead until the foreign ministers are invited,” opposition negotiator Luis Florido said, referring to the potential presence of Latin American foreign ministers at the talks.

    Negotiations to ease a bitter and long-running political crisis in the OPEC nation had been scheduled for Wednesday. Previous dialogue efforts have ended in recriminations between the two sides with no concrete progress. The opposition coalition had previously accused the Maduro government of blocking the presence of foreign ministers at this week’s talks, but on Tuesday said it appeared to be more a scheduling problem. There was no immediate response from officials. The opposition’s principal demand is for free and fair conditions for the 2018 presidential election.

    It also wants freedom for jailed activists, autonomy for the opposition-led Congress, and a foreign humanitarian aid corridor to help alleviate Venezuela’s unprecedented economic crisis. Maduro accuses his opponents of conspiring with the United States and a right-wing international campaign to oust his socialist government via a coup. The government is seeking guarantees against violence and recognition of the pro-Maduro Constituent Assembly that has overridden Congress. At least 125 people died in four months of often violent protests against Maduro earlier this year. Foes say he is a dictator who has wrecked a once-prosperous economy. Maduro and his allies have accused the opposition of preferring violence to dialogue.

VENEZUELA CUT TO DEFAULT BY STANDARD & POORS  (S&P) 

       MEXICO CITY, MEXICO   --  Venezuela failed to make $200 million in coupon payments for its global bonds due 2019 and 2024 within the 30-calendar-day grace period. In line with our criteria for timeliness of payments, we are lowering the issue ratings on these bonds to 'D' from 'CC' and the long-term foreign currency sovereign credit rating on Venezuela to 'SD' from 'CC'. The local currency sovereign credit ratings on Venezuela remain on CreditWatch with negative implications, reflecting our view that the sovereign could again miss a payment on its outstanding debt obligations or advance a distressed debt exchange operation, equivalent to default, within the next three months.

    On November 13, 2017, S&P Global Ratings lowered its long- and short-term foreign currency sovereign credit ratings on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to 'SD/D' from 'CC/C'. The long- and short-term local currency sovereign credit ratings remain at 'CCC-/C' and are still on CreditWatch with negative implications. At the same time, we lowered our issue ratings on Venezuela's global bonds due 2019 and 2024 to 'D' from 'CC'. Our issue ratings on the remainder of Venezuela's foreign currency senior unsecured debt remain at 'CC'. Finally, we affirmed our transfer and convertibility assessment on the sovereign at 'CC'.

     Our CreditWatch negative reflects our opinion that there is a one-in-two chance that Venezuela could default again within the next three months. We could lower specific issue ratings to default ('D') if Venezuela doesn't make its overdue coupon payments before the stated grace period expires, or upon the execution of the announced debt restructuring. If the sovereign cures its default on the overdue coupon payments and remains timely on other coupon payments before the restructuring debt operation is completed, we would raise our long-term foreign currency sovereign issuer credit and issue ratings to 'CC'.

FITCH DOWNGRADES PDVSA'S IDRs TO 'CC'

       CHICAGO, ILLINOIS     --     Fitch Ratings has downgraded Petroleos de Venezuela S.A.'s (PDVSA) long-term foreign and local currency issuer default ratings (IDRs) to 'CC' from 'CCC' and the company's National scale long-term rating to 'CCC(ven)' from 'AA(ven)'. Fitch has also downgraded the long-term rating for approximately USD30 billion of senior unsecured debt outstanding to 'CC/RR4' from 'CCC/RR4' and the expected rating for the company's proposed senior secured notes to 'CC(EXP)/RR4' from 'CCC(EXP)/RR4'.

    The rating action follows PDVSA's announcement last Oct. 17, 2016 that it could be difficult for the company to make scheduled payments on its existing debt if a recently announce debt exchange was not successful. This announcement highlights PDVSA's low liquidity and Fitch's perception that company's ability to service its debt has deteriorated. The company announced on Oct. 24, 2016 that it had received and accepted tenders for USD2.8 billion of the offered USD5.3 billion of principal.

    Despite the partial success of the exchange offer, PDVSA's liquidity position is weak and the company could still face difficulties making scheduled payments. The debt exchange was aimed at improving the company's amortization schedule as it faced approximately USD7.1 billion of principal payments for cross border bonds over the next 12 months. With the results of the exchange, the company's principal payments over the next twelve months amount to approximately USD6.1 billion as PDVSA expects to exchange USD2.8 billion of upcoming maturities for USD3.4 billion of new senior secured notes it intends to issue on Oct. 27, 2016.

November 14, 2017

UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL UNDER THE ARRIA FORMULA, ANALYZED CRISIS IN VENEZUELA

     UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK --  To start the discussion, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, today called on the UN and the international community to act against the Venezuelan Government. Almagro, in an informal meeting of the Security Council, defended that no country "can ignore what is happening in Venezuela" or be "complacent about the systematic violation of human rights" by the Executive. "There is no political, legal or economic argument that justifies going hand in hand with murderers and torturers," he said.

     The former Foreign Minister of Uruguay, a very critical voice against the Venezuelan Government, insisted that "the Caracas regime presents a constant threat to the prosperity, health and life of the citizens" and is an "essential factor of social and political destabilization in the region". Therefore, it considered that the Security Council must deal with the crisis, despite the fact that several of its members oppose it because they believe that the situation does not pose a threat to international peace and security and, therefore, does not enter into its mandate.

     Almagro, however, warned that "silence" or "methodological excuses" in the international arena "are among the main causes for the Venezuelan regime to still torture, murder, persecute and have prisoners of conscience." Therefore, he argued that there are only two options: "What political, ideological, economic or personal interests make us look to the side or that we fulfill our duty, with our values, acting in favor of the restoration of fundamental freedoms in Venezuela" . Almagro insisted that "it is time to take the necessary measures" to overcome the crisis in Venezuela, including "increasingly severe sanctions" against the government and an oil embargo.

THE UNITED STATES DENOUNCED TO THE UNITED NATIONS THAT VENEZUELA IS A "VIOLENT NARCO-STATE" THAT THREATENS THE WORLD 

       UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK   --  The United States denounced to the UN that Venezuela is a "violent narco-state" that threatens the world.  This was stated by the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, at an informal meeting of the Security Council about the Venezuelan crisis driven by her country. Haley criticized that several members of the Council opted not to participate in the meeting and attributed it to an alleged "pressure" by the Venezuelan government to do so. According to the diplomat, the fact that the Executive of Nicolás Maduro has sought to limit participation in the event is proof that he is "guilty" of the problems that are seen in the country.

     Haley denounced that Venezuela is experiencing one of the "most tragic" situations in the world, but stressed that the crisis is "more than a human tragedy" and "poses a direct threat to international peace and security." The US diplomat accused the government of using violence, of massive repression and, in short, of "showing its true face as a dictatorship." "We are watching them. They do not deceive us, "Haley told the Caracas authorities, before addressing the Venezuelan people to ask him not to" lose hope. "

     According to Haley, "the world is increasingly united in its efforts to restore human rights and fundamental freedoms" in the country and "justice will come to Venezuela." The agenda includes the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein; the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro; the head of Caritas International at the UN, Joseph Cornelius Donnelly, and the international coordinator of the Venezuelan Criminal Forum, Julio Henríquez.

EUROPEAN UNION FOREIGN MINISTERS BACK ARMS EMBARGO, DRAFT SANCTIONS ON VENEZUELAN TOP OFFICIALS

       BRUSSELS, BELGIUM    --  The foreign ministers from the European Union on Monday backed applying sanctions on Venezuela, including an embargo on weapons and on materials that could be used for internal repression. The EU's Foreign Affairs Council said in a statement that they were also preparing the legal framework needed to establish a travel ban and assets freeze on sanctioned people, insisting that these measures were being carried out in response to human rights violations and suspected irregularities in the recent elections that saw the all-powerful Constituent Assembly established.

    "In addition to its political and diplomatic efforts in support of a peaceful negotiated way out of the political crisis, the Council has today decided by unanimity to adopt restrictive measures, underscoring its concerns with the situation in the country," read the statement. The ministers explained that the measures would be rolled out gradually and flexibly and could be expanded to those who do not respect democratic principles of the rule of law, as well as those involved in human rights violations.

     European sources said they were still debating who would be included on the list of sanctioned people, though for the moment they were going to wait and see if the embargo encouraged a return to dialogue between the government and opposition. "The measures can be reversed depending on the evolution of the situation in the country," said the ministers, adding that they would particularly value "the holding of credible and meaningful negotiations, the respect for democratic institutions, the adoption of a full electoral calendar and the liberation of all political prisoners." They insisted that the measures had not been set up to harm the Venezuelan population, but rather so the EU could help them.

November 13, 2017

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE HONORS VETERANS BY CLEANING VIETNAM MEMORIAL

     WASHINGTON, D.C.   --  Vice President Pence’s work glove quickly soaked through with water as he scrubbed the names etched in the black granite walls of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Saturday. Pence, the son of a Korean War veteran and father of a Marine, would later lay a wreath and deliver a tribute to veterans at Arlington National Cemetery.But he began the morning dressed for cleaning duty, arriving on the National Mall in blue jeans, old cowboy boots and yellow gloves soon after the sun rose over the Capitol dome in the distance.

    “Good morning all,” Pence said to the group of about 40 volunteers. “Mike Pence. Great of you all to be here. Happy Veterans Day.” The other cleaners, employees of NewDay USA, a mortgage company that serves veterans, had already prepared the wall for the cleaning by removing the flowers, flags, photos, boots, helmets, wreaths and other mementos lying at the base. Besides leaving offerings, visitors are also encouraged to make stencils of the 58,286 names of those who were killed or missing in action during the war. Volunteers regularly help clean the wall, keeping its surface as “reflective and peaceful” as designer Maya Lin intended.

    Cleaners usually spray the wall with hoses before and after scrubbing with large brushes. But Saturday’s below-freezing temperatures required a more hands-on approach with sponges and paper towels. “I don’t know why I’m wearing gloves because I can’t feel my fingers at this point,” one volunteer said. After arriving at the memorial with his wife, Pence carried an orange cleaning bucket with the message “Let’s Do This” to an area close to the center of the wall. “You got a spot for us to work?” he asked. Wylie Gilbert, 30, of Maryland, gave Pence some cleaning tips – scrub hard, up and down, left and right. “You scrub and I’ll dry,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said to the vice president.

EUROPEAN UNION SET TO IMPOSE SANCTIONS ON VENEZUELA AS CRACKDOWN DEEPENS 

       BRUSSELS, BELGIUM   --  Pressure is mounting on crisis-hit Venezuela’s government ahead of a crucial bondholder meeting as the EU prepares to impose an arms embargo and holds out the possibility of tougher sanctions to come. European foreign ministers are expected to launch the countermeasures when they meet in Brussels next week — although they will pull back from targeting the oil industry or individuals linked to President Nicolás Maduro’s autocratic administration. The EU’s move comes as Venezuelan government officials are due to meet investors in Caracas on Monday to begin discussions over the potential restructuring of the country’s $65bn of bonds.

    Dictator Maduro has responded to growing economic troubles by tightening his grip on the Opec country. The EU sanctions set for approval at a meeting in Brussels on Monday would outlaw the export to Venezuela of arms and other equipment that could be used for internal repression, such as water cannons. The ministers are expected to open the possibility of future counter-measures against individuals should they judge the situation in Venezuela to have deteriorated further. Opposition within the 28-member union to sanctions against Caracas has ebbed as Maduro’s political crackdown has deepened.

    Venezuela also faces growing pressure from the US, Canada and Latin America’s biggest economies to restore the country’s constitutional order. Venezuela is gripped by hyperinflation, severe shortages of basic goods and a recession that has shrunk the economy by a third in five years. Mr Maduro has continued to consolidate his domestic political hold — most dramatically in August when he inaugurated an all-powerful Constituent Assembly stacked with supporters. Caracas has also held debt restructuring talks with key allies, Russia and China, which is owed more than $15bn by Venezuela. Russia on Friday said it had reached a restructuring deal over a $3bn bilateral loan.

VENEZUELAN STATE ENERGY COMPANY DEFAULTED THIS WEEK

       CARACAS, VENEZUELA     --Venezuelan State Energy Company Defauled this week
A Venezuelan state enterprise allegedly defaulted this week,
after months of speculation the government in Caracas could struggle to make debt repayments. State-owned energy utility Corpoelec has allegedly defaulted on a bond interest payment worth more than US$650 million, according to Reuters. The news agency cited a statement from the bond’s trustee, Wilmington Trust.

     “The issuer’s failure to pay interest on the notes when due on October 10, 2017 constitutes a default under the indenture,” Wilmington reportedly stated in notice posted on the Luxembourg stock exchange. Wilmington didn’t provide further details, while Corpoelec has denied it has defaulted. The company stated it made the payment on November 8, a day before it was due. President Nicolas Maduro had previously announced plans to restructure some of his government’s debt, with talks with investors set to take place on Monday.

     If confirmed, the default won’t automatically trigger further defaults, and according to experts any lawsuit stemming from the payment failure would likely be directed at Corpoelec – not the government itself. Maduro has long dismissed speculation his government could itself be facing default. Venezuela’s government and state enterprises like PDVSA collectively owe around US$143 billion in foreign debt, according to financial thinktank Torino Capital. PDVSA alone has around US1.6 billion in debt payments due by the end of the year, and another US$9 billion on bond servicing set to fall in 2018.

November 12, 2017

UN SECURITY COUNCIL TO DISCUSS WORSENING VENEZUELA SITUATION

     UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK   --  Security Council meeting on Venezuela, saying they want to hear first-hand accounts of the deteriorating political, economic and social situation in the oil-rich nation and the humanitarian impact on the region. A note circulated to council members says the meeting on Monday afternoon will also provide an opportunity “to discuss the role the international community and regional organizations can play in seeking a political solution and facilitating humanitarian access to those affected by the tensions.”

      Speakers at the  meeting will be U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, Organization of American States Secretary-General Luis Almagro, Joseph Cornelius Donnelly who heads Caritas International’s U.N. office, and Julio Henriquez, international coordinator of the Foro Penal Venezolano. Venezuela’s government has faced international criticism since the country’s Supreme Court gutted powers of the opposition-controlled congress in March. The ruling was later reversed, but a new constitutional assembly composed entirely of government loyalists has claimed supreme power and has gone after President Nicolas Maduro’s political opponents.

     Over the past six months, more than 500,000 Venezuelans have fled the political tumult, triple-digit inflation and widespread shortages of food and medicine, the note said. The country’s oil-dependent economy spiraled into crisis after world oil prices began a plunge in 2014, and it has been hit further by tough U.S. sanctions. “Venezuela’s neighbors lack the resources and capacity to absorb this influx of displaced people and exposes the vulnerable to human trafficking and sexual exploitation,” the note by the U.S. and Italy said. “As the Venezuelan economy continues to crumble, the situation will likely only worsen, especially as the country is at risk of defaulting on its debt.”

VICE PRESIDENT TAREK EL AISSAMI WILL PRESIDE OVER  MEETING TOMORROW TO DISCUSS VENEZUELA'S DEBT OVERHAUL PLAN 

       CARACAS, VENEZUELA   --  Vice President Tareck El Aissami has summoned bondholders to a meeting in Caracas as Venezuela prepares to restructure its crushing debt. For some, the meeting could land them behind bars.El Aissami, sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department this year after accusations he oversaw a cocaine-smuggling network, is one of the nation’s iron-fisted political operatives. Often in charge of delivering President Nicolas Maduro’s most critical messages, he blasts critics publicly, exposing supposed conspiracy rings and threatening legal action against them.

     Now, he’s in charge of a delicate financial dance in which investors and funds risk running afoul of the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets. Not only do U.S. sanctions prohibit Americans from receiving new bonds that Venezuela would hand them as part of a restructuring, but El Aissami is designated as a narcotics trafficker under the Kingpin Act. American corporate officers dealing with him run the risk of fines and prosecution of as much as $5 million and 30 years in prison.

     “Nobody will want to go near something that could be an OFAC violation,” said Robert Koenigsberger, chief investment officer at Gramercy Funds Management, which dumped its Venezuela debt a year ago. “If the Venezuelans say, ‘We want to talk over the restructuring with you,’ I’d say, ‘I’m not letting you in the building.’ I like sleeping in my own bed at night.” The bonds had enriched Wall Street traders even as Venezuelans went hungry, and they were one of the more profitable trades in emerging markets. Now, though, even Maduro has determined that the debt load is unsustainable, and creditors must deal with an unpalatable negotiating partner.

IN SUSPENSE THE MEETING SCHEDULED IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC BETWEEN THE VENEZUELAN GOVERNMENT AND THE OPPOSITION

       CARACAS, VENEZUELA     --The Democratic Unity Round Table (mud) informs the country that the meeting scheduled for this Wednesday the 15th in the Dominican Republic is suspended due to the fact that the Government has not given its approval to the presence of the foreign ministers of the Latin American countries. They had previously agreed to accompany the negotiation process to find a solution to the political, economic and institutional crisis that Venezuela suffers.

     Our agenda in this new round of negotiations with the national government is aimed to achieve fair electoral conditions for the 2018 presidential election and materialize the urgent opening of a humanitarian channel of food and medicine for the country. The foreign ministers of Mexico, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia and Nicaragua will be guarantors of the fulfillment of the agreements they carry out, which is why they should not be viewed with discomfort by any of the delegations.

     We are concerned that the representatives of the Government, so far, have not confirmed their presence at the meeting for the accompaniment of the foreign ministers. The country cries out for a solution to the generalized crisis that exists at this moment and the commitment with Venezuela must be of all the factors. We demand seriousness and compliance in these difficult times for the country. The Bureau of the Unit reiterated that it is prepared for a serious process with the participation of the friendly countries of Venezuela, and it is the Government that must continue to fulfill the commitments acquired in this regard.

November 11, 2017

PRESIDENT TRUMP MARKS VETERANS DAY IN VIETNAM

      HANOI, VIETNAM   - President Donald Trump marked his first Veterans Day in office saluting American veterans in Vietnam, home to one of the most polarizing conflicts in U.S. history. Trump on Friday traveled to Danang, Vietnam, site of an American air base during the war, and met with seven vets who had returned to the country where they lost comrades. Thanking the veterans, Trump said: “I got to know them for a few minutes upfront, and they are definitely tough, smart cookies. We like them. I think they like me too.” He then encouraged the veterans, organized by a group called The Greatest Generation Foundation, to speak. Several praised Trump, including Max Morgan, whose voice cracked and began to cry as he talked about fallen veterans.

    On Twitter Friday, Trump honored the Marines, saying: “On behalf of an entire nation, Happy 242nd Birthday to the men and women of the United States Marines!” Many government agencies made the Nov. 11 holiday a day early because it falls on a Saturday. Like presidents before him, Trump has wrestled with the legacy of Vietnam. He did not serve but received draft deferments, one attained with a physician’s letter stating that he suffered from bone spurs in his feet. In 2015, Trump derided Vietnam war hero Sen. John McCain, stating his fellow Republican wasn’t a “war hero” and adding,

    “I like people who weren’t captured.” McCain spent more than five years as a prisoner of war after his plane was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967. Over the decades, presidents have grappled with the conflict and its meaning for the country. President Lyndon Johnson abandoned his re-election quest after an escalation in the war led to more American deaths, while President Richard Nixon faced fierce criticism for expanding the conflict. President Bill Clinton’s deferment before he entered the Vietnam draft generated considerable heat during the 1992 presidential campaign.

JUAN MANUEL SANTOS SAYS THAT THE CRISIS IN VENEZUELA HAS BECOME HIS "WORST NIGHTMARE" 

       BOGOTA, COLOMBIA --  President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, said Thursday that the political and economic crisis in Venezuela has become his "worst nightmare" because of the potential impact on their country of it. "My worst nightmare is Venezuela, in the sense that if there is an implosion is not that we will receive 500,000 (people), which are those that have received. Will be millions and that will be a tremendous problem for the peace process and to Colombia in general, "he said.

    "That's why we've been so interested in trying to find a peaceful and democratic solution in Venezuela, but unfortunately we failed," he added from London, where he received the Chatham House Prize for his leadership in achieving the peace agreement with Revolutionary Armed forces of Colombia (FARC). However, Santos said that does not include closing the border with Venezuela, despite the worsening situation. Colombia and Venezuela share a land border of 2,219 kilometers with dozens of illegal crossings that are used to move from one country to another, and even for illegal activities such as smuggling of fuel and food, as well as drug trafficking.

     Thousands of Venezuelans pass daily to Colombia to work, study or buy medicines and food, but many have entered cities like Bogota, Medellin, Cali and Barranquilla in search of new opportunities, according to immigration authorities. "We're getting every day people from Venezuela who are seeking a better way of life, this is creating quite a dramatic burden on our educational system, our health care system. Things are getting worse (in Venezuela). The problem will not last hundred years has to be a change and I hope it fast ", has riveted.

LUISA ORTEGA DIAZ SAYS THAT A SOLUTION TO THE CRISIS IS THAT MADURO LEAVES THROUGH A NEGOTIATION

       THE VATICAN    --The deposed attorney general of Venezuela, Luisa Ortega, affirmed today in the Vatican that the solution to the crisis that the country is going through is an exit of the Government of President Nicolás Maduro "by a negotiated way", in a "process of transition with guarantees. "Ortega denounced today the critical situation that Venezuela is living in a meeting in the Vatican that has gathered for two days women judges and prosecutors who have analyzed the problem of trafficking of persons and organized crime. Asked by the media on the sidelines of this meeting for the solution in the country, Ortega responded: "Let Maduro go through a negotiated way."

      "We have to look for an alternative for the country, at this moment I think what we should look for is a transition stage," she added. She considered that "if guarantees are given, a transition process is possible," that the Venezuelan president leaves power to favor a change. She was adamant in stating that Chavismo has failed. In her speech at the Vatican the official, who lives in exile in Colombia, related the "crime of human trafficking" to the "unprecedented migratory phenomenon" that Venezuela is experiencing, where this year "2 million people have fled." "This high mobility of Venezuelans as migrants is placing them at higher levels of vulnerability than other nations," she said.

    She lamented the "social, political and institutional crisis" that exists in her country and pointed out that Venezuela is "on the list of the worst countries in terms of human trafficking because the government does not meet the minimum standards to combat" this crime. , asked the countries that participate in this symposium to "solidarity" with the Venezuelan asylum seekers and to mention in the document of conclusions of this meeting "a special chapter that includes migration in Venezuela". At the same time, she stated before the media that "Venezuela is not a free state" because "it is subject to the designs, the whims and the torture, the persecution, the harassment and state terrorism that the Government of Maduro is currently carrying out."

November 10, 2017

U.S. SANCTIONS 10 MORE VENEZUELAN TOP GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS

     WASHINGTON, D.C.   - Denouncing last month’s regional Venezuelan elections as irregular, the Trump administration imposed new individual sanctions Thursday against 10 Venezuelans it accused of undermining democracy, censoring the news media and engaging in the corrupt administration of government-run food programs. The Treasury Department froze U.S. assets, banned U.S. travel and prohibited Americans from doing business with top allies of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, including his chief of staff, two sitting ministers and one of the all-powerful Constituent Assembly’s vice presidents.

     “As the Venezuelan government continues to disregard the will of its people, our message remains clear: the United States will not stand aside while the Maduro regime continues to destroy democratic order and prosperity in Venezuela,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. The Constituent Assembly swore in the winners of an Oct. 15 election the Treasury Department said was “marked by numerous irregularities that strongly suggest fraud” that helped Maduro’s ruling socialist party win a majority of governorships.

    Sanctioned Thursday were: Elvis Amoroso, the Constituent Assembly’s second vice president; Sandra Oblitas, the National Electoral Council vice president; Socorro Hernández, member of the National Electoral Council; Carlos Quintero, alternate member of the National Electoral Council; Isaías Rodríguez, the Constituent Assembly’s former second vice president; Ernesto Villegas, culture minister; Freddy Bernal, urban agriculture minister; Jorge Márquez, presidential chief of staff; Manuel Fernández, president of state-run communications company CANTV; and Carlos Osorio, president of a transportation mission and former vice president of security and food sovereignty.

VENEZUELAN GOVERNMENT ACCUSES  THE US OF USING THE UN TO TRY TO DESTABILIZE THE COUNTRY 

        CARACAS, VENEZUELA --  The ambassador to the United Nations denounced that the United States is using "all kinds of hoaxes and manipulations, of parallel and informal events" to harm Venezuela. From another body, the Organization of American States, the Venezuelan representative questioned the actions taken by its secretary general, Luis Almagro. Carmen Velásquez accused Luis Almagro of "serving obscure economic interests to promote violence in a country in the region," referring to Venezuela.

    Rafael Ramírez believes that the United States is using its privileges in the UN Security Council to "advance its own national interests" in Venezuela. After it was announced that the Security Council of the United Nations (UN) would hold an informal meeting next Monday to discuss the crisis in Venezuela, the ambassador of this nation to the agency, Rafael Ramírez, He accused the United States of trying to destabilize the country.

    The meeting on Venezuela in the Security Council is still awaiting confirmation, according to the Efe news agency, although Argentina's foreign minister, Jorge Faurie, announced that it was being promoted by the US mission to the UN. One of the speakers would be Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS) and a strong critic of the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. In addition, the Lima Group will participate its spokespersons, Peruvian Foreign Minister Ricardo Luna and Canadian Chancellor Chrystia Freeland.

November 9, 2017

ARGENTINEAN PRESIDENT MAURICIO MACRI URGES PRESIDENT TRUMP TO IMPOSE A TOTAL EMBARGO ON VENEZUELA OIL

     BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA   - Mauricio Macri, president of Argentina, urges the United States to impose full embargo on Venezuelan oil. Macri Argentine is the first Latin American leader to openly advocate such tough action. He said the move would enjoy broad support across Latin America. President Donald Trump unveiled a series of financial sanctions on Venezuela and members of its government over the summer, including prohibiting any US institutions from lending more money to the country.

    However, Trump stopped shy of more draconian measures such as a full embargo on Venezuelan oil exports to the US. Given the worsening situation for Venezuela, the administration should “absolutely” introduce a comprehensive ban on the country’s oil exports to the US, the Argentine president told the Financial Times in an interview in New York on Tuesday evening. “I think we should go to a full oil embargo,” Mr Macri said. “Things have gotten worse and worse. Now, it’s really a painful situation. Poverty is going up every day, sanitary conditions are getting worse every day.”

    The US is considered unlikely to block all imports of Venezuelan crude because that would create significant disruption in its refining industry. US imports of Venezuelan oil have been running at about 800,000 barrels a day, roughly 8 per cent of the country’s total crude imports last year. Citgo, the US downstream subsidiary of Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA, is a large buyer of the country’s crude and employs 3,500 people at three refineries in Louisiana and Texas. In August, senators from states with refineries along the gulf coast wrote to Mr Trump warning that “unilateral sanctions” against Venezuela “could harm the US economy, impair the global competitiveness of our businesses and raises costs for our consumers”.

EUROPEAN UNION TO IMPOSE ARMS EMBARGO ON VENEZUELA, LAYS BASIS FOR SANCTIONS ON OTHER TOP GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS 

        Brussels, Belgium --  The measures will bring the EU more into line with the United States, which imposed sanctions earlier this year, and they signal a change of tone in Brussels, which had previously resisted taking a tougher approach toward Caracas. “The steps were approved today, paving the way for approval (by the bloc’s foreign ministers) next Monday,” an EU diplomat said, adding that the ministers’ backing was a formality. Spain has long pushed for sanctions on those close to President Nicolas Maduro, whom Washington accuses of installing a dictatorship, but the EU has been divided over whom to target, while Britain is a significant arms supplier to Venezuela.

    Diplomats said the turning point for EU governments was regional elections that appeared to favor Maduro’s ruling Socialists last month. Polls had suggested the opposition would easily win a majority but in the end it won only a handful of governorships, according to the pro-government electoral board. However, the decisions taken by EU ambassadors at a meeting on Wednesday only prepare the legal basis for sanctions, without any names. Travel bans and asset freezes would only be imposed on Venezuelan officials “should the evolution of the situation require it”, a second EU diplomat said.

    Once approved, the arms embargo will be accompanied by a ban on exports of equipment that could be used for internal repression and of surveillance equipment, the diplomats said. These sanctions will be gradual, selective, flexible and reversible, stressed the sources, who insisted that they are not designed to affect the Venezuelan population in general. Their objective is, they said, to promote a credible and meaningful process that can lead to a peaceful solution negotiated in the country. In addition, the sources advanced that community ministers also hope to adopt conclusions on Venezuela on Monday.

PRESIDENT TRUMP PROHIBITS  180 AMERICAN BUSINESSES TO MAKE DEALS WITH CUBAN COMPANIES CONTROLLED BY THE MILITARY

       WASHINGTON, D.C.     --The Trump administration is imposing new travel and commerce restrictions on Cuba aimed at limiting Americans from doing business with entities connected to Havana’s military, intelligence and security services. The new regulations, which President Donald Trump ordered in a June memorandum, tighten many restrictions on personal travel and trade that were loosened after negotiations between former President Barack Obama’s administration and the Castro regime. Effective Thursday, Americans who want to travel to Cuba will have to go with an organized tour group run by a U.S. company, and a representative of the company must accompany the travelers. Individual travel for a personal nature — what the administration calls “people-to-people, nonacademic” travel — is no longer permitted, senior administration officials said Wednesday.

     American travelers will also be prohibited from dealing with at least 180 Cuban businesses deemed to have links to the Cuban security apparatus. The banned businesses — posted Wednesday on the State Department’s Cuba Restricted List — include mostly government-linked holding companies and subsidiaries, but also dozens hotels and shops across the island. Business agreements and “people-to-people” travel arrangements made before Trump announced his new Cuba policy in June were excepted from the new rules. The changes come amid a period of heightened diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and Cuba over unsolved “sonic attacks” that have injured at least 24 U.S. diplomatic personnel stationed in Havana. Even before the attacks were revealed, the Trump administration had sought to reverse much of the previous administration’s rapprochement with Cuba.

    The revised polices are intended to hold the Castro regime accountable for suppression of democratic rights and “empower the Cuban people” to achieve economic and political liberty, according to an administration official who spoke to reporters on background. Groups that advocate for greater engagement with Cuba were dismayed by the administration’s announcement, arguing that the new rules would only serve to harm the island’s burgeoning private sector economy. Collin Laverty, president of Cuba Educational Travel, called the policy “out of touch” with both Cuban and American interests. “U.S. backtracking on Cuba could not come at a worse time,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “Restrictions on trade and travel are hammering Cuba’s private sector, which has grown through interaction with U.S. travelers and U.S. companies, and put the U.S. on the sidelines, politically and economically, at a time of transition in Cuba.”

November 8, 2017

RUSSIA COULD SPARK A SECOND CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS BY RE-OPENING ITS HAVANA MILITARY BASE

     MOSCOW, RUSSIA    - Russia could re-open its Cuban military base in a return to Cold War war games. Two key advisors to Vladimir Putin have publicly urged the Russian President to re-open their Cuban base. Russia shut down the the Lourdes SIGINT Station in 2002, but advisors have called for the key military facility to be made active. Moscow’s influence in Cuba was a major cause of concern during the Cold War, cultivating in the 1962 missile crisis.

    This saw the United States force Russia into a game of chicken, with a sea-based military blockade after discovering plans to construct a missile base, which saw then US President John F Kennedy declare victory. It is mythicised as the closest the world has come to all-out nuclear war - but with all eyes on North Korea this year the real danger could be right under America’s nose. Cuba is located just 90 miles from Florida and a renewed Russian presence on the island would set alarm bells ringing in Washington.

     The old base was partly converted into a university after it was closed by the Kremlin. But a shock re-opening looks increasingly likely with two of Mr Putin’s allies calling for the move. Frants Klintsevic, deputy head of the country’s senate defence and security committee, said: "Our base on Cuba, naval and aviation, should exist. It's a key issue." He first brought up the issue when he said a Russian presence in Cuba is "extremely desirable". Mr Klintsevic said: "It should definitely be done and it should be intensified today.... "Our presence should be everywhere. "I want much more efforts to be made in this regard than is being made now, and I will even insist on that."

U.S. CONDEMNS VENEZUELAN ACTION AGAINST OPPOSITION LEADER FREDDY GUEVARA 

        WASHINGTON, D.C. --  The United States on Tuesday condemned the Venezuelan government's "increasing disrespect for democracy and fundamental human rights" after authorities targeted an opposition lawmaker who has sought refuge in the Chilean embassy.

     "By attempting to strip the democratically elected National Assembly's Vice President and opposition leader Freddy Guevara of his parliamentary immunity and barring him from leaving the country, the regime is pursuing yet another extreme measure to close the democratic space in Venezuela, criminalize dissent and control information," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

     The spokeswoman condemned Maduro's "growing lack of respect" for "democracy and fundamental rights in Venezuela." According to Nauert, in trying to strip Guevara, "democratically elected" of his parliamentary immunity and prohibit him from leaving the country, the Maduro regime adopts "another extreme measure to close the democratic space in Venezuela, criminalize dissent and control information." Last Friday, the Supreme Court of Venezuela urged the Constituent Assembly to lift the parliamentary immunity to Guevara and declared that he should be tried for public incitement and other crimes, for which the Embassy of Chile in Caracas has welcomed him for fear for his personal safety.

ANDRES ELOY CAMEJO: APPEARANCE IN THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF DIPLOMATS FROM MORE THAN 20 COUNTRIES CONFIRMS THAT WE ARE NOT ALONE"

       CARACAS, VENEZUELA     -- This is a great support with high international repercussion, the deputy Andrés Eloy Camejo said concerning the appearance in the session of the National Assembly of diplomatic representatives from more than 20 countries, demanding the respect to the autonomy of the parliament and the cessation of the persecution of the Venezuelan dissidence on the part of the national government. On Tuesday, the leaders of the National Assembly (AN) received 21 representatives of the diplomatic corps accredited in the country, including diplomats from France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, Guatemala, European Union, Brazil, Peru, Paraguay, Colombia, USA, Holy See, Germany, Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Poland.

     With this show of diplomatic solidarity there is evidence of the great concern that exist in the world, for the flagrant violation of human and political rights, to which we are subjected with ever greater fury, the bench of democratic unity by the government of Nicolás Maduro, which pursues its only perverse object of ending the National Assembly and with it, the will of more than 14 million Venezuelans who voted for us in 2015, he said. State parliamentarian Barinas warning was that the National Assembly is the only legitimate body authorized by the Constitution to withdraw parliamentary immunity to a deputy.

     "Here we are at the National Assembly, fulfilling the mandate of our people and whatever happens, we will continue from this forum of struggle, working tirelessly for the change that must take place in the country, because we are right and we are assisted by legality, very in spite of a National Constituent Assembly, which the government intends to use as a court of inquisition and annihilation of the opposition leadership, "he said. Finally, he ratified his support for the first vice president of the National Assembly, Freddy Guevara, who today suffers the attacks and excesses of a dictatorship of a new order, which insatiably attacks and persecutes all those who raise their voices to protest.

                           November 7, 2017

TEXAS GUNMAN KILLED 26 PEOPLE AT CHURCH

     WASHINGTON, D.C.     -Texas church gunman Devin Kelley killed 26 PEOPLE IN THE MASSACRE SUNDAY, according to friends of the assassin. The friends asked not to be named as the family has decided to not speak to the media about his death at this time, though a few have posted on social media. The gunman who killed 26 people at a Texas church had sent threatening texts to his mother-in-law -- who attended the church he targeted, authorities said Monday.

    Devin Patrick Kelley had domestic problems and texted his mother-in-law as recently as Sunday morning, not long before he carried out the largest mass shooting in Texas history. "We know that he expressed anger towards his mother-in-law, who attends this church," said Freeman Martin of Texas' Department of Public Safety. But his mother-in-law was not inside the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs when Kelley sprayed the congregation with gunfire. The youngest killed was a 17-month-old girl, her family told CNN. The oldest was 77 years old, Martin said.

     Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called the slaughter "the largest mass shooting" in the state's history. But it's still unclear exactly what motivated the killer. "We know that his ex- in-laws or in-laws came to church here from time to time," Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told CNN. "They were not here yesterday. So we don't know why he actually showed up yesterday." Those killed ranged in age from 18 months to 77 years old, Martin said. The toddler's family gave the girl's age as 17 months. Ten of the 20 people wounded remain in critical condition Monday, authorities said. And virtually no one at the church was left unscathed, Tackitt said. "I think nearly everyone had some type of injury," the sheriff told reporters Monday.

VENEZUELA NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ACCUSES DICTATOR MADURO OF SINKING BOND PRICES IN SECRET BUY-BACK PLAN 

        CARACAS, VENEZUELA --  The Venezuelan Parliament today accused the head of state, DICTATOR Nicolás Maduro, of announcing the restructuring of the foreign debt to sink the price of Venezuelan bonds, with the objective of being repurchased by funds willing to offer better payment terms. This was denounced today by the Deputy Rafael Guzmán, on behalf of the Finance Committee of the National Assembly opposition majority, which is the only power not aligned with the Chavez government in Venezuela.

    "What is the intention? That this debt be bought at the price of a skinny chicken and then enter into a bilateral negotiation with these funds," Guzmán said from Parliament, where he reproached the government for offering "inside information" to these " close funds. " The opposition deputy recalled that some bonds of the Venezuelan Government and its state company Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) fell from 30 to 40% last week after Maduro ordered the refinancing of all the public external debt of the Caribbean country.

    According to Guzmán, this circumstance was used by some investment funds in Europe and Asia to get hold of those bonds. "We saw that and it will continue to happen in the coming days," added Guzmán, who was convinced that the government wants to continue paying its debt and will not go into suspension of payments or "default". Maduro announced on Thursday his government's intention to refinance all of Venezuela's and PDVSA's foreign debt, which must pay billions in government and PDVSA government bonds for the remainder of the year and more than $9 billion in 2018. The opposition and many analysts see it unlikely that holders will accept a restructuring of the debt if the Maduro government does not change central planning policies that have led the country to hyperinflation and the most serious economic crisis in its history.

FITCH DOWNGRADES VENEZUELA'S LONG-TERM CURRENCY ISSUER DEFAULT RATING TO "C"

       NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK    --Venezuela’s long-term issuer default rating was downgraded to a ‘C’ amid the country’s challenges with bond payments, Fitch Ratings said in a press release. “Fitch Ratings has downgraded Venezuela’s Long-Term Foreign Currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) to ‘C’ from ‘CC,'” the release said on Friday. The move is related to Venezuela’s decison on Friday to pursue a renegotiation of its sovereign external debt obligations, the release said. Also adding to the burden, the Venezuelan government missed payments on its outstanding sovereign bonds that are currently within their 30-day grace periods, the release added.

    Venezuela’s gross international reserves have continued to fall in 2017, dropping by nearly $1 billion in the year through November to $10.1 billion, the release noted. Earlier, the International Monetary Fund has determined that Venezuela broke the terms of its agreement with the institution for failing to provide the required economic data. “The Board approved a decision that finds Venezuela in breach of its obligation under Article VIII, Section 5 of the Fund’s Articles of Agreement for the failure to provide, by the required date, certain data on the operations of the social security institute and on total exports and imports of merchandise, in terms of local currency values, according to countries of destination and origin,” the fund’s Executive Board said in a statement.

    Under the terms of its agreement with the IMF, Venezuela is required to report the data along with other key economic indicators. The Executive Board said it would give Venezuela six months to adopt remedial measures before it meets again to consider the country’s progress in implementing its agreement. The Executive Board remains hopeful that its decision will spur Venezuela to re-engage with the IMF. The IMF had reportedly been considering a rescue plan for Venezuela as the country suffers from severe economic recession. Caracas cut off formal relations with the IMF in 2007. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced on Thursday a decree to refinance and restructure the foreign debt and all payments. He said he would appoint a special presidential commission to carry out the procedure.

November 6, 2017

VENEZUELA'S SUPREME TRIBUNAL OF JUSTICE: FREDDY GUEVARA MUST BE TRIED BY ORDINARY CRIMINAL COURTS  

     CARACAS, VENEZUELA    -- This Friday, November 3, in plenary meeting of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, chaired by Magistrate Maikel Moreno, The Court orders that the citizen Freddy Guevara allegedly continuously committed crimes of association, repeatedly public instigations and use of adolescent to commit crimes. The aforementioned crimes are included respectively in articles 37 of the Organic Law against Organized Crime and Financing of Terrorism; article 285 of the Venezuelan Penal Code in force in relation to article 99, and article 264 of the Organic Law for the Protection of Children and Adolescents.

      In the decision, with a presentation by the judge Marco Antonio Medina Salas, vice president of the Administrative Political Chamber of the High Court, it is established that in cases of crimes considered in flagrante delicto, such as the aforementioned, the preliminary hearing of merit according to the provisions established in article 200 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and article 116 of the Organic Law of the Supreme Court of Justice, and that according to judgment No. 1684 of November 4, 2008 issued by the Constitutional Chamber, any prosecution of Freddy Guevara must be carried out by competent ordinary courts, in accordance with the provisions of article 378 of the Organic Code of Criminal Procedure.

     Likewise, the Plena Court ordered to send certified copies to the National Constituent Assembly to determine what is appropriate in this case, as well as to the Public Ministry, so that the processing of the corresponding criminal case continues. Likewise, it ordered the prohibition of Freddy Guevara's departure from the country based on the provisions of article 26 of the Magna Carta, and to immediately notify the Identification, Migration and Aliens Administration Service (SAIME).

VENEZUELAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY GIVES FULL SUPPORT TO FREDDY GUEVARA BEFORE ACCUSATION OF THE SUPREME TRIBUNAL OF JUSTICE

        CARACAS, VENEZUELA --  The opposition majority that currently controls the NATIONAL ASSEMBLY of Venezuela today gave a boost to the first vice-president of that power, Freddy Guevara, before what they describe as "political persecution" against him by the government of Nicolás Maduro supported by the Supreme Court (TSJ ). The parliamentary faction of the opposition Primero Justicia (PJ) party - in which the president of the Chamber, Julio Borges, and the opposition leader Henrique Capriles - sympathized with Guevara before the order of the Supreme Court to lift his parliamentary immunity and prosecute him.

     In an official statement, the deputies pointed out that the decision of the highest court to request the ruling National Constituent Assembly (ANC) to lift Guevara's immunity "demonstrates once again the violation of the constitutional and democratic order, as well as the serious persecution policy by the Maduro regime. " For PJ, this act "is completely detached from the constitutional framework", since it is the Parliament "the only institution that can authorize the acquiescence to the parliamentary immunity of the deputies", for which they reiterate that they are unaware of any act dictated by the TSJ and the "illegitimate" ANC.

     This Friday, the highest court declared - without a previous decision of the House - that Guevara should be tried by criminal courts because "allegedly incurred permanently in the crimes of association, continued public instigation and use of adolescent to commit a crime", without specifying more details about these crimes. In addition, he indicated that Guevara has committed several crimes "in flagrante delicto", also without explaining if they are the same crimes mentioned above. Meanwhile, it is unknown if Guevara remains in the Caribbean country and will go to trial - as the opposition leader Leopoldo López, founder of the party in which the deputy, Voluntad Popular, militates - or if he will be exiled as several other Venezuelan opposition authorities accused by of the Supreme.

MEXICO CONDEMNS THE WITHDRAWAL OF PALIAMENTARY IMMUNITY TO FREDDY GUEVARA 

       MEXICO CITY, MEXICO   -- The Government of Mexico condemns the decision of the Supreme Court of Justice of Venezuela to proceed with the withdrawal of parliamentary immunity and the prosecution of the First Vice President of the National Assembly, Freddy Guevara, including the prohibition to leave the country.

     "These types of measures illegally limit the exercise of the functions of the members of the National Assembly, elected by popular vote, and are not recognizing the necessary separation of powers necessary for full democracy and respect for the rule of law," Mexico states in a statement published in a bulletin of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE). The text indicates that the Government of Mexico "considers urgent the restoration of the democratic order, through credible negotiations and in good faith among the different Venezuelan actors."

    The note from the Executive also "calls for avoiding any act that might contribute to the polarization of the Venezuelan society and the deepening of the current political, economic and social crisis that our brother country is going through." It should be noted that the Supreme Court of Justice of Venezuela on Friday paved the way to put Guevara on trial, declaring that he allegedly incurred public incitement and other crimes, after having requested that his parliamentary immunity be lifted, reported

November 4, 2017

CANADA SLAPS SANCTIONS ON 59 PEOPLE IN VENEZUELA, RUSSIA AND SOUTH SUDAN  

     OTTAWA, CANADA   -- Canada is taking aim at corruption and rights abuses in Russia, Venezuela and South Sudan by imposing targeted sanctions on 52 individuals, including Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. It is the first use of the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, the so-called Magnitsky law which won final approval in Parliament two weeks ago. The law allows for sanctions against individuals who the federal government holds responsible for, or complicit in, gross violations of internationally recognized human rights or acts of significant corruption.

     The first sanctions under that act are aimed at 30 individuals tied to Russia, 19 Venezuelan officials, including Maduro, and three individuals from South Sudan. The law will freeze any assets they may hold in Canada and render them inadmissible to Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The Russians named Friday are linked to fraud uncovered by Magnitsky and to the violations of his legal and human rights during his investigation and pretrial detention, including psychological and physical abuse that led to his death. The Magnitsky law was passed with cross-party support in Parliament.

     It almost immediately drew the ire of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who complained that Canada was playing “unconstructive political games.” The Russian embassy said the law would cause irreparable harm to Canada-Russia relations. These warnings cut no ice with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who welcomed the use of a new tool against abusers. “Canada is determined to protect human rights and combat corruption worldwide,” she said in a statement on Friday. “Today’s announcement sends a clear message that Canada will take action against individuals who have profited from acts of significant corruption or who have been involved in gross violations of human rights.”

VENEZUELA BONDS FALL WITH FORCE AFTER DEBT RESTRUCTURING ANNOUNCEMENT

        CARACAS, VENEZUELA --  President Nicolas Maduro’s cash-strapped socialist government invited Venezuelan bondholders to a Nov. 13 meeting in Caracas as a shock decision to restructure the OPEC nation’s foreign debt sent prices plunging on Friday. Vice President Tareck El Aissami, who is on a U.S. blacklist for alleged drug trafficking, said the country remained committed to paying all its debt, but wanted to reformulate terms with creditors. “A sovereign process of debt renegotiation is beginning,” said El Aissami, who is heading Venezuela’s debt committee despite having no known prior experience on the matter.

      El Aissami gave an email address for bondholders to write to and added that Economy Minister Simon Zerpa - also under U.S. sanctions on graft charges - would be on his committee too. Venezuelan bond prices took a beating in trading on Friday after Maduro’s surprise announcements the previous evening. The $753 million 2018 bond plunged 31 points, while the $3 billion 2026 bond and $4.2 billion 2031 papers both slumped about 10 points, with yields surging to record levels. State oil company PDVSA’s 2021 bond was down 20 points while the 2022 paper dropped nearly 18 points, Reuters data showed. Maduro, the 54-year-old successor to Hugo Chavez, said late on Thursday that PDVSA would make this week’s $1.1 billion payment on a maturing bond which had been the immediate point of anxiety for investors.

    But he then announced a new commission to study the refinancing and restructuring of all future payments on foreign debt, which include about $50 billion in bonds. Refinancing usually involves a voluntary operation in which investors agree to exchange one set of securities for another, whereas a restructuring implies a forced negotiation. Venezuela has few avenues to take either because of President Donald Trump’s sanctions and skepticism that Maduro is serious about overhauling a moribund economy. Aimed at squeezing the ruling Socialist Party whom Washington accuses of installing a dictatorship, Trump’s measures bar U.S. banks from participating in or even negotiating new debt deals. Venezuela’s move could create a sovereign debt crisis of a scale not seen in Latin America since the massive 2001 default in Argentina that shut it out of markets for years.

MILITARY PROSECUTOR WORRIED ABOUT "GROWING CRIME RATE" IN VENEZUELAN ARMY 

       CARACAS, VENEZUELA   -- According to The New Herald, the military officer requested the Venezuelan Ministry of Defense to find a solution to the institutional deterioration. “Anarchy and high crime rate prevailing in Venezuela also seem to have infected the barracks,” concluded the military general prosecutor, Edgar José Rojas Borges, in an “alarming” letter addressed to the Venezuelan Minister of Defense, Vladimir Padrino López.

     In the letter, made available to daily newspaper The New Herald, Rojas Borges voiced “great concern about a steep increase” in the events of theft, run-outs and abuse of authority in the Venezuelan armed forces. The senior officer stressed the need to establish urgently a high-level working group to “deal with a problem that threatens to get out of hand.”

     “I respectfully ask you to ponder on the possibility of implementing a working group with the military chiefs of staff in order to set viewpoints and find solutions to this problem that is deteriorating our National Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB),” Brigadier General Rojas Borges pointed out. In his letter, Rojas Borges put the blame on lack of guidance for natural commanders and the failure of institutions to shape a culture of values and principles. He also warned against impunity, as the soldiers involved in crimes are protected by their superiors.

November 3, 2017

DICTATOR MADURO'S ANNOUNCEMENTS REFLECT THE INFLATIONARY CRISIS IN VENEZUELA  

     CARACAS, VENEZUELA   --  President Nicolás Maduro made several economic announcements yesterday reflecting the inflationary asphyxiation suffered by the country because, in addition to reporting the fifth salary increase so far this year, he said that the 100,000 bolivars bill will begin to circulate. The first of the measures was an increase of 30% in the monthly minimum wage, which increases it from 136,544 bolivars to 177,507 bolivars, amount equivalent to 53 dollars according to the highest official exchange rate of reference (3,345 bolivars per dollar).

     This increase equivalent to $ 12 is the fifth increase in the minimum wage that the Venezuelan head of state has ordered so far in 2017. The increase benefits not only workers but also pensioners and retirees, who also receive a bonus " of war "in addition to the salary that increased today to 53,252 bolívares (about 16 dollars). Maduro also announced an increase of 10 tax units to the food bonus, which are received by active workers, so that it goes from 21 to 31 tax units, equivalent to a total of 279,000 bolivars ($ 83). This bonus is not given to pensioners or retirees. Thus, the monthly integral salary totals 456,507 bolívares (about 137 dollars).

    A few minutes after Maduro announced the increase, the opposition deputy and president of the Finance Committee of Parliament, José Guerra, said that this increase does not contribute to the economy and, on the contrary, considered that the president is "turning off the candle with gasoline of airplaine". Among the "Christmas start" announcements Maduro also reported that a "special Christmas bonus" of 500,000 bolivars (about 150 dollars) will be delivered to 4 million households through the country's card. "I have approved the resources to deliver a special Christmas bonus to 4 million homes of 500,000 bolivares for women and the Venezuelan household. 500,000 bolívares in a bond through the card of the fatherland, "explained Maduro.

VENEZUELA ENTERS THE RECORD BOOK, OFFICIALLY HYPER INFLATES

        CARACAS, VENEZUELA -- Venezuela’s inflation has officially become the 57th official, verified episode of hyperinflation and been added to the Hanke-Krus World Hyperinflation Table, which is printed in the authoritative Routledge Handbook of Major Events in Economic History (2013). An episode of hyperinflation occurs when the monthly inflation rate exceeds 50 percent for 30 consecutive days. Venezuela's monthly inflation rate first exceeded 50 percent on November 3rd and continues to do so, sitting at 131 percent as of December 11, 2016.

     The peak monthly inflation rate thus far was 221 percent, which is relatively low in the context of hyperinflations. This and more is documented in detail in the paper "Venezuela Enters the Record Book: The 57th Entry in the Hanke-Krus World Hyperinflation Table," newly published in the Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise Studies in Applied Economics working paper series. When a country experiences periods of hyperinflation that are broken up by 12 or more consecutive months with a monthly inflation rate below 50%, the periods are defined as separate episodes of hyperinflation.

    This episode of hyperinflation most likely occurred from December 2009 to mid- January 2011. Using black-market exchange-rate data, and calculations based on purchasing power parity, it is determined that the North Korean hyperinflation peaked in early March 2010, with a monthly rate of 496% (implying a 6.13% daily inflation rate and a price-doubling time of 11.8 days). When used rice price data, we calculated the peak month to be mid-January 2010, with a monthly rate of 348% (implying a 5.12% daily inflation rate and a price-doubling time of 14.1 days). All of these data were obtained August 13, 2012 from Daily NK, an online newspaper that focuses on issues relating to North Korea.

VENEZUELA'S DICTATOR NICOLAS MADURO LAUNCHES NEW 100,000-BOLIVAR BANKNOTE 

       CARACAS, VENEZUELA   -- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro launched on Wednesday a new highest denomination banknote worth 100,000 bolivars (about $30 at the highest official exchange rate or $2.50 at the black market rate), which will go into circulation on Thursday. “As of this week, the new 100,000 bolivars bill will go into circulation ... to proceed to strengthen the policy of protection, social security of workers and the Venezuelan family,” Maduro said on the state radio and television channel.

    Venezuela has been facing a shortage of banknotes and the Venezuelan Government blamed that in part on alleged money smuggling to the neighboring country Colombia. Therefore, Maduro ordered the Minister of Interior and Justice, Nestor Reverol, to distribute the new 100,000-bolivar bill on Thursday under “great vigilance.” Another factor is the soaring inflation, for which the figures have not been provided by the Central Bank since 2015, but which, according to Parliament, has accumulated 536.2 percent so far in 2017.

    The shortage of cash has led to long lines of people queuing up daily at the banks, where only between 5,000 and 10,000 bolivars (about $1.5 to $3 – or $0.15-$0.30 at the black market rate) can be withdrawn per day from ATMs. Maduro suggested on Wednesday to his ministers that “the definitive solution” to the undersupply of banknotes would be that 95 percent of the commercial transactions in the country, ranging from bus tickets to metro services, become electronic. “That the use of physical currency be replaced, as it is happening in the whole world in general, ... I think is the basic solution because these people will continue to wage war on our banknotes,” Maduro added.

November 2, 2017

NEW YORK CITY ATTACKER WAS LINKED TO THE ISLAMIC STATE AND WAS RADICALIZED IN THE UNITED STATES  

     NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK -- A 29-year-old man drove a rental truck into a pedestrian and bike path along the Hudson River in Lower Manhattan in New York City Tuesday, killing eight people and injuring 11 in the deadliest terror attack on the city since 9/11. Officials have identified the suspect as Sayfullo Saipov, an immigrant who moved to the US legally from Uzbekistan in 2010. He was shot in the abdomen by a New York City police officer at the scene, and is currently in custody at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan. Police have interviewed him and are currently waiting for an update on his condition.

     Investigators think that the attack was premeditated and inspired by ISIS. “It appears that Saipov had been planning this for a number of weeks — he did this in the name of ISIS,” John Miller, the New York deputy police commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, said at a news briefing on Wednesday. “He appears to have followed, almost exactly to a T, the instructions that ISIS has put out in its social media channels before with instructions to their followers on how to carry out such an attack.” “It appears he will have some connectivity to individuals who were the subjects of investigations, though he himself was not," Miller said.

     According to officials, Saipov left a note in the truck pledging allegiance to ISIS, which said in Arabic, “The Islamic State will endure forever.” President Trump tweeted on Tuesday night that he has ordered the Department of Homeland of Security to “step up our already Extreme Vetting Program.” “Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!” he continued. And on Wednesday, he blamed the attack on immigration policies promoted by Democrats that he thought were too generous. “The terrorist came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based,” he tweeted.

RODRIGO LONDOÑO, KNOWN AS TIMOCHENKO, WAS NOMINATED AS CANDIDATE FOR 2018 COLOMBIA PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

        BOGOTÁ, COLOMBIA --The Revolutionary Alternative Force of the Commons has announced Rodrigo Londoño, popularly known as Timochenko and former leader of the guerrilla group, as their candidate in the 2018 Colombian presidential election as the group awaits the legalization of its newly established political party by Colombia's National Electoral Council, according to Caracol Radio.

     Until this process is complete, the FARC will be unable to advance with the formal registration of their presidential candidate and congress people. The decision to nominate Timochenko was made in a majority vote by FARC members, despite their belief that his chances of reaching the presidential palace are minimal. However, they expressed their desire to have a candidate run in next year's presidential election, forming political coalitions in the process that would eventually run a candidate with greater chances of winning in future campaigns.

     FARC members noted that this would entail a transitional government aimed at consolidating peace throughout the country. FARC representatives also stated that in the coming days they will officially announce Pablo Catatumbo, Ivan Marquez and other members who will run for congressional seats, according to Caracol Radio. With Timochenko at its head, the FARC faces many obstacles as it attempts to transform from a guerrilla group into a political party, with members pointing to the lack of will shown by the administration of Juan Manuel Santos to carry out true peace as social leaders and FARC members continue to be targeted by paramilitary forces and the Colombian military.

LAWMAKERS CALL FOR INVESTIGATION INTO STATE DEPARTMENT'S RESPONSE TO ATTACKS ON U.S. DIPLOMATS IN CUBA

       WASHINGTON, D.C.   -- The “sonic” attacks on U.S diplomats stationed in Cuba began during President Obama’s administration and continued through the end of his term and beyond. The State Department was aware something nefarious and dangerous was going on in Cuba, but apparently did absolutely nothing substantive to find out what it was or took any real measures to protect Americans on the island.

     There should not be any doubt in anyone’s mind Obama and his State Department were more concerned with protecting their Cuba policy “legacy” than they were protecting Americans in Cuba. What a thorough investigation can bring to light is who in the White House and the State Department was behind the decision to ignore Cuba’s aggression against Americans and continue exposing our diplomats to those dangerous attacks.

    A bipartisan group of five House members asked Congress’s independent watchdog to begin the probe, with an emphasis on how the State Department responded to the incidents and is working to prevent future attacks. “What was the timeline of events involving the attacks in Cuba and State’s response to the attacks and the medical needs of those affected?” the lawmakers wrote in a series of questions for the GAO to review. “To what extent did State follow its policies and procedures with respect to the attacks in Cuba? To what extent has State taken steps to identify lessons learned by reviewing the facts surrounding, and its response to the attacks?”

November 1st., 2017

THE U.S. PLANS TO OPPOSE U.N. RESOLUTION CONDEMNING EMBARGO AGAINST CUBA  

     WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As it has every year since 1991, the United Nations General Assembly will vote Wednesday on a Cuba-promoted resolution condemning the U.S. embargo against the island and predictably it will once again pass. The only suspense was whether the United States would revert to its no vote for the 25th time, and on Tuesday the State Department confirmed that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Halley will vote no on the nonbinding resolution. “The Trump administration policy gives greater emphasis to advancing human rights and democracy in Cuba, while maintaining engagement that advances U.S. interests,” said Heather Nauert, a State Department spokeswoman .

     Last year under President Barack Obama, the United States broke with tradition and abstained -- sending a signal about warming relations with Cuba. U.S. ally Israel, which votes with the United States on the embargo question, also abstained, making the vote in favor of the resolution 191 to two abstentions. But since then, the rapprochement between the two former adversaries that began on Dec. 17, 2014 has stalled, especially after the United States said Cuba was responsible for failing to protect its diplomats from mysterious sonic attacks that have harmed the health of 24 diplomats that were stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

     Cuba denies it bears responsibility for the attacks, but the United State pulled 60 percent of the personnel at its embassy and also expelled 15 Cuban diplomats (by Cuba’s count 17) from the Cuban Embassy in Washington. The United States also issued a travel warning for Cuba. President Donald Trump outlined a harder approach to Cuba during a June speech in Miami in which he said he would restrict almost all U.S. business dealings with enterprises owned or controlled by the Cuban military and discontinue individual people-to-people travel to Cuba. The regulations on those changes are still being written.

CUBA HAS AN "OCCUPYING ARMY" IN VENEZUELA, OAS SECRETARY GENERAL CLAIMS

        WASHINGTON, D.C. --   Cuba has an “occupation” army in Venezuela, according to Secretary General of the Organization of American States Luis Almagro. He spoke at a US Senate hearing on Wednesday, July 19, during which he expounded on Venezuela and Cuba’s long-standing relationship. “There are currently about 15,000 Cubans in Venezuela,” he said. “It’s like an occupation army from Cuba in Venezuela,” Secretary Almagro said during his testimony before US lawmakers.

      The diplomat, who has strongly condemned Maduro’s dictatorial regime in Venezuela, said: “If we don’t seek to free the prisoners and restore power in Venezuela, there will be no solution to the problem … Néstor Reverol, Benavides Torres and General Zavarce are responsible for every gunshot and every death in Venezuela.” The international community has taken away the regime’s impunity. Their disregard for constitutional order has become apparent. The Venezuela regime has blood on its hands and should be help accountable for that.

     “A hundred murders in more than 100 days of protest,” he said. “This goes against basic decency and human rights … The government, when it can’t win with the tool of dialogue, resorts to repression.” Almagro said he is in favor of applying sanctions on Maduro’s regime, claiming that no sanction will worsen the crisis of the Venezuelan people. “It is not a question of dismantling a dictatorship and returning to democracy,” he said. “It is about a whole structure of drug trafficking in the state.”

LUISA ORTEGA DIAZ: NICOLAS MADURO HAD TO RESIGN TO HIS POSITION AFTER THE SCANDAL OF THE NARCO-NEPHEWS

       CARACAS, VENEZUELA  --      Any head of state who WERE involved in a case as scandalous as the one that the international press has baptized with the name of the "narco-nephews", would have renounced to his position because of the embarrassment that is the fact that the president and the first lady of a country have two close relatives linked to drug trafficking. In the case of Nicolás Maduro and Cilia Flores, instead of renouncing the top position of the country, they preferred to say that they were being victimized by attacks from the empire, which is absolutely unacceptable, said the Venezuelan attorney in exile, Luisa Ortega Díaz.

      When Luisa Ortega was asked why her office had not acted in the case of the nephews of the Venezuelan presidential couple, Efraín Antonio Campo Flores and Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas, who have been convicted for conspiring to traffic and distribute 800 kilos of cocaine to the United States, the former prosecutor said that there was no inaction, since her office followed the regular channels to obtain further information from the United States government, but the file sent from that nation did not reach her hands on time. She maintains that what she knew about the case came through irregular channels, "I do not have the complete file."

     However, Luisa Ortega Díaz says that with the information she has on this case, she managed to open an investigation that is being carried out from Bogotá -where she is currently isolated- and that includes inquiries about Venezuelan government officials and people who appear to be involved in the drug trafficking conspiracy by which the Flores cousins were convicted in the Southern District Court of New York. – Hopefully, the official information from the United States will arrive to be able to process more quickly those involved in this drug trafficking case - the former official said.


 

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