Latest News
of SEPTEMBER 201
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September  30, 2017

U.S. CUTS EMBASSY STAFF IN CUBA, WARNS CITIZENS NOT TO VISIT THE ISLAND

      WASHINGTON, D.C.   --  The United States is cutting its diplomatic presence in Havana by more than a half and will warn U.S. citizens not to visit Cuba because of targeted attacks that have injured at least 21 U.S. personnel, a senior official said on Friday. “Until the government of Cuba can assure the United States of the safety of U.S. government personnel in Cuba, our embassy will be reduced to emergency personnel so as to minimize the number of U.S. government personnel at risk of exposure,” a senior State Department official told reporters. “Routine visa operations are suspended indefinitely,” said the official, who like others on a conference call with reporters spoke on condition of anonymity. He said non-essential embassy staff would be withdrawn as well as all family members.

     U.S. and congressional officials told Reuters on Thursday Washington was crafting a plan for a drawdown of staff from the Havana embassy in response to unexplained incidents that have harmed the health of some U.S. diplomats there. The Cuban government has denied any role and is investigating. But it has so far said it has been unable to determine the cause. The senior State Department official said that neither the United States nor Cuban governments had been able to identify who was responsible for the attacks but stressed that “the government of Cuba is responsible for taking all appropriate steps to prevent attacks on our diplomatic personnel in Cuba.”

     The partial evacuation, while depicted as a safety measure, may send a message of U.S. displeasure over Cuba’s handling of the matter and deliver another blow to former U.S. President Barack Obama’s policies of engagement with Cold War foe Cuba. Though Washington has not cast direct blame on Cuban authorities, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reminded Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez in Washington on Tuesday of Cuba’s obligation to protect diplomats and their families. The symptoms of the 21 U.S. embassy personnel harmed included “hearing loss, dizziness, tinnitus, balance problems, visual complaints, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues and difficulty sleeping,” the senior State Department official said. “Because our personnel’s safety is at risk and we are unable to identify the source of the attack, we believe that U.S. citizens may also be at risk and warn them not to travel to Cuba,” the official added.

US MILITARY'S PUERTO RICO RECOVERY TO BE LED BY LTG JEFFREY BUCHANAN, A DECORATED ARMY GENERAL

        WASHINGTON, D.C.  -- 
Lt. General Jeffrey Buchanan, from US Army North, has been tasked by the Pentagon to oversee the federal recovery efforts in the Caribbean-based commonwealth and is expected to take over the island’s command center that has been set up at the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan. A three-star general with a solid record of leadership in the war zone was named on Thursday to spearhead the U.S. military's relief efforts in storm-scarred Puerto Rico.

    Lt. General Jeffrey Buchanan, from U.S. Army North, has been tasked by the Pentagon to oversee the federal recovery efforts in the Caribbean-based commonwealth and is expected to take over the island’s command center that has been set up at the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan. The post comes as the Trump administration fights back against claims it's responded too slowly to the devastation triggered by Hurricane Maria just over a week ago.

     The appointment of Buchanan is intended to help speed that process along. The military effort on the island is expected to grow in the next few days. Buchanan boasts an impressive military career with experience that could prove beneficial to expediting relief efforts. He has served four tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. In 2003-2004 he was the director of operations for the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team. He then went on to command the 2nd Brigade, 75th Division (TSB) and deployed to Iraq to serve as an advisor to the Iraqi Special Police Commando Division. Upon his return stateside, he served as the director of operations for U.S. Army North. Puerto Rico is in the throes of a full-blown "humanitarian crisis," with washed-out roads, downed power lines and damaged infrastructure -- a scene President Trump intends to view first-hand next week.

VENEZUELAN MAGISTRATES SWORN IN BY THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY WILL TAKE POSSESSION OF OFFICES AT THE OAS HEADQUARTERS IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

         WASHINGTON, D.C.    --  The Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) appointed by the National Assembly (NA) will investigate Poliaragua's contempt for the order to free the 27 students of the Universidad Pedagógica Experimental Libertador (UPEL), once that power is constituted. next October 13th. Pedro Troconis, a member of the Criminal Cassation Chamber, said Friday through his Twitter account that "Poliaragua is not abiding by the order to release the 27 students therefore, the case will be reviewed by the Supreme Court in exile."

      The judges appointed and sworn in by the NA on July 21 and in exile after the accusations of "usurpation" made by President Nicolás Maduro, will officially take office on October 13 at the offices of the Organization of States (OAS) in Washington, D.C., confirmed Pedro Troconis yesterday. "We chose the OAS because we consider it to be an impartial body with a considerable number of states," Troconis explained in a statements to El Nacional Web. He added that the decision was made on September 17, after the magistrates held a debate and appointed Miguel Ángel Martín, a member of the Constitutional Chamber, as president of the TSJ in exile.

     "We can submit agreements (pronouncements) to governments and authorities to investigate officials who have committed crimes against humanity, drug trafficking or legitimation of capital," he said. It is expected that at the time of installation will present all jurists who are exiled in the United States, Colombia, Chile and Europe, they would have sufficient quorum to carry out the procedure. Some jurists took refuge in the embassies of Chile and Mexico, while others opted for exile. The TSJ appointed by the NA is not only recognized by the OAS, where it will be installed, but also by the European Parliament. Miguel Ángel Martín, president of the judiciary, made it official this week after meeting with European parliamentarians, confirmed Troconis.

September  29, 2017

US CONGRESS COMMITTEE APPROVES HUMANITARIAN AID FOR VENEZUELA

      WASHINGTON, D.C.   --  The House Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday approved a bill that would mandate the State Department to work with nongovernmental organizations to send food, medicine and technical assistance to Venezuela. The legislative proposal will now be forwarded to the plenary chamber for voting, when determined by the Republican leadership. The Democrat Eliot Engel bill would give the State Department 90 days to define a plan to distribute humanitarian aid.

      The plan would describe how Washington will gain support from international donors and countries in the region willing to provide technical and financial assistance to the South American country. In the event that the government of President Nicolás Maduro opposes distributing humanitarian aid, the bill provides that President Donald Trump would order the US embassy at the UN to seek votes to approve a resolution ordering Caracas to receive and distribute it. So far Maduro's government has refused to open a humanitarian channel on the grounds that it is not necessary, despite the acute shortage of food and medicines that afflicts Venezuelans.

     The bill also would give the State Department 180 days to hand over to Congress a report on the linkage of senior Venezuelan government officials in acts of corruption and drug trafficking. He would also order another report detailing the cooperation of the Venezuelan armed forces with Russia, China, Cuba and Iran. A similar version of Democrat Ben Cardin has only 13 sponsors since his May filing in the Senate. The lower house commission adopted the bill four days after Washington imposed immigration restrictions on Venezuelan officials.

VENEZUELAN GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVES  PREPARE PROPOSAL FOR INTERNAL DIALOGUE WITH  INTERNATIONAL MEDIATORS


        SANTO DOMINGO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC    -- 
The delegation of the Venezuelan government in the Dominican Republic informed THE PRESS on Thursday that THEY ARE preparing a dialogue proposal with the opposition, along with Dominican Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas and former Spanish President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. "We insist on the dialogue table, however the internal divisions that they (the opponents) have made it difficult to advance at the table, but we continue with the intention to advance, at the moment we are working on a proposal," says the coordinator of the delegation of the Government of Nicolás Maduro, Jorge Rodríguez.

      Rodríguez, mayor of the Libertador de Caracas municipality, spoke with reporters after holding a meeting for more than three hours with former President Zapatero and Foreign Minister Vargas at the Jaragua Hotel in Santo Domingo, these two former officials accompany the efforts of the Government and the opposition of Venezuela to establish mechanisms that could overcome the serious political, economic and social crisis that Venezuelan lives. This meeting took place after delegates from the opposition Democratic Mesa de Unidad (MUD) coalition refused to participate in an exploratory meeting scheduled for Wednesday (yesterday) in the Dominican capital.

      The MUD claimed that obstacles remained that needed to be removed in order to advance the exploratory phase of the dialogue. In addition to Zapatero and Vargas, the meeting was attended by Mayor Rodríguez, former Chancellor Roy Chaderton, Education Minister Elías Jaua, and the president of the National Constituent Assembly, Delcy Rodríguez. The latter, after an initial meeting with Zapatero and Vargas, reported that she would return to Venezuela. The rest of the Venezuelan official delegates will remain during the next hours in Santo Domingo in meetings with the chancellor Vargas and Zapatero, elaborating a proposal of dialogue. Rodríguez noted that the possibility of a meeting next week between the two parties in Santo Domingo, will depend "on what is agreed today (Thursday)."

JOSE GUERRA: ONLY THE VENEZUELAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY CAN APPROVE THE BUDGET

          CARACAS, VENEZUELA    --   The president of the Permanent Commission for Finance and Economic Development of Venezuela National Assembly, Deputy José Guerra, said it was "illegal" for the Government to announce the presentation of the Budget Law for Fiscal Year 2018 before the National Constituent Assembly for approval.

     Guerra explained that the Constituent Assembly is not empowered to approv laws, "it should be remembered that Article 313 of the Constitution, still in force, states that" The economic and financial administration of the State shall be governed by the budget approved annually by law. "And the laws that regulates the budgetary matter is the Organic Law of Financial Administration of the Public Sector and this is clear the competence of the AN in budgetary matters. " Therefore, "the government is going to repeat the same error of 2016, when ignoring the AN it went to the Supreme Court of Justice, so that Judges approved the budget and the Law of Indebtedness, and the result has been that there has not been external financing "

     "Investors know well that any indebtedness contracted by the Executive in the margin of the Constitution is null and cannot be recognized, as established in Article 312 of the current Constitution. It should be remembered that at this date the Government has not yet published the Fiscal Year Budget of 2017 ". Guerra said that "with the Constitution in hand, our responsibility to the country obliges us to avoid costly indebtedness that will later fall on the Venezuelan people and deprive the rightness in the management of the Treasury."

September  28, 2017

VENEZUELA PREPARES FOR WAR WITH U.S. WITH RIFLES, MISSILES AND WELL-OILED TANKS AT THE READY

      CARACAS, VENEZUELA  --  Venezuela's DICTATOR Nicolas Maduro called on his nation's military leaders Tuesday to prepare for war against the U.S. days after the Trump administration banned Venezuelan officials from entering the nation. "We have been shamelessly threatened by the most criminal empire that ever existed and we have the obligation to prepare ourselves to guarantee peace," said Maduro, who wore a green uniform and a military hat as he spoke with his army top brass during a military exercise involving tanks and missiles.

     "We need to have rifles, missiles and well-oiled tanks at the ready....to defend every inch of the territory if needs be," he added. It's unlikely Maduro has the manpower to stand up to the U.S., which has a much larger military. Maduro has maintained power in Venezuela despite mounting political and economic crises that has seen months of violent, anti-government demonstrations across the South American nation. Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino has backed Maduro during the upheaval, but some critics have begun a whisper campaign suggesting that the military could break away and support a coup against the president, Herbert Garcia, a former senior army general and minister, told Reuters in August.

     There have been three attempted military coups in Venezuela since 1992. Russia has defended Maduro in recent months, going so far as to accuse Trump of preparing for an invasion of Caracas. "We are strongly against unilateral sanctions against sovereign states," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in August. "We will carefully analyze the implications of the sanctions imposed by the United States, and their possible effect on the interests of Russia and Russian businesses. We can already say that they will not affect our willingness to expand and strengthen cooperation with the friendly nation of Venezuela and its people.

PRESIDENT TRUMP URGES THE EUROPEAN UNION TO SANCTION DICTATOR MADURO REGIME


        WASHINGTON, D.C.     -- 
 TUS President Donald Trump joined Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy for a White House press conference at which he urged the European Union to impose sanctions on Venezuela. US President Donald Trump on Tuesday urged the European Union to follow America's lead in slapping sanctions on the "oppressive" regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

     "We hope our friends in the EU will soon follow the United States, Canada, and many Latin American nations, in sanctioning the Maduro regime," Trump told a joint press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. "The citizens have endured immense starvation, suffering and dangers, political unrest, under the oppressive socialist regime," added the US leader. Washington has slapped sanctions on the crisis-stricken country -- including on Maduro himself -- and days ago added Venezuela to a new list of countries targeted by a US travel ban.

     Rajoy said his government was spearheading efforts within the EU to push for sanctions against Caracas. "What is happening in Venezuela is unacceptable," he said. "Traditionally it was a democratic country and at this time it is no longer a democratic country. They're political prisoners." "Sanctions are important," he added. "It is important there is an international coalition so democracy is restored. Venezuela has denounced the US sanctions and the travel ban announced this week, which the foreign ministry described as a form of "psychological torture."

"NOT ONLY GOOD INTENTIONS" ASKED THE OPPOSITION TO DICTATOR MADURO TO RESUME NEGOTIATIONS IN DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

          CARACAS, VENEZUELA    --   Venezuelan opposition asked Nicolás Maduro's government on Wednesday "facts, not just good intentions", to resume talks in the Dominican Republic in order to overcome the acute crisis that the oil country is going through, Reuters reports. On Tuesday, the opposition said it would not attend a second round of exploratory meetings in Santo Domingo, because the Socialist government did not meet the requirements that were raised at a first meeting two weeks ago.

      "Being in the Dominican Republic we felt that there was a desire to move forward (on the part of the representatives of the Government), but ... the time has come to say: we want works, we want facts, not good intentions," Luis Floido , spokesman for the opposition negotiating team. "The requirements are a sign of wanting to advance: it is with facts, and not with words, that we want to advance in a lasting agreement for Venezuelans," he said. "We cannot go to the Dominican Republic to talk about anything, we have to go talk about the issues presented."

    The opposition parties, grouped in the coalition Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD), demand that the socialist government meet four requirements to continue with the "exploratory meetings" under the backing of President Danilo Medina. The petitions include the cessation of "systematic violation of human rights," including "reduction" of politicians held in prisons in the country, "democratic" guarantees for governor elections in mid-October and appointment of another guarantor to accompany Mexico, Chile, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Paraguay, he said. The opposition accuses Maduro of commanding a "dictatorship" and dragging his country into an unprecedented economic crisis. The president, for his part, argues that the collapse is the product of an "economic war" led by the opposition, whose ultimate goal is to overthrow it.

September  27, 2017

VENEZUELA OPPOSITION WON'T ATTEND SCHEDULED TALK WITH DICTATOR MADURO REGIME

      CARACAS, VENEZUELA  --  Venezuela's opposition said on Tuesday it will not join scheduled talks with President Nicolas Maduro's government, undercutting a dialogue effort that has been viewed with suspicion by many adversaries of the ruling Socialist Party. The government has eagerly promoted the talks amid global criticism that Maduro is turning the country into a dictatorship, while the opposition has always insisted the talks should not distract from the country's economic crisis. The two sides held separate exploratory conversations with the president of the Dominican Republic earlier this month. But the opposition said the government has not made enough progress on issues such as human rights to warrant full bilateral talks.

      "Negotiation is not to go and waste time, to look at someone's face, but rather so that Venezuelans can have immediate solutions," opposition leader Henrique Capriles told reporters. "We cannot have a repeat of last year's failure," he said, referring to Vatican-brokered talks in 2016 that fell apart after the opposition said the government was simply using them as a stalling tactic. The opposition wants a date for the next presidential election, due by the end of 2018, with guarantees it will be free and fair. It is also calling for freedom for hundreds of jailed activists, a foreign humanitarian aid corridor and respect for the opposition-led congress. With Spain pushing for the European Union to adopt restrictive measures against members of the Venezuelan government, Maduro may be hoping to dodge further sanctions.

      The United States has issued several rounds of sanctions against Venezuela, primarily in response to the creation of an all-powerful super body called the Constituent Assembly that was elected in a July vote the opposition labelled fraudulent. Many countries have refused to recognise the assembly, which Maduro insists has brought peace to the country of 30 million. He says opposition leaders are coup-plotters seeking to sabotage socialism in oil-rich Venezuela under the guise of peaceful protests. Amid a fourth straight year of recession, millions of Venezuelans are suffering food shortages and rampant inflation, which the government blames on an "economic war" led by the opposition and fuelled by recent sanctions.

 SECRETARY TILLERSON MET TOP CUBA ENVOY AMID PROBE INTO US EMBASSY 'ATTACKS'


        WASHINGTON, D.C.     -- 
 Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will met Tuesday with Cuba's top diplomat, U.S. officials said, as the United States is seeking answers about mysterious "attacks" on its diplomats in Havana. Tillerson's meeting with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez is believed to be the highest-level diplomatic contact between the two countries since the start of President Donald Trump's administration in January. It comes as the delicate rapprochement between the longtime foes, started under President Barack Obama, is being jeopardized by mounting alarm over the unexplained incidents that have harmed at least 21 Americans.

     The meeting at the State Department will follow a speech Rodriguez delivered at the United Nations last week in which he harshly criticized Trump and his administration's policy toward the communist island. In a bid to show it's a good neighbor, Cuba has also offered to send doctors and humanitarian aid to Puerto Rico to help the U.S. respond to Hurricane Maria. For months after U.S. diplomats started falling ill in Havana, the U.S. and Cuba sought to prevent the issue from becoming an overriding irritant in the relationship. Neither country disclosed publicly that the incidents were occurring, even after Washington in May expelled two Cuban diplomats to protest Havana's failure to protect Americans on its soil.

     Yet while the U.S. has avoided blaming Cuba directly for the incidents, the growing public outrage has forced both countries to adopt a tougher tone. Tillerson has said that closing the newly re-opened U.S. Embassy in Havana is under consideration, and several U.S. lawmakers have called on the Trump administration to expel all Cuban diplomats from Washington. At least 25 U.S. diplomats and their families have suffered a variety of physical symptoms since late last year as a result of what Tillerson has described as "health attacks." Some have been diagnosed with mild brain injury and permanent hearing loss. U.S. investigators have pursued the possibility the attacks were carried out with some sort of sonic device but have been unable to determine the cause or a culprit.

DICTATOR MADURO CALLS US TRAVEL BAN 'PSYCHOLOGICAL TERRORISM'

          CARACAS, VENEZUELA    --   Venezuela accused the United States on Monday of "psychological terrorism" designed to bring down the government after it was included in a list of eight countries targeted by a travel ban. "As if it mattered to us to have a visa for the United States. I only go to the United States if I have to go to the UN, to the OAS," President Nicolas Maduro said, referring to the Organization of American States. Speaking at a meeting with governors broadcast by state television VTV, Maduro said US President Donald Trump has "isolated the United States" with his speech at the United Nations General Assembly last week, in which he called the Venezuelan leader a "dictator."

      He was speaking a day after Venezuela was added to a new list of countries targeted by the US ban, due to what it called poor security and a lack of cooperation with American authorities. The restrictions on Venezuela were limited to officials from a list of government agencies and their families, while full travel bans were placed on nationals from the other seven countries, including Chad and North Korea. Earlier, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza described Trump as acting like "the world's emperor." Amid an escalating war of words, Arreaza told the UN General Assembly that Venezuela would seek dialogue with Washington to "stop the madness and irrationality."

      Last week, he accused Trump of being "racist and supremacist" after the US leader told the annual UN gathering that the US was ready to act to restore Venezuela's democracy. "As a free people, we are ready to defend our sovereignty, our independence and our democracy in any scenario and in any way," Arreaza said. In a short statement to reporters following his speech, he added: "I insist, if they attack us on the ground, we will respond forcefully in the defense of our country and of our people." His foreign ministry said that "these types of lists... are incompatible with international law and constitute in themselves a form of psychological and political terrorism."

September  26, 2017

PRESIDENT TRUMP ADDS VENEZUELA TO NEW TRAVEL BAN LIST

      WASHINGTON, D.C.   --  US President Donald Trump announced on Sunday new travel restrictions for eight countries, replacing the previous ban on six Muslim-majority countries. The countries affected by the new measure are Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, North Korea and Venezuela, Trump said in an official statement. The new measures, which will take effect on Oct. 18, are aimed at “enhancing vetting capabilities and processes for detecting attempted entry into the United States by terrorists or other public-safety threats.”

      The new restrictions are based on a worldwide review of information that the affected countries share with the US, and are neither subject to religion nor race, senior government officials said in a press conference. “These restrictions are vital to national security,” a senior official said. Three countries – Chad, North Korea and Venezuela – have been added to the list, while restrictions on Sudan have been lifted due to improved cooperation with the US authorities, government representatives said.

    According to Trump’s statement, Venezuela was included on the new list because “the government in Venezuela is uncooperative in verifying whether its citizens pose national security or public-safety threats.” The US president explained that the Venezuelan government “fails to share public-safety and terrorism-related information adequately,” and “has been assessed to be not fully cooperative with respect to receiving its nationals subject to final orders of removal from the United States.” Trump added that the restrictions, therefore, focus only on “government officials of Venezuela who are responsible for the identified inadequacies.”

 EDITORIAL: AN ATTACK ON OUR DIPLOMATS


        WASHINGTON, D.C.     -- 
 An exploding cigar it wasn’t. But in the decades-long annals of hostility between Communist Cuba and the United States government, the apparent recent attack on our diplomats in Havana was a bizarre one. “At least 21 Americans have suffered headaches, hearing loss, memory issues and other symptoms after the baffling sonic incidents, some of them family members of embassy staffers who are stationed in Havana, according to the State Department,” NBC News reported. “The State Department has said the incidents began in the fall of 2016, with officials first learning of one in November.

     After more staffers reported problems in early 2017, a disturbing but mysterious pattern emerged ... some embassy employees reported they experienced bizarre, unexplained and physically uncomfortable noises or vibrations at their residences before they were afflicted.” Five Canadians were also apparently affected. The Cuban government denies any involvement in the attacks. But given the decades of historical enmity between Cuba and the United States — as well as the Castro government’s long-established penchant for dissembling — there are strong reasons for skepticism.
T
     he United States only reestablished diplomatic relations with the Communist island in August 2015, as part of President Barack Obama’s generous attempts at détente with Cuba, a policy shift we supported. (Some of the new agreements between the United States and Cuba were rolled back by President Donald Trump Five senators have called on the State Department to “declare all accredited Cuban diplomats in the United States persona non grata and, if Cuba does not take tangible action, close the U.S. Embassy in Havana.” That would be disappointing, but clearly something must be done. Fundamentally, we cannot maintain relations with a country that sees fit to attack and permanently injure our diplomats.

RUSSIA: U.S. WON'T STRIKE NORTH KOREA BECAUSE OF NUKES

          MOSCOW, RUSSIA    --   Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he is confident the United States is not going to attack North Korea, for the same reason Pyongyang says it is safe from a U.S. strike: Kim Jong Un has nuclear weapons. Lavrov’s statement came a day before Choi Sun Hee, the North America bureau chief of Pyongyang’s foreign ministry, arrived in Vladivostok to meet with senior Russian officials. Lavrov, who attended the United Nations General Assembly last week, said other world leaders he met in New York would agree with that statement, Russian news channel NTV reported Sunday.

     “The Americans are not going to attack North Korea,” Lavrov told NTV. “North Korea is not only suspected of having nuclear weapons, [the Americans] know [the North Koreans] actually have nuclear weapons.” But Lavrov also said no country could possibly retain all nuclear weapons information on an adversary. “Regarding this issue, as President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said, it is impossible to imagine the United States, or any other country, retaining 100 percent of all nuclear weapons information,” Lavrov said. He then added, “I am not defending North Korea. I am actually saying I agree with all people who make such analysis.” Lavrov also indirectly warned the United States against a military option on North Korea.

     “If the situation spirals out of control, in South Korea and North Korea, and Japan, Russia, and China, hundreds of thousands of innocent people will suffer,” Russia’s top diplomat said. Lavrov added the United States was able to carry out an attack on Iraq in 2003 “because it was 100 percent confident that there were no weapons of mass destruction.” North Korea’s Choi is expected to discuss the situation on the peninsula with Russian officials, Japanese television network NHK reported. Choi met with Russia’s Ambassador to Pyongyang Alexander Matsegora last Wednesday.

September  25, 2017

U.S. BOMBERS, FIGHTER JETS COUNTER 'RECKLESS BEHAVIOR' IN SHOW OF FORCE OFF NORTH KOREA

      PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA  --  U.S. Air Force B-1B bombers and F-15 jets, flying in international waters, carried out a show of force Saturday off the coast of North Korea aimed at countering what the Pentagon called Pyongyang's "reckless behavior." The Pentagon said the operation was taking place at the farthest point north of the Demilitarized Zone, which separates North and South Korea, that any U.S. fighter or bomber aircraft has flown this century.Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said the operation was aimed at "underscoring the seriousness with which we take (North Korea's) reckless behavior."

     And late Saturday, President Trump took another personal dig at North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Trump tweeted, "Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!" "This mission is a demonstration of U.S. resolve and a clear message that the President has many military options to defeat any threat," White said. "North Korea’s weapons program is a grave threat to the Asia-Pacific region and the entire international community. We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the U.S. homeland and our allies."

     The display of military might comes as tensions between Pyongyang and Washington are mounting, most recently with North Korea’s foreign minister blasting Trump in a speech Saturday at the United Nations. Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho called Trump “a mentally deranged person full of megalomania” who is holding “the nuclear button.” He said Trump’s personal insults against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, make "our rocket’s visit to the entire U.S. mainland inevitable all the more." In a speech this week before the U.N., Trump warned North Korea that it could face potential obliteration and mocked the North’s young leader as a “Rocket Man” on a “suicide mission.”

 KIM JONG UN CALLS PRESIDENT TRUMP 'DOTARD' AND 'FRIGHTENED DOG'


        PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA    -- 
 North Korea's leader called President Donald Trump "a frightened dog" and a "gangster fond of playing with fire" in an official statement released Thursday. Kim Jong Un responded to Trump's United Nations speech in a dispatch written in the first person. South Korea's government said it was the first such direct address to the world by any North Korean leader. "Far from making remarks of any persuasive power that can be viewed to be helpful to defusing tension, he made unprecedented rude nonsense one has never heard from any of his predecessors," Kim said. "A frightened dog barks louder."

     Hours later, North Korea's foreign minister reportedly said his country may test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean to fulfill Kim's vow to take the "highest-level" action against the United States. North Korea's Kim Jong Un calls Trump 'mentally deranged US dotard' 2:48. President Trump hit back Friday morning on Twitter. "Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!" he wrote. Trump, during his speech on the U.N. floor on Tuesday, threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea if the United States were "forced to defend itself."

     Kim, whom Trump has recently started deriding as "Rocket Man," said the threat had not fallen on deaf ears. "I will make the man holding the prerogative of the supreme command in the U.S. pay dearly for his speech calling for totally destroying [North Korea]," he added. In his bellicose statement Thursday, Kim also repeatedly referred to Trump as a "dotard" — an arcane term for a senile or weak-minded elderly person. "I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire," Kim said.

IRAN DISPLAYS BALLISTIC MISSILE WITH 2,000-KILOMETER RANGE

          TEHRAN, IRAN   --   The Iranian Armed Forces unveiled on Friday a new ballistic missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers during a military parade in Tehran, despite warnings from the United States against the country’s weapons program. The missile, called Khorramshahr, is capable of carrying multiple warheads, according to Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, a cited by state television.

    Hajizadeh, the Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), said that the missile was a smaller size and was more tactical, and it would be operational in the near future. This new weapon came despite Washington’s recent imposition of several rounds of sanctions on Iranian entities and individuals linked to the Tehran missile program. During the military parade, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani said that his country would increase its military capacity and strengthen its missile program.

    “We won’t ask for permission from anybody to defend our land,” Rouhani said during a massive military parade in the capital to mark the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). “Our arms have always been for the defense of our country and of regional nations in the face of major powers’ aggression and terrorism.” Rouhani’s intervention came after US President Donald Trump focused his scorn on Iran’s international nuclear deal earlier in the week during a speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

September  24, 2017

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY VICE PRESIDENT, FREDDY GUEVARA, THANKS THE LIMA GROUP FOR ITS POSITION ON CRISIS IN VENEZUELA

      CARACAS, VENEZUELA  --  The vice president of the Venezuelan Parliament, Freddy Guevara, thanked the 12 countries of the Lima Group today for their ratification of the position they have assumed on the situation in Venezuela, after this group published a second statement on the crisis. We are very "grateful to the 17 countries that signed the declaration of Lima and today ratified their position on Venezuela. The people back them up! "Guevara said in a message posted on his Twitter account.

     On Saturday, foreign ministers from 12 Latin American countries issued a statement in which they supported the Venezuelan government's approach to the Dominican Republic's opposition, but said that they should be developed with international support, "good faith", "objectives" and " clear deadlines ". In the "Declaration of the second meeting of the Lima Group on the situation in Venezuela," the foreign ministers reaffirmed "their commitment to keep a close watch on the situation in Venezuela" until "the full restoration of democratic order in that country."

     They also regretted that in Venezuela "the rupture of the democratic order is maintained, since its government violates constitutional norms, the will of the people and inter-American values, represses political dissent, holds political prisoners and violates human rights and fundamental freedoms of people". The foreign ministers also expressed "their full support and solidarity with the democratically elected National Assembly (Parliament), as well as their commitment to enforce non-recognition of the acts emanating from the National Constituent Assembly and to continue to implement the Democratic Charter Interamerican to Venezuela.

 VENEZUELA, WITH WORLD'S LARGEST OIL RESERVE, RUNS SHORT OF GASOLINE


        CARACAS, VENEZUELA    -- 
 The supply of gasoline in Venezuela, the country with the world’s largest oil reserves, has suffered continuous shortages for several months in Caracas and throughout the interior, national media and individuals consulted by EFE said on Friday. The daily El Nacional said on Friday that the lines of cars at service stations in Caracas “diminished slightly yesterday due to the arrival of tanker trucks from PDVSA (the state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela) starting early that morning.”

     However, the newspaper said those gas stations were selling only 91-octane gasoline, which has annoyed motorists whose vehicles require fuel with other octane ratings. EFE noted that between Thursday and Friday this week, in at least three service stations on the Venezuelan capital’s east side, dozens of people were lined up to fill their gas tanks. Residents in the states of Trujillo, Zulia and Lara in the west and Bolivar in the south told EFE on Friday that over the last few weeks they have had to resort to a few specific places to obtain gasoline, since many service stations are closed while others open just once a week.

    Early this month, the Venezuelan opposition warned about the shortage of gasoline in the eastern part of the country, and called on the respective authorities to do something about “this serious situation.” Last March, there was a breakdown in the gasoline supply in four central Venezuelan states. At that time, PDVSA said the shortages were caused by the “delay in gasoline shipping along the coast.” Up to now the government has made no comments about the current situation.

VENEZUELA REJECTS IMPOSITION OF SANCTIONS BY CANADA

          CARACAS, VENEZUELA  --   The new measures mirror those of the United States — with both countries accusing Venezuela of descending into a “dictatorship.” The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry has issued a statement categorically rejecting the illegal sanctions imposed by Canada on 40 Venezuelan government officials, including President Nicolas Maduro. It says this hostile action, whose only purpose is to attack Maduro's government, breaks international law which is fundamental for the promotion of economic development and social, as well as for peace and security.

     The statement said the objective is "to undermine the peace and social stability achieved in our nation after the formation of the National Constituent Assembly, as well as the continued efforts made by the National Executive in favor of dialogue and understanding between the different sectors that make life in the country. " "These are sanctions aimed at undermining efforts to establish dialogue between the government and the Venezuelan opposition, with the support and support of members of the international community."

     It went on to say that the measures are a violation of the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, the Charter of the OAS, and the rules governing friendly relations and cooperation between States. The statement also warned they threaten to undermine efforts to initiate, with the support and support of members of the international community, the dialogue between the government and the Venezuelan opposition. "On September 5, 2017, the government of Canada established an aberrant association of subordination to the government of President Donald Trump with the explicit purpose of overthrowing the constitutional government of Venezuela using economic sanctions as a political weapon."

September  23, 2017

NORTH KOREA THREATENS TO DETONATE AN HYDROGEN BOMB IN THE PACIFIC

      PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA  --  North Korea has threatened to detonate a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific, after Kim Jong Un warned that Donald Trump would “pay dearly” for his threat this week to “totally destroy” North Korea if America was forced to defend itself and its allies. Ri Yong Ho, the North Korean foreign minister, told reporters in New York on Thursday that Mr Kim’s earlier warning of the “highest level of hardline countermeasure in history” could mean a hydrogen bomb such as the one Pyongyang said it tested on September 3, according to South Korean media.

     “It could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific,” Mr Ri was quoted as saying by Yonhap, the South Korean news agency. “We have no idea about what actions could be taken as it will be ordered by leader Kim Jong Un.” Mr Trump responded with one of his customary early morning tweets on Friday, calling Mr Kim “obviously a madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people”, and warning he “will be tested like never before!” The US and North Korea are engaged in an escalating war of words over Pyongyang’s fast-developing nuclear and ballistic weapons programmes, with both the UN and the US imposing successive rounds of economic sanctions on Mr Kim’s regime.

     Mr Kim called Mr Trump “mentally deranged”, a “dotard” and a “gangster fond of playing with fire”, who was “unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme command of a country”. The North Korean dictator said Mr Trump’s speech to the UN General Assembly — where the US president declared that “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission” — had convinced him that his decision to continue developing nuclear weapons was the “correct path”. Itsunori Onodera, Japan’s defence minister, said Tokyo was obliged to take the threat seriously. “If the means of conveying a hydrogen bomb were a ballistic missile, then we cannot rule out it passing over Japan,” he said. “

 CANADA TO IMPOSE SANCTIONS ON VENEZUELA'S DICTATOR MADURO AND TOP OFFICIALS


        OTTAWA, CANADA   -- 
Canada imposes targeted sanctions against forty Venezuelan senior officials, including President Nicolás Maduro, to punish them for “anti-democratic behavior”, the foreign ministry said on Friday. Canada’s move, which follows in the wake of a similar decision by the United States, comes after months of protests against Maduro’s government in which at least 125 people have been killed. Critics say he has plunged the nation into its worst-ever economic crisis and brought it to the brink of dictatorship. “Canada will not stand by silently as the government of Venezuela robs its people of their fundamental democratic rights,” Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement.

    The measures include freezing the assets of the officials and banning Canadians from having any dealings with them. The actions were “in response to the government of Venezuela’s deepening descent into dictatorship”, Canada said. The Maduro government has set up a pro-Maduro legislative superbody called a Constituent Assembly that has overruled the country’s opposition-led Congress. The government faces widespread public anger about triple-digit inflation and chronic shortages of basic goods. Maduro has said he faces an armed insurrection designed to end socialism in Latin America and let a U.S.-backed business elite get its hands on the OPEC nation’s crude reserves.

     The United States imposed sanctions on Maduro in late July and has also targeted around 30 other officials. The Canadian measures - imposed under the Special Economic Measures Act - name Maduro, Vice President Tareck El Aissami and 38 other people. These include Interior Minister Nestor Reverol, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, several Supreme Court judges including the TSJ Chief Maikel Moreno, national elections director Tibisay Lucena and prominent former ministers Iris Varela and Elias Jaua. Canada is a member of the 12-nation Lima Group, which is trying to address the Venezuelan crisis. A government official said Freeland wanted to host a meeting of the group within the next 60 days. Earlier this month Spain said it wanted the European Union to adopt restrictive measures against members of the Venezuelan government.

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT PRESIDENT: EUROPEAN UNION SI DRAGGING ITS FEET ON VENEZUELA

          MADRID, SPAIN--   The president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, said he believed that Europe was dragging its feet in the Venezuelan crisis and stated that the European Union should follow the path set by the United States and impose sanctions on the South American country. Tajani made the case for tougher sanctions against members of the Venezuelan government in an article released on Wednesday. “Last August, the United States applied economic sanctions, froze assets and banned transactions with President Nicolas Maduro and top Venezuelan officials,” wrote Tajani. “Europe, however, is dragging its feet when it should follow that example, imposing individual and selective measures against those responsible for the current repression.”

     According to Tajani, “even the NGO Human Rights Watch has publicly asked that sanctions be imposed, because there can be no impunity for those with no respect for democracy or human rights.” Tajani, a member of the center-right European People’s Party – the largest in the chamber –, urged the international community to act against what he called the “Venezuelan dictatorship” because it was “bad for the country, bad for its neighbors, bad for the continent and bad for the whole world.” The EP head said that Venezuela was going through an unprecedented political, institutional, social, economic and humanitarian crisis; in response, President Maduro had “violated the sacred principle of the separation of powers” instead of listening to his people.

    In Tajani’s view, Maduro was “making his authoritarian regime ironclad – we shouldn’t be afraid to say it – in order to enforce a dictatorship.” “Yes, establishing a National Constituent Assembly and usurping the authority of the National Assembly, the only legitimate representative of the will of the people after winning the December 2015 elections, is precisely what a dictatorial regime does,” Tajani added. Because of this, he continued, “the world cannot keep its eyes closed to what is happening in Venezuela. We need the courage to take decisions that spearhead a change to democracy.” “Censuring the dictatorship is all very well but taking action to change it is so much better,” Tajani said.

September  22, 2017

US ADVISES BANKS TO WATCH FOR VENEZUELAN OFFICIALS CORRUPTION

      WASHINGTON, D.C. --  The U.S. Treasury is advising banks to be on the lookout for suspicious financial activity involving corrupt Venezuelan officials as the Trump administration tightens its financial noose around President Nicolas Maduro's embattled socialist government. Wednesday's advisory by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network asks banks to keep watch for Venezuelan government contracts, wire transfers from shell companies, and real estate purchases in south Florida and Houston by senior Venezuelan officials, their families or associates. It said the advisory arose out of concern expressed by financial institutions that transactions involving state-owned enterprises were being used to launder kickbacks and bribes.

     U.S. officials fear that endemic corruption will take an additional toll on Venezuelans already struggling with triple-digit inflation and widespread shortages amid a tense political standoff aggravated by Maduro's decision to rewrite the constitution in the face of months of deadly protests. Last month, the Trump administration slapped sanctions on Venezuela for Maduro's decision to go forward with his plans to consolidate power. The actions ban investors from buying the nation's debt and prevents U.S.-based Citgo, a subsidiary of the state-owned oil company, from sending badly needed dollar dividends back to Venezuela.

     "Not all transactions involving Venezuela involve corruption, but, particularly now, during a period of turmoil in that country, financial institutions need to continue their vigilance to help identify and stop the flow of corrupt proceeds and guard against money laundering and other illicit financial activity," said acting FinCEN Director Jamal El-Hindi. Maduro has accused the U.S. of trying to impose a financial "blockade" on Venezuela after the opposition-led protests failed to oust him from power. Even before the recent round of sanctions, many Wall Street banks like Citibank and Credit Suisse that used to collect large fees serving Venezuela's financial needs stopped doing business with the government, fearing legal action or damage to their reputations.

OPPOSITION IS PLANTED AND DOES NOT GIVE WAY TO PRESSURE TO RECOGNIZE THE ILLEGAL CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY

        CARACAS, VENEZUELA  -- 
The Venezuelan opposition refuses to recognize the National Constituent Assembly (ANC), which is made up only of people related to the ruling party, as the Nicolás Maduro Government calls for political dialogue, a process in which several countries are actively working. "I want to emphasize the issue that Democratic Unity is not going to accept the validation of the National Constituent Assembly that the Government asks for," said one of the anti-Chavez negotiators, Deputy Luis Florido when asked about the meetings of the Government and the opposition to political dialogue in the country.

     The head of the Foreign Policy Committee of the Venezuelan Parliament said that the opposition coalition Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD) has a "very clear" position and that the Constituent Assembly was elected "without following the parameters that are established in the Constitution ". The Venezuelan opposition has pointed out to the Constituent Party that it is fraudulent because they claim that the votes were manipulated during their election and, furthermore, since it was called, they rejected it because it was not submitted before an approving referendum.

    The deputy said that the coalition remains firm in this and that it is why they are not ready to "validate any National Constituent Assembly". "That is non-negotiable," he said. The head of the government's delegation in the dialogue, Jorge Rodríguez, said last Friday that among the items on the agenda for the negotiations are the electoral guarantees and the recognition of the ANC. This Wednesday, Florido reiterated that the dialogue has not started and that when it happens they will report it clearly. The meetings that have taken place are "exploratory" and "until there is a clear agenda" and "guarantees" can not talk about dialogue, he said.

OAS BLASTS DICTATOR MADURO ON DEATH OF VENEZUELA POLITICAL PRISONER

          Washington, d.c. --   The embattled Venezuela regime of Nicolas Maduro received another diplomatic black eye Monday, as the Organization of American States (OAS) criticized it for the death in custody of a political prisoner Sunday. “We condemn flagrant human rights violation by the regime in #Venezuela causing the death of Councilman Andres Garcia,” OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro tweeted Monday morning, hours after news of the death of Carlos Andres Garcia, a city councilman in Apure state who had been imprisoned for nine months, was made public.

     The tragedy strikes as Maduro’s government and the opposition are enmeshed in exploratory talks that could lead to a new round of negotiations which the opposition hope results in Maduro leaving office sooner than expected, while the government tries to obtain recognition for its fraudulent Constituent Assembly. Garcia’s demise comes just days after the U.N. said there was indication that “crimes against humanity” had been committed by the Maduro administration in trying to quell violent street protests earlier this year.

    Alleging involvement in human-rights violations, the U.S. has sanctioned 39 Venezuelan officials, former officials, private citizens, military and police officers, including head of state Nicolas Maduro himself, his Vice President Tarek El Aissami and Supreme Court head justice Maikel Moreno. Garcia had been denied medical attention and his jailers had ignored a warrant to free him on medical grounds, issued by a judge two days before the inmate’s death, his political party, First Justice (PJ) said. “The order (to free him) was not carried out by law enforcement,” PJ said over the weekend in a public statement.

September  21, 2017

AT LEAST 225 PEOPLE KILLED IN MEXICO EARTHQUAKE

      MEXICO CITY, MEXICO --   Mexican authorities raised on Tuesday the death toll from a magnitude-7.1 earthquake that struck the center of the country to 149, while Mexican armed forces and emergency services were carrying out rescue operations in the affected areas. “At the moment 225 deaths are reported,” Luis Felipe Puente, the National Civil Protection coordinator, said on his social media. He further added that 55 of them were reported in Morelos, 49 in Mexico City, 32 in Puebla, 10 in the State of Mexico and three in Guerrero. The Mexican Armed Forces were deployed Tuesday night to provide security around the 44 buildings that collapsed in Mexico City and assisted in the rescue operations with support from the emergency services. Mexican authorities recorded a total of 44 collapsed sites.

    “In each (site) there will be a command, and an important group of the Army and Navy are already in the sites,” Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio told the television channel Televisa. With help from Mexican citizens, survivors were immediately transferred by emergency services to nearby hospitals. Due to the great magnitude of the earthquake, the Mexican government ordered both public and private hospitals to immediately attend to those injured, as well as to provide free public transportation services for them. The earthquake was registered at 13:14 local time (1814 GMT), a moment when the traffic is usually in full swing, which consequently hindered the work of emergency services that tried to enter the area.

     “What hinders (the rescue tasks) the most is the number of vehicles in transit. It has been several hours since the quake struck and traffic continues,” said the Interior Secretary, who urged citizens to “clear the streets” so that emergency services could enter the affected areas. Like 32 years ago, the tragic disaster again united Mexican citizens, who removed debris with their bare hands. As there were too many people volunteering in the rescue tasks, the Armed Forces stepped in take over and organize operations. The Army and Navy activated the DN-III Plan and the Marine Plan, respectively, as parts of their rescue missions for Mexico City. In addition, Mexico City’s Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera issued an emergency declaration so that authorities could receive all necessary support, while the Interior Ministry also declared an “extraordinary emergency” for the city.

VENEZUELA'S DICTATOR SAYS PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP IS THE NEW HITLER OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

        CARACAS, VENEZUELA  -- 
'We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people,' Trump had said earlier. Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro has called Donald Trump “the new Hitler” of international politics, responding to the US President's call for world leaders to help restore democracy in the South American country. Trump had used a portion of his stark address to the United Nations General Assembly to single out Maduro's regime, which the US leader has called a “dictatorship”.

     “The magnate thinks he is the owner of the world, but no one threatens Venezuela,” said Mr Maduro, who did not attend the annual gathering of world leaders and diplomats. Maduro also accused Trump of threatening to assassinate him, even though the US leader did no such thing. “The Venezuelan people are starving and their country is collapsing. Their democratic institutions are being destroyed. This situation is completely unacceptable and we cannot stand by and watch,” Trump said. “I ask every country represented here today to be prepared to do more to address this very real crisis.”

     Last month, Trump signed an executive order imposing stronger financial sanctions on Venezuela, escalating the US's crackdown on the South American country. Recession and currency controls in Venezuela have led to declines in local production and imports of foreign goods, resulting in shortages of everything from flour to vaccines and medicines. The crisis is so severe that 75 per cent of the country’s population has lost an average of 19 pounds in weight, a study by three Venezuelen universities has found. During his speech on Tuesday, Mr Trump threatened to build upon the US's sweeping economic sanctions if Mr Maduro “persists on a path to impose authoritarian rule.”

TWO U.S. SENATORS SEEK REVIEW OF POTENTIAL RUSSIAN CONTROL OF CITGO

          washington, d.c. --   ---  Two U.S. senators have urged the Trump administration to clarify if it is reviewing the potential acquisition by Russian oil company Rosneft of Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA and U.S. subsidiary Citgo, saying a shift in Citgo's assets would be a security risk. Democrat Bob Menendez and Republican Marco Rubio asked whether the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, is looking into if the political crisis in Venezuela could lead to a change in the control of its oil assets, according to a letter sent to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin dated Sept. 18, seen by Reuters. "Given Venezuela's increasingly dire economic and humanitarian situation, we are seriously concerned with a possible acquisition by Rosneft of PDVSA and Citgo," the letter said. Mnuchin chairs CFIUS, made up of members of the Cabinet of President Donald

     Trump, which reviews potential national security aspects of foreign investments in U.S. companies. The additional political pressure from CFIUS reviews have occasionally helped break plans by foreign companies to acquire U.S. companies in the past. Last week, Trump blocked a Chinese-backed private equity firm from buying U.S.-based chipmaker Lattice, citing security risks. Menendez has said the potential takeover of U.S. energy infrastructure by Rosneft, majority owned by the Russian government, raises economic and security concerns. Citgo has a 749,000 barrel per day refining network in the United States and other assets.

     At least 125 people have been killed in four months in protests against the Venezuelan Socialist government of President Nicolás Maduro, which has resisted calls to bring forward the presidential election. The government has set up a pro-Maduro legislative superbody called a Constituent Assembly that has overruled the country's opposition-led Congress. As Maduro's government has turned to its Russian ally for credit and cash, it has offered some of the oil assets held by Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) in return, raising fears that Rosneft could also control Citgo assets.. During a U.S. congressional hearing in May, Mnuchin said Rosneft's potential acquisition would be reviewed by CFIUS. And in a phone call in July for congressional staffers on sanctions against Venezuela, an administration official said a CFIUS review was underway, the letter said.

September  20, 2017

PRESIDENT TRUMP CALLED ON WORLD LEADERS TO DO MORE TO HELP THE PEOPLE OF VENEZUELA

      UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK  --  I ask every country represented here today to be prepared to do more to address this very real crisis,” Trump said. “We call for the full restoration of democracy and political freedoms in Venezuela. The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.” The Trump administration has been ratcheting up the pressure on Caracas since Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro engineered a vote for a new constituent assembly that stripped democratically elected lawmakers of their power.

     Maduro has been the administration’s main target as he has led the once-mighty nation sitting on the world’s largest oil reserves as it has plummeted into a deepening economic crisis amid rising inflation. In recent months, anti-government demonstrations have broken out daily as desperate citizens take to the streets to protest the lack of even the most basic goods. “This corrupt regime destroyed a prosperous nation by imposing a failed ideology that has produced poverty and misery everywhere it has been tried,” Trump said.  Unsatisfied with the international response to Venezuela, the White House is using the United Nations General Assembly to build and strengthen an international coalition of support against Caracas.

     Trump’s speech was an expansion of concerns he raised Monday night during a dinner with Latin American Presidents Michel Temer of Brazil, Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and Juan Carlos Varela of Panama as well as Argentinian Vice President Gabriela Michetti. “Was one of the wealthiest countries in the world for a long period of time,” Trump told the group on Monday. “The people are starving and the country is collapsing. You didn't think that was possible. Their democratic institutions are being destroyed....Our goal must be to help them and restore their democracy.”  The leaders of the four countries were among 12 Latin American nations who signed a joint declaration in Lima last month, condemning the “breakdown of democratic order” in Venezuela and said they would not recognize any action taken by its “illegitimate” new constituent assembly.

PRESIDENT TRUMP SAYS U.S. IS READY TO INTERVENE IN VENEZUELA'S DEMOCRATIC COLLAPSE

        UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK  -- 
President Trump said Monday the U.S. is prepared to “take further action” to intervene in Venezuela’s democratic collapse — apparently hinting once again at a possible military campaign there. At a dinner with Latin American leaders on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Trump called the burgeoning crisis in Venezuela “totally unacceptable” and said the U.S. was ready to ensure its democracy could be restored.

     Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has been pushing the country toward autocracy as he struggles to turn around an unprecedented financial crisis spurred by a drop in global oil prices. Venezuela is a major oil producer and supplies 10% of the oil consumed by the U.S. This year, Maduro has cracked down on his political opponents, tossing protesters in jail and deploying security forces that have killed nearly 50 people at demonstrations. Maduro held a rigged election in July that replaced the country’s parliament with a body of his supporters, who are now pushing to rewrite the constitution to expand his executive powers.

     Trump said the U.S. had to “take important steps to hold the regime accountable,” though he avoided specifics. Soon after midnight, he tweeted, “We call for the full restoration of democracy and political freedoms in Venezuela, and we want it to happen very, very soon!” Trump in August dropped his first reference to a “military option” for Venezuela — an unexpected comment that raised alarms there and in America. He has not appeared to take any steps since then to begin a military intervention in Maduro’s crisis.

PRESIDENT TRUMP CALLS CUBA "A CORRUPT REGIME" AND PUT IT ON NOTICE THAT HE WILL NOT LIFT THE EMBARGO

          UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK    ---  President Donald Trump promised not to lift sanctions against Cuba until the government in Havana makes fundamental reforms. “We cannot stand by and watch,” Trump told world leaders gathered at the United Nations. In a speech that moved quickly from criticism of America’s adversaries to dire warnings of nuclear war, Trump turned his attention to communism, singling out Venezuela and Cuba for, he said, delivering only “anguish and failure” to their people.

     Unsatisfied with the international response to Venezuela, the White House is using the United Nations General Assembly to build and strengthen an international coalition of support against Caracas. Trump’s speech was an expansion of concerns he raised Monday night during a dinner with Latin American Presidents Michel Temer of Brazil, Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and Juan Carlos Varela of Panama as well as Argentinian Vice President Gabriela Michetti. He reminded them of their trade relationships, which he called a “critical foundation for advancing peace and prosperity” among neighbors.

     Trump’s comments on Cuba represented a sharp reversal of the tone and language used by former President Barack Obama, who sought to build bridges with Havana. The shift comes as the United States investigates the mysterious targeting of U.S. diplomats in Cuba with some type of sonic device. Later this week, the Trump administration must decide whether to oppose a United Nations resolution that condemns the American trade embargo against Cuba. Last year, for the first time in a quarter century, the United States declined to oppose the resolution. Trump is widely expected to return to the traditional “no” vote.

 

September  19, 2017

US TO PRESS CONCERNS ABOUT EMBASSY INCIDENTS IN MEETING WITH CUBANS

      WASHINGTON, D.C.  -- The Trump administration will press its concerns about unexplained incidents harming American diplomats in Cuba during a meeting this week in Washington, as the United States considers shuttering its recently re-opened Embassy in Havana. U.S. diplomats will host Cuban official Josefina Vidal, who has been the public face of Cuba's diplomatic opening with the U.S., and other Cuban officials, a State Department official told The Associated Press.

     Vidal has served as the chief of U.S. affairs for her country's foreign ministry and was recently named Cuba's ambassador to Canada, whose diplomats also were harmed by the mysterious incidents. The United States plans to raise concerns and discuss the status of the ongoing investigation, which has yet to determine a cause of culprit for what the U.S. has variably called "incidents" or "health attacks." The Trump administration will be represented by John Creamer, the deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for Cuba, said the official, who wasn't authorized to comment by name and requested anonymity.

     Though the conference is part of an ongoing series of "Bilateral Commission" meetings the two countries have held since restoring relations in 2015, it will take on heightened significance — and sensitivity — in light of the incidents. Vidal, who helped negotiate the detente, has represented Cuba at the regularly scheduled meetings before. But the diplomatic opening appears to be in jeopardy given grave U.S. concerns about what has transpired in Havana since November 2016. On Sunday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson disclosed that the Trump administration is considering closing down the embassy, the strongest indication to date that the United States might mount a major diplomatic response. The two former foes reopened embassies in Washington and Havana in 2015 after a half-century of estrangement.

DICTATOR MADURO: OPPOSITION LEADER LEOPOLDO LOPEZ ATTENDED MEETINGS WITH GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVES

        CARACAS, VENEZUELA -- 
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Sunday that opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who is under house arrest, attended meetings between the opposition and the government, adding that a "dialogue" is under way between the two sides, although the anti-government forces say it is merely an "exploratory" process. "Mr. Leopoldo Lopez, despite his status as a criminal, has been authorized by me, as head of the penitentiary administration, to attend meetings," said the president during a social movement event known as "We're All Venezuela" in Caracas.

      In response to Maduro's remarks about Lopez attending meetings in the dialogue process, opposition lawmaker and negotiator Luis Florido on Sunday denied that assertion. "It's untrue. Maduro is lying because he knows that the international community is pressuring for his exit through democratic elections and guarantees," said the opposition figure on Twitter. Maduro referred to meetings between the government and the opposition - which the latter has called "exploratory meetings" - and reaffirmed that they constitute a "dialogue." "Sixteen hours speaking about the future of Venezuela, the different issues. What is that called? Dialogue, conversation," Maduro said.

      Maduro also emphasized that the meetings are the result of "months" of work and he thanked Dominican President Danilo Medina for his "personal effort" in getting the process going, given that the latter has been the main promoter and the host of those meetings. "I can tell you that there have been dozens, if not hundreds, of meetings between the opposition" and the Venezuelan government, Maduro emphasized, adding that there were "private meetings" held all during 2016 and 2017. Apart from Lopez, Maduro said that the opposition chief of the Venezuelan Parliament, Julio Borges, and former Zulia state governor and presidential candidate Manuel Rosales had attended some of the meetings.

VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION DENIES GOVERNMENT CLAIM THAT LEOPOLDO LOPEZ ATTENDED DIALOGUE

          CARACAS, VENEZUELA   ---  Venezuelan politico Leopoldo Lopez, who is under house arrest, said Monday that he did not attend the dialogue meetings between the Nicolas Maduro government and the opposition as the president claimed, a denial seconded by the opposition leader's party, Voluntad Popular. "You know very well @NicolasMaduro that I did not attend any meeting. I am unjustly imprisoned, first in a military prison, now in my home," said a tweet posted on Lopez's Twitter account that is managed by his wife Lilian Tintori.

      Voluntad Popular (VP) also denied "categorically" Maduro's assertion since its "national coordinator and prisoner of conscience, Leopoldo Lopez, has not attended any meetings to do with what the dictatorship calls a dialogue." This Sunday Maduro said Lopez attended meetings between the opposition and the government, adding that a "dialogue" is underway, although anti-government forces say it is merely an "exploratory" process. In response to Maduro's remarks, opposition lawmaker and negotiator Luis Florido on Sunday denied that Lopez had attended those meetings. Despite that, Lopez reiterated his "readiness to converse with all due respect in order to end the crisis that all Venezuelans are going through.

       Lopez's party has told the Venezuelan government that a process like it is promoting "has to be serious," and said that the endless slander by Nicolas Maduro aims to do nothing more than delegitimize and discredit the MUD opposition coalition and its leaders like Leopoldo Lopez." For Lopez, "the talks must take place without manipulation and with transparency and respect for the country and the international community," as he said on Twitter. This week, representatives of the Venezuelan government and the opposition met in the Dominican Republic for a series of meetings that anti-Chavistas have described as "exploratory," while the ruling party insists on calling them a formal and evident process of dialogue. These negotiations, initiated in the Dominican Republic, are scheduled to continue next Sept. 27.

September  18, 2017

VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION AFFIRMS THAT NO DIALOGUE WITHOUT GOVERNMENT GUARANTEES

      CARACAS, VENEZUELA  -- Venezuelan lawmaker and opposition negotiator for an eventual dialogue with the Venezuelan government, Luis Florido, said on Saturday that no dialogue has been initiated nor will there be one without certain government guarantees, adding that the talks in the Dominican Republic remain in an exploratory phase. “They’re exploratory meetings, neither a dialogue as such nor negotiations. We’ve learned a lesson from the government... until the conditions, guarantees and agenda are clearly stated, we’re not going anywhere with the negotiation process,” Florido said.

     Representatives of the Venezuelan government and the opposition met this week in Santo Domingo to begin an eventual process of dialogue. The meetings will continue up to Sept. 27. According to Florido, the opposition laid out an “agenda” in the Dominican Republic that includes transparent, democratic presidential elections with a new National Electoral Council (CNE), international oversight and democratic guarantees for whoever is elected. Also included is freedom for “political prisoners” and exiles, restoration of the National Assembly’s legislative functions, and an active government role in repairing the “humanitarian emergency that Venezuelans are living in.”

     The government representative in this process, Jorge Rodriguez, said on Friday that among the issues dealt with in the talks is the opposition’s acceptance of the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) made up exclusively of ruling party members. However, Florido called the ANC “fraudulent” and said “it is not recognized by any country in the world,” which makes it the first issue without consensus in this process. The dialogue will be observed by six countries, with three chosen by each of the parties. Florido said the opposition chose Mexico, Chile and Paraguay – though the latter has yet to confirm its participation – while the government picked Nicaragua and Bolivia but is yet to announce its third “friendly country.”

VENEZUELA'S MADURO UPBEAT ON TALKS, OPPOSITION FEAR 'SHOW'

        CARACAS, VENEZUELA -- 
DICTATOR  Nicolas Maduro has predicted a new foreign-led effort to mediate Venezuela's political crisis would produce a deal soon, but the opposition said on Saturday it would not accept another time-wasting "show". Following months of anti-Maduro protests earlier this year that led to at least 125 deaths, both sides sent delegations to meet the Dominican Republic's president this week for a possible start to a negotiated solution. "After weeks of conversations, we are close to an agreement, of political co-existence, of peace and sovereignty," Maduro said in a speech late on Friday. "We're very near."

     But the opposition, which accuses Maduro of creating a dictatorship and ruining a once-prosperous oil economy, insisted the talks in Santo Domingo were only "exploratory" and would not proceed without firm guarantees of democratic change. They want a date for the next presidential election, due by the end of 2018, with guarantees it will be free and fair, plus freedom for hundreds of jailed activists, a foreign humanitarian aid corridor, and respect for the opposition-led congress. "They can't mess us around like last year, when they promised heaven and earth, but nothing happened," said Julio Borges, the leader of congress which has been overridden by a pro-Maduro legislative superbody called a Constituent Assembly.

     "If we don't have iron-clad guarantees ... that everything is leading to democratic change ... we won't take a step more," he told reporters on Saturday, recalling failed 2016 Vatican-led talks. "We want to avoid a repeat of last year's show." Maduro says the Constituent Assembly has brought peace to the South American nation of 30 million. But many major foreign powers do not recognize the body given its origins in a controversial election that the opposition boycotted. After more than four months of often violent protests, which also led to thousands of injuries and arrests, Maduro says a U.S.-fanned coup attempt has been defeated. But the strife has seen international opinion harden against him.

FELIPE GONZALEZ BELIEVES THAT A NEW ATTEMPT AT DIALOGUE IN VENEZUELA WILL GO NOWHERE

          ATHENS, GREECE   ---  Former Spanish President Felipe González believes that the new attempt at dialogue between the Venezuelan government and the opposition "unfortunately will not go anywhere", because it has neither agenda nor objectives. Speaking to the daily "Eleftheros Typos", published today, Gonzalez, who is visiting in Athens, explained that he has reaches this conclusion because the dialogue that is taking place in the Dominican Republic follows the same characteristics of the initiateg in June last year.

      "It was a dialogue without an agenda or objectives, it was a dialogue that now restarts without agenda and without goals. Therefore, it will not go anywhere, unfortunately, "he said. The ex-president decided to impose sanctions on Maduro's government but opposed to taking measures that would harm the people of Venezuela.

     The sanctions, he added, should only be directed against senior government officials responsible for human rights violations and corruption. Gonzalez again called for the immediate convocation of elections and said that the international community should not recognize the Constituent Assembly, arising from elections that were a "farce", because this would destroy democracy. The former president is in Athens to attend a forum on democracy and receive the Democracy Prize of the City of Athens.

September  17, 2017

VENEZUELA REJECTS US RESOLUTION ON DRUG TRAFFICKING

      CARACAS, VENEZUELA  -- The National Government rejected the US presidential resolution on high traffic and illicit drug production countries for fiscal year 2018, where Venezuela is included. "It continues the unilateral practice of the Government of the United States of America to evaluate, qualify and issue resolutions on the policies of sovereign countries in matters that exclusively concern their internal affairs," the statement issued by the Foreign Ministry said. The Foreign Ministry believes that the fight against drugs claimed by the US government is actually a political weapon.

     The National Government assured that the country carries out a sovereign policy on counternarcotics that has given positive results, especially since the agreement with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in English). On the other hand, the Foreign Ministry also rejected statements by the undersecretary of state for the US Bureau of International Narcotics Affairs, William Brownfield, on September 12, 2017, when he said that "there will be no long-term democratic solution, prosperous and secure in Venezuela until the presence of drug trafficking organizations is resolved. "

    These statements and the presidential resolution are considered by Venezuela "a new aggression by the US Government with the intention of strengthening the campaign that seeks to project Venezuela, a country that is not known either as a producer or as a consumer of narcotics, as a state under control of drug trafficking to legitimize its political objective of intervening and destabilizing the Venezuelan government. " Finally, the Venezuelan government accused the US of being the current market for illicit drug use. In that sense, he said that they should review their internal policies to ensure the reduction of drug use. "We urge the US government to stop using the issue for political purposes and proceed immediately to correct its inefficient policies that end up destabilizing an area of peace, as is the American continent," the statement said.

U.S. RUSHES HURRICANE IRMA AID TO CARIBBEAN ISLANDS, BUT NOT TO CUBA

        WASHINGTON, D.C.  -- 
Cuba's cash-strapped economy has suffered this year from a decline in aid from its chief ally Venezuela, lower exports and a brake on market reforms. And then came Hurricane Irma - the strongest storm to hit the island in more than 80 years. Sonia Legg reports. Video provided by Reuters Newslook. The U.S. government is providing humanitarian aid to a string of Caribbean islands devastated by Hurricane Irma, but Cuba — just 90 miles off the coast of Florida — is not among them.

    The Category 5 hurricane, the worst to hit the communist island since 1932, spent 24 hours grinding away over northern parts of the island, damaging more than 4,000 homes, inundating downtown Havana with knee-high floods and destroying thousands of acres of cane sugar. More than 3.1 million people — a quarter of the island's population — lost water service. Small beach towns also were destroyed on the northern coast, causing millions of dollars in losses and leaving thousands homeless. At least 10 people were killed. The U.S. State department clearly recognized the extent of the disaster, warning American travelers not to visit Cuba because of the wide-spread destruction.

    Yet it has not sent a USAID rapid response team to the island, nor dispatched any U.S. military ships loaded with bottled water and blankets, as it has to other devastated Caribbean neighbors. The guidelines for U.S. assistance include a requirement, not surprising, that a host country must request help, which Cuba — a proud adversary in a decades long battle with its superpower neighbor — is not inclined to do. "Currently, the government of Cuba has not asked for cooperation from the United States in response to the hurricane," USAID said in a statement.

KIM JONG UN SAYS NORTH KOREA IS NEARING GOAL OF MILITARY 'EQUILIBRIUM' WITH U.S.

          Pyongyang, NORTH KOREA  ---  North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un said his country is close to achieving military "equilibrium" with the United States as a way to make American leaders "dare not talk" about military options for dealing with Pyongyang. Kim’s comments Saturday came a day after the rogue country fired its latest missile over Japan, a test the United Nations Security Council strongly condemned as “highly provocative.” The U.N. slapped North Korea with new sanctions just days ago in response to a powerful Sept. 3 nuclear test.

     The dictator said the country’s final goal "is to establish the equilibrium of real force with the U.S. and make the U.S. rulers dare not talk about military option for the DPRK," referring to North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency. Kim indicated that more missile tests would be forthcoming, saying that all future drills should be "meaningful and practical ones for increasing the combat power of the nuclear force" to establish an order in the deployment of nuclear warheads for "actual war."

    The U.N. Security Council accused North Korea of undermining regional peace and security by launching its latest missile over Japan and said its nuclear missile tests "have caused grave security concerns around the world" and threaten all 193 U.N. member states. Kim also said the country, despite "limitless" international sanctions, has nearly completed the building of its nuclear weapons force and called for "all-state efforts" to reach the goal and obtain a "capacity for nuclear counterattack the U.S. cannot cope with." "As recognized by the whole world, we have made all these achievements despite the U.N. sanctions that have lasted for decades," the agency quoted Kim as saying.

September  16, 2017

SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE OAS ANNOUNCES THE APPOINTMENT OF INDEPENDENT PANEL OF INTERNATIONAL EXPERTS

      WASHINGTON, D.C.  -- OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro has appointed three international experts to assess whether the situation in Venezuela should be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for consideration. The General Secretariat will gather information impartially through a process supervised by former Prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Moreno Ocampo. The process will include public hearings to be conducted at OAS headquarters and information submitted by more than 50 organizations that have been conducting research and/or investigating circumstances of the crisis in Venezuela.

     The information obtained will contribute to a final report, to be reviewed by the independent panel for recommendation to the Secretary General.
The jurists are Costa Rican Manuel Ventura Robles, former Judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights; Dr. Santiago Cantón of Argentina, Secretary of Human Rights of the Province of Buenos Aires, and previously Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; and Professor Irwin Cotler of Canada, President of the Center for Human Rights Raul Wallenberg, and previously Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

     On July 25, the Secretary General appointed Luis Moreno Ocampo to facilitate a process that respects the rights of all parties in order to evaluate the alleged commission of crimes against humanity committed in Venezuelan territory and whether the information collected should be sent to the ICC. Venezuela ratified the Rome Statue in June 2000, and is therefore under the jurisdiction of the ICC. The first public meetings to gather information as part of this process were held at OAS headquarters on 14 and 15 September 2017. Additional sessions will held in October 2017. The General Secretariat will compile the information obtained to produce the Report that will be evaluated by the three experts assigned.

NATO HAS CALLED FOR A GLOBAL RESPONSE TO NORTH KOREA'S LATEST MISSILE LAUNCH

        WASHINGTON, D.C.  -- 
Earlier Friday, North Korea launched another missile over Japan, just days after the United Nations imposed additional sanctions on Pyongyang for conducting its sixth nuclear test. The missile was launched from the Sunan district in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, and flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, said "We absolutely cannot accept these repeated provocations by North Korea and we strongly protest to North Korea and convey to them the nation's strong anger in the strongest words possible.

     The U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement, “Initial assessment indicates the launch of an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM)” that did not pose a threat to Guam. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined this ballistic missile also did not pose a threat to North America. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the North Korean missile launch "put millions of Japanese into duck and cover," and that top U.S. officials had fully coordinated after the test launch. Mattis spoke to reporters during a visit to the U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees U.S. nuclear forces.

     The South Korean military responded to the provocation from the North by launching a Hyunmoo-II missile into the sea that traveled the distance it would take to reach the Sunan airfield in Pyongyang, according to a military spokesman. South Korean President Moon Jae-in also convened a National Security Council (NSC) meeting to monitor the security situation and prepare for any new emerging threats from North Korea. Speaking Friday at the State Department, Tillerson said North Korea is a "global threat and it requires a global response from all nations.

U.S. SENATORS DEMAND CUBA STOP REPORTED 'HEALTH ATTACKS' ON U.S. DIPLOMATS

          HAVANA CITY, CUBA -  senators, including Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), are demanding the Trump administration make the Cuban government take “verifiable action” to stop alleged "acoustic" attacks against nearly two dozen U.S. diplomats who, for months, have complained of hearing and speech problems. The senators insist the administration immediately declare all Cuban diplomats in the U.S. “persona non grata” and that, if Cuba continues refusing to help end the reported attacks, they want the U.S. embassy in Havana closed.

       “Cuba’s neglect of its duty to protect our diplomats and their families cannot go unchallenged,” wrote the senators in a letter sent Thursday to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. It was released to the media on Friday. In addition to Rubio, the letter is signed by Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Richard Burr(R-N.C.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and James Lankford (R-Okla.). “Our officials and their families have been the targets of unacceptable levels of harassment and ‘acoustic’ attacks that, in some cases, have caused permanent hearing damage and other significant injuries,” they wrote. “We urge you to remind the Cuban government of its obligation and to demand that it take verifiable action to remove these threats to our personnel and their families.”

      The Associated Press reported Friday that Cuban President Raúl Castro told U.S. diplomat Jeffrey DeLaurentis that he, too, was baffled and concerned about the incidents, but denied Cuba was involved in any alleged attacks against U.S. embassy personnel. “The investigation into all of this is still underway,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Thursday in response to the AP report. “It is an aggressive investigation that continues, and we will continue doing this until we find out who or what is responsible for this.”

September  15, 2017

VENEZUELA OPPOSITION LAYS OUT GROUND RULES FOR NEW POLITICAL DEALOGUE

      CARACAS, VENEZUELA  --After President Nicolas Maduro accepted an invitation to restart dialogue with the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) on Tuesday, the MUD was quick to temper expectations. Writing on Twitter on Wednesday, the MUD president of the National Assembly, Julio Borges, said that dialogue would be based on certain conditions.

     "I reiterate to Venezuela and the world that there is no dialogue today and there will not be until the conditions laid out in the MUD statement are met," he said.On Tuesday, Maduro accepted a dialogue initiative tabled by the president of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina, and former Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. At a cabinet meeting, Maduro said that "Zapatero and President Medina know very well that I have been calling for this dialogue and I accept this new round of talks."

However, Borges said dialogue would not resume without previous MUD conditions being met, including a "complete electoral calendar, included for presidential (elections), the freeing of political prisoners and the removal of restrictions." He also demanded "respect for the powers given by the Constitution to the National Assembly and immediate attention to the country's economic and social crisis." The MUD walked away from the talks in December after the government refused to accept its demands. Among those demands was the release of right-wing activists. The ruling socialist party (PSUV) and the MUD have been locked in a protracted power struggle since Maduro's narrow presidential win in 2013.

DONALD TRUMP DELIVERS SHOCK REBUKE TO COLOMBIA OVER COCAINE SURGE

        WASHINGTON, D.C.  -- 
U.S. President Donald Trump is threatening that he may decertify Colombia as a partner in the war against drugs unless the South American nation reverses a record surge in cocaine production. The shock rebuke for Washington's staunchest ally in Latin America came Wednesday in the White House's annual designation of nations it deems major drug-producing or drug-transit zones. Colombia, the source of 90 percent of the cocaine consumed in the U.S., has long been a fixture on the list, which was unchanged from last year.

     But not since the late 1990s, when contributions from the Cali cartel funded the campaign of Colombia's then-President Ernesto Samper, has the country's commitment to fighting narcotics trafficking been called into question by Washington. Twenty-two countries were designated by the U.S. as major drug transit zones Wednesday, and only Venezuela and Bolivia were deemed once again not to be fulfilling their international obligations to combat drug production and trafficking. The leftist governments of both those nations are hostile to the U.S. Yet, in a statement, Trump said he "seriously considered" also decertifying Colombia because of the "extraordinary" growth of coca cultivation and cocaine production to record levels over the past year.
 

    He said he decided against such a designation because the Colombian armed forces are close law enforcement partners with the U.S. He also cited improving interdiction rates and the restarting of forced eradication efforts that were significantly curtailed in 2013, when President Juan Manuel Santos prioritized reaching a peace deal with leftist rebels heavily involved in the drug trade. Two years later, Santos ended the aerial spraying of chemicals on illicit crops, a program that had been the backbone of almost two decades and $10 billion of U.S. counter-narcotics work in Colombia. But Trump warned that he would keep decertification as an "option" and expected Colombia to make "significant progress" in reducing coca cultivation and cocaine production.

HURRICANE IRMA DEVASTATES AREAS OF CUBA, KILLS AT LEAST 10

          HAVANA, CUBA - After Hurricane Irma left a trail of destruction in Cuba, officials were working to deliver aid to the areas in need Monday evening. Authorities estimate the Category 5 storm killed at least 10 people in the northern coast of the island. Hurricane Dennis killed 16 people in 2005. Most of the storm's victims were in Havana. The powerful storm surge flooded central residential neighborhoods along the coast of the island's capital Saturday. "This was the worst of the storms I have been through, and the sea rose much higher," said Hector Pulpito, who was working as a custodian at a parking lot in the Vedado neighborhood. "The trees were shaking. Metal roofs went flying."
 

     After issuing mandatory evacuations for about 1 million Cubans nationwide, many returned to the ruins of unmaintained colonial buildings that couldn't withstand the storm's powerful punch. Hundreds were homeless. The worst seawater flooding -- about one-third of a mile inland -- was between the Almendares River and the harbor. On Animas Street in Central Havana, 51-year-old Walfrido Antonio Valdes Perez was caring for his older brother, Roydis, who worked as a florist until he was diagnosed with HIV. They lived on the second floor of building divided into 11 apartments, many of them divided by crude intermediate floors known as “barbeques.”
 

    After midnight, as wind whipped the neighborhood, a wall collapsed onto the roof of their building, crushing the two brothers to death. No one noticed until the next morning, when neighbors saw a foot sticking out of the rubble. We felt something, but no one imagined the roof and barbeque had collapsed,” said homemaker Yudisleidis Mederos, 34. “These building are in really bad shape. Their room was the best one.” She and her neighbors remembered Roydis, 54, as a kind and helpful man who had become a virtual family member, helping care for their children, feed them and put them down for naps.

September  14, 2017

SPAIN, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC CALL FOR URGENT DEALOGUE IN VENEZUELA

      SANTO DOMINGO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC -- Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Dominican Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas urged on Tuesday both the Venezuelan government and opposition to begin an urgent dialogue. In a statement issued after a meeting of the two politicians, and to which EFE had access, both said they were “convinced” that there exists “the opportunity for a process of meetings, mutual understanding and reconciliation.”

    In that sense, Rodriguez Zapatero and Vargas invited the government and opposition “to go through a process of negotiation and political accord.”
A process which, they said in the statement, “must be guided by the greatest respect for the principles of democracy, human rights, social commitment and national sovereignty, and developed on the basis of formal negotiations with guarantees of trust and credibility.” Rodriguez Zapatero is one of the mediators of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) for Venezuela, together with former Dominican President Leonel Fernandez and Panama’s Martin Torrijos.

     Since April of this year, Venezuela has been the scene of protests against and in favor of the government. The protests increased last May when Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro established a Constituent Assembly made up exclusively of Chavista members and totally rejected by both the opposition and a large part of the foreign community. The Constituent Assembly, installed last August, up to now has passed a law punishing “hate crimes” that includes the regulation of social networks, and this week is expected to install commissions that will draw up the new constitution.

JULIO BORGES WARNS THAT THERE WILL ONLY BE DIALOGUE IF MADURO MEETS CONDITIONS

        CARACAS, VENEZUELA  -- 
The head of the Venezuelan Parliament, Julio Borges, warned Wednesday that a formal dialogue with the government will only be possible if the conditions set by the opposition are met and if there is international support. "I reiterate to Venezuela and to the world that today there is no dialogue and there will not be until conditions are fulfilled said in a statement" of the coalition Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD), Borges wrote on Twitter. The government of Nicolás Maduro and the MUD announced the sending to the Dominican Republic of delegates Wednesday to explore a dialogue at the invitation of the president of that country, Danilo Medina, and former head of the Spanish government José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

     Borges reiterated the demands of the MUD - some of whose representatives are in the Dominican Republic - regarding the publication of a "complete electoral timetable, with presidential included." These elections are scheduled for the end of 2018. He also listed the "release of political prisoners" and the "lifting of disqualifications" that prevent opponents from running for popular office. According to the opposition, in Venezuela there are about 590 politicians imprisoned. "We reiterate to Danilo Medina and (United Nations Secretary General) Antonio Guterres that there is no dialogue until the conditions are fulfilled and there is international support," he said.

    The MUD questions the participation of Rodríguez Zapatero, whom he accuses of being biased with the government. Among the conditions to negotiate, Borges also insisted on the "respect for the powers" of the National Assembly - recently reduced by the Constituent Assembly that governs the country with absolute powers - and the "immediate attention" of the serious socio-economic crisis. Maduro celebrated on Tuesday night that the opposition had accepted the invitation to talk. "I hope that the word committed to the international community to advance in the search for peaceful solutions will be maintained and fulfilled," said the president.

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT CALLS FOR EU SANCTIONS ON VENEZUELA

          GENEVA, BELGIUM - After intervention from France, four representatives of the Venezuelan opposition will attend an exploratory meeting at the Maduro government’s behest in the Dominican Republic which could lead to a new round of dialogue talks between the parties, just as the European Parliament approves sanctioning individual Venezuelan officials. And while only Maduro is talking of dialogue, the opposition has said it wants “serious negotiation”, pertaining such thorny issues as a firm date for the 2018 Presidential elections.

     Maduro representatives at the Dominican Republic meeting will be operating under the threat of likely EU sanctions for the first time ever, opposition lawmaker and law professor Tamara Adrian told LAHT. “This is a new element, a sword of Damocles,” hanging over the already embattled and U.S. sanctioned Maduro administration.“Game changer, but not yet game over”, was how Adrian, summed up the situation. As details of the new meeting were emerging, the European Parliament approved a resolution calling on the EU to “freeze the EU assets of all those involved in the serious violations of human rights in Venezuela and restrict their access to EU territory.”

     In a resolution approved by 526 votes to 96, with 59 abstentions, MEPs [Members of the European Parliament] condemned the elections in Venezuela to a Constituent Assembly of 30 July 2017 as being in breach of the separation of powers. The European Parliament also resolved not to "recognise any actions and decisions taken by the newly established assembly due to its lack of legitimacy." In addition, the European Parliament called on EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the European Council to "freeze the EU assets of all those involved in the serious violations of human rights in Venezuela and restrict their access to EU territory.”

September  13, 2017

FRANCE SAYS VENEZUELA TALKS TO TAKE PLACE WEDNESDAY, WARNS OF SANCTIONS

      PARIS, FRANCE    --    Venezuela's government and opposition will hold a round of talks in the Dominican Republic on Wednesday, France's foreign minister said on Tuesday, warning Caracas that it risked EU sanctions if it failed to engage in negotiations. Venezuela has been convulsed by demonstrations against leftist President Nicolas Maduro, accused by critics of knocking the oil-rich country into its worst-ever economic crisis and bringing it to the brink of dictatorship. "I was happy to learn that dialogue with the opposition would restart tomorrow in the Dominican Republic," Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement after meeting his Venezuelan counterpart, Jorge Arreaza Montserrat, in Paris.

      Opposition leaders in Venezuela, however, said they had no knowledge of any talks starting this week. "To be honest, I have no information on that," Enrique Márquez, head of opposition party A New Time, told Reuters. "I have no idea why the French foreign minister said that. We are very surprised," added Tomas Guanipa, opposition legislator and secretary general of the Justice First party, at a news conference. "There's no type of conversation planned.” Le Drian said Wednesday's meeting would be under the auspices of Dominican President Danilo Medina and former Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

    Maduro routinely calls for dialogue with the opposition, but his adversaries see dialogue as a stalling mechanism that burnishes the government's image without producing concrete results. A dialogue process brokered by Zapatero and backed by the Vatican in 2016 did little to advance opposition demands, which include release of political prisoners and respect for the opposition-run congress. Many Maduro critics believe opposition leaders were duped in that dialogue process, and have grown suspicious of Zapatero as an intermediary. "This (dialogue) is good news and I hope that it will rapidly lead to concrete steps on the ground," Le Drian said.

VENEZUELA'S SUPREME COURT HAS STAGED EFFECTIVE COUP - JURISTS' GROUP SAID

        GENEVA, BELGIUM   -- 
Venezuela’s Supreme Court has progressively dismantled the rule of law, becoming an instrument of President Nicolas Maduro’s government in what amounts to a coup against the constitutional order, an international human rights group charged on Tuesday. The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said the top court had undermined human rights and infringed the Constitution through a series of rulings since December 2015. In two rulings in March 2017, the Supreme Court of Justice “effectively claimed legislative powers for itself, depriving the National Assembly of its Constitutional powers and granting sweeping arbitrary powers to the executive,” it said.

     “These decisions amount to a coup d’état against the Constitutional order and have ushered in a new reign of arbitrary rule,” Sam Zarifi, ICJ Secretary General, said in a statement. Judges on the Supreme Court are mainly from the ruling Socialist Party and/or former officials of the government of Maduro, the Geneva-based jurists’ group said. Maduro denies accusations of a power grab, saying his actions - including the creation of an alternative constituent assembly that has granted itself lawmaking powers - are aimed at restoring peace after months of protests and violence.

     Zarifi said the Supreme Court of Justice “has issued its decisions based on political considerations and ideological and party loyalties to the executive power”. The ICJ report, “The Supreme Court of Justice: an instrument of executive power”, was issued on the sidelines of the U.N. Human Rights Council which began a three-week session on Monday. U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra‘ad al-Hussein said on Monday that Venezuelan security forces may have committed crimes against humanity against protesters and called for an international investigation.

12 COUNTRIES CLAIM THAT VENEZUELA DOES  NOT MEET THE REQUIREMENT TO BE A MEMBER OF THE U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

          GENEVA, BELGIUM --  The twelve countries that signed the so-called Lima Declaration in August denounced the situation in Venezuela, claiming that the nation does not comply with the "requirements and obligations" to be a member of the UN Human Rights Council. The declaration of Lima was signed on 8 August by the foreign ministers of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Peru.

     On behalf of this dozen countries, the Paraguayan ambassador took the floor before the plenary session of the Council and basically reiterated the content of the statement emphasizing the fact that a country that is accused of serious violations against its own people does not meet the standards necessary to be part of the entity. The diplomat said that the Venezuelan Constituent Assembly is "illegitimate" and criticized the "democratic break" that represented its election.

     They also denounced the "serious" human rights violations committed against anti-government protests, but also the fact that the government of Nicolás Maduro does not allow the entry of humanitarian aid, such as food and medicines, despite the shortage . On the other hand, the twelve countries supported "any credible negotiating effort and in good faith". They also clearly rejected "the use of force" and stressed that "the principle of non-intervention must be respected".

September  12, 2017

POPE FRANCIS SAYS THAT THE UNITED NATIONS MUST MAKE ITSELF HEARD TO HELP IN THE HUMANITARIAN CRISIS OF VENEZUELA

      THE VATICAN CITY, ROME   --  Pope Francis said today that the UN should make itself heard to help in the "humanitarian problem" that exists in Venezuela, during the press conference on the plane in which he returned from his five-day visit to Colombia. Responding to a question from journalists who traveled with him, including an Efe reporter , about the role of the Vatican in the Venezuelan crisis, Francisco said that the Holy See always "spoke loud and clear."

    "What he says (Nicolás Maduro), has to explain himself. I do not know what's on his mind. But the Holy See did a lot, "he stressed the role of the Vatican in the crisis of that country.” Last August Maduro criticized the Vatican Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, and the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference, saying: "I cry for the true Christian spirit of the Pope and I believe in him. Another thing is the Vatican and the Vatican secretary of state. I will not talk about them. Another thing is the Episcopal Conference (Venezuelan), about them I will not speak, "he added.

      They will be judged by the people, the Catholics, "concluded Maduro. The Vatican "sent a first-rate nuncio for work with the four ex-presidents. He has spoken to people in private and I often referred to the country in the Angelus. Always looking for a way out, offering help,"the Pope said today. For Francisco, the most painful thing in Venezuela "is the humanitarian problem". "So many people who escape or suffer. There is a humanitarian problem that we need to help resolved, respond. I think the UN must be made to listen, to help. "

THE EUROPARLIAMENT IS SEEKING SANCTIONS AGAINS MADURO & CO. IT DOES NOT RECOGNIZE THE ANC, NOR ITS ACTS


        GENEVA, BELGIUM   -- 
The President of the National Assembly Julio Borges, received the support of the highest representative of the Europarliament, Antonio Tajani, through a letter sent after his trip to the most important countries in Europe, where he denounced the political, social, economic and institutional crisis which Venezuela suffers. "You know that I have denounced, as President of the European Parliament, the National Constituent Assembly that we do not recognize, as well as the acts that emanate from it. In the same way, I have always given and will continue providing you with my full support and solidarityto the democratically elected National Assembly that you lead, "the letter reads.

     Tajani reported that he sent communications to European Commission presidents Jean-Claude Juncker and the European Council, Donald Tusk, to call for "individual and selective restrictive measures against those responsible" for a policy of "repression", according to the document released by the camera on Twitter. The President of the European Parliament also wrote that after meeting and holding talks with the ambassadors of the Latin American countries that signed the Lima Declaration, he decided not to attend the Eurolat Summit or the CELAC Summit.

    The United States and a dozen Latin American countries have repudiated that instance, which the opposition calls a Maduro maneuver to establish "a dictatorship." Borges last week toured Europe, where he met with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and British Prime Minister Theresa May. After his trip, Maduro asked to prosecute Borges and other opposition leaders for "treason to the motherland", accusing them of promoting sanctions against the country. On August 25, a decree by US President Donald Trump banned trading in debt issued by Venezuela and its state-owned oil company PDVSA. This after individual measures against Maduro and several of his collaborators. It is Time to impose economic sanctions to Mature Dictator.

FORMER SPANISH FOREIGN MINISTER GRACIA-MARGALIO CONSIDERS SANCTIONS NECESSARY  TO VENEZUELA

          madrid, spain --  The FORMER Spanish foreign minister sees "absolutely necessary" the imposition of sanctions tO Venezuela because he thinks they will bring the Maduro government "to reason." In an interview with the Spanish news agency Efe, José Manuel García-Margallo has accused the government of Nicolás Maduro of carrying out in his country what he has called the "systematic violation of the rule of law." He also denounced the economic problems that afflict the Venezuelan people for such reason has concluded that to make "to reason" to the Government is "absolutely necessary" to impose sanctions on Venezuela.

     At another point in his remarks, he said that "a dialogue with the opposition must be opened that should conclude with free elections to analyze the political situation and restore the economy." For this reason, he has supported the approach of German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who does not reject the option that the European Union (EU) could impose sanctions on Venezuela. Western countries have placed on their agenda the measure that US President Donald Trump took against Venezuela, imposing "strong economic sanctions" on Nicolas Maduro government on Aug. 25.

     On Friday, EU Foreign Policy High Representative Federica Mogherini stated that the European bloc is preparing to discuss "in the coming days" the imposition of sanctions on Venezuela, as one of the options of pressure on the Venezuelan regime to seek a solution to the political crisis facing the South American country. This occurs while different regional and international circles and Venezuelan authorities criticize such measures ensuring that the sanctions directly affect the Venezuelan people and worsen their economic situation of the nation.

September  11, 2017

UNITED NATIONS WARNS OF POSSIBLE CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY IN VENEZUELA

      UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK   --  The UN human rights chief voiced alarm Monday at widespread rights abuses in Venezuela, warning of possible “crimes against humanity” in the crisis-wracked country. “My investigation suggests the possibility that crimes against humanity may have been committed,” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said at the opening of the 36th session of the Human Rights Council, calling for an international probe. Venezuela’s crisis has caused food and medicine shortages, deadly unrest and calls for President Nicolas Maduro to quit.

     Clashes with security forces at anti-government protests have left 125 people dead from April to July. “There is a very real danger that tensions will further escalate, with the government crushing democratic institutions and critical voices,” Zeid warned. He said an investigation by his office had noted the widespread use of “criminal proceedings against opposition leaders, recourse to arbitrary detentions and excessive use of force and ill-treatment of detainees, which in some cases amounts to torture.” Late last month, Zeid echoed international concerns that Venezuela was slipping into dictatorship, cautioning that democracy in the country was “barely alive, if still alive.”

     His office has previously criticised Venezuela’s all-powerful constituent assembly and its “truth commission”, which has been tasked with investigating several opposition leaders for treason. On Monday, Zeid said he supported the concept of a truth commission, but stressed that “the current mechanism is inadequate.” “I therefore, urge that it be reconfigured with the support and involvement of the international community,” he said. He urged the UN rights council "to establish an international investigation into the human rights violations in Venezuela.” Zeid also pointed out that Venezuela currently holds one of the 47 rotating seats on the Human Rights Council and thus has a particular duty to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.”

VENEZUELAN DICTATOR NICOLAS MADURO SEEKS SUPPORT FROM ISLAMIC NATIONS IN HIS FIGHT AGAINST THE UNITED STATES


        WASHINGTON, D.C.   -- 
Venezuela’s dictator Nicolas Maduro, during his participation on Sunday at an Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Astana, sought to rally the Islamic world’s support for his country in its confrontation with the United States. “The Venezuelan people, especially in the last six months, have witnessed invasions and interventions by the United States, but we will resist those pressures by maintaining our unity,” Maduro said during a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

      Maduro arrived Saturday night in the Kazakh capital to attend the Islamic summit with the aim of bringing an end to his nation’s diplomatic isolation, strengthening its financial independence and avoiding the OPEC nation’s possible economic collapse due to a new round of US sanctions targeting Venezuelan government-issued bonds. In addition to addressing oil, geopolitics and international cooperation with Rouhani, Maduro also met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and was welcomed by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

    Upon his arrival in Astana, Maduro said that the mission of his lightning visit was to diversify economic relations with Arab countries and strengthen ties with non-members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. In fact, on his trip to Kazakhstan, to “open gates” he made a brief stopover in Algeria, an OPEC member and one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers. Maduro was invited to speak at the OIC summit, which includes 57 countries, due to his position as secretary-general of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a position that he is to hold until 2019. “It’s time to fight for another world. It’s time to fight for a world without wars, without terrorism, without hegemonic empires,” he said, in clear reference to the United States, which he accuses of pressuring for his overthrow.

 

                 September   10, 2017

CUBA BLASTED AS HURRICANE IRMA TEARS THROUGH THE CARIBBEAN

      HAVANA, CUBA   --  Packing life-threatening winds, provoking massive storm surge and causing a host of rainfall dangers, Hurricane Irma slammed northern Cuba on Saturday, continuing to plod a path of devastation through the Caribbean en route to the US state of Florida. A string of small Caribbean islands was left reeling by the massive hurricane, which strengthened to a Category 5 storm as it made landfall overnight in Cuba. Meanwhile, the center of Irma was about 65 miles (100 kilometers) east of Varadero, Cuba, on Saturday afternoon, packing sustained winds of 125 mph (215 kph), the hurricane center said.

     By dawn, the town's main street had waves rolling down it, and within hours the whole town was flooded with several feet of water. Roofs could be seen flying off and trees were blown down as the wind gusted and roared. Officials reported a wind gust of 124 mph (200 kph) around midmorning Saturday. Most people in the coastal area live in one-story homes, putting them at great risk as floodwaters rose to roof level in some places. Residents were overwhelmed by the damage and said recovery will take time. The Cuban government staged emergency supplies and building equipment ahead of the storm's arrival, but it could be some time before the extent of the damage is known.

     As of 2 p.m. ET Saturday, a hurricane warning for Irma remained in place for the Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus, Villa Clara, Matanzas, and Havana -- as well as for the northwestern Bahamas. The Cuban provinces of Holguin and Las Tunas were under a hurricane watch. Irma struck the archipelago north of Cuba's Camaguey and Ciego de Avila provinces with gusts so strong they destroyed an instrument used to measure wind, Cuba's meteorological agency reported. Irma was the first Category 5 hurricane to hit Camaguey in 85 years, according to the province's state media radio station.

LUIS ALMAGRO CALLS FOR TOUGHER SANCTIONS ON DICTATOR NICOLAS MADURO


        WASHINGTON, D.C.   -- 
The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, was in favor of applying increasingly harsh sanctions to Venezuela to obtain the "democratic restoration" in that country. "Now the road, which has taken countries of the continent and are beginning to take countries from abroad, is to apply ever more severe and harsh sanctions to Venezuela to seek the restoration of democracy," said Almagro in an interview published today by the Chilean daily The Mercury.

     Almagro, who participated in a forum on energy and environment in Chile this week, recalled that the United States has imposed financial sanctions on Venezuela and that the OAS issued a resolution last April to declare the alteration of the constitutional order. "The mechanism of sanctions is one of the most effective to force a negotiation that can give results," said the Secretary General of the OAS. Almagro recalled that Mercosur has suspended Venezuela and said that they are also in favor of applying sanctions several of the twelve Latin American countries that a few weeks ago met in Lima to evaluate the situation.

    "I believe that a good continental force in this respect and the support of permanent observer countries that go down this path of sanctions can lead to negotiation mechanisms that can work in the future," he said. For now, said Almagro, the organization will continue denouncing the "atrocities of the regime" of President Nicolas Maduro and will focus on the existence of crimes against humanity. With this objective, Luis Moreno Ocampo, in charge of a group of experts, analyzed former ICC International Criminal Court (ICC), who will analyze whether he supports the reports that already exist in the ICC for crimes against humanity in Venezuela or if he files a new complaint . Almagro said that the OAS will continue denouncing "the deterioration of Venezuelan institutionality", especially after the assumption of the plenipotentiary Constituent National Assembly.

VENEZUELA'S MUD OPPOSITION ALLIANCE WILL ELECT ITS CANDIDATES FOR STATE GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS

          CARACAS, VENEZUELA -- Venezuela's MUD opposition alliance will elect this Sept. 10 its candidates for the state gubernatorial elections scheduled for next October. Lawmaker Stalin Gonzalez, head of the opposition faction of the National Assembly (AN) legislature, said in an interview on private TV channel Globovision that the primaries will be held in 20 of the 23 states of the country, excluding three states where the opposition reached a consensus on its candidate.

     MUD, the country's largest political platform, plans to hold its elections behind the back of the National Electoral Council (CNE), which it accuses of being at the service of the Nicolas Maduro government, the lawmaker said. For these elections the MUD, made up of most opposition parties in Venezuela, will include its principal members who are in prison, disqualified or with ongoing court cases that could have them removed from the campaign.

    Nonetheless, the vote will take place at a time when the Nicolas Maduro government and the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) are extremely unpopular. The election of governors will be held at one of the most controversial times for the CNE, following the election of the new Constituent Assembly last July 30, from which the opposition abstained and consequently left it entirely made up of Maduro supporters with almost limitless powers over the country and the institutions of state.

September  9, 2017

DICTATOR NICOLAS MADURO ASKS THE ATTORNEY GENERAL TO PROSECUTE JULIO BORGES FOR "TREASON TO THE MOTHER COUNTRY"

      CARACAS, VENEZUELA   -- Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro today requested to his Attorney General that Speaker Julio Borges be tried for "treason" for allegedly calling for foreign intervention and promoting a financial blockade against Venezuela. During a speech before the Constituent Assembly, a plenipotentiary body fully controlled by the ruling party, Maduro accused Borges of orchestrating a plan to economically block the Venezuelan state and request foreign intervention during a tour that is being carried out in Europe, according to DPA.

     "The arrogance and arrogance of the imperialists make them more arrogant and arrogant, and they think they are English and believe they are gringos." JulioBorges smiles as if he were the cousin of (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel, ridiculous! You should be tried as a traitor to the motherland, for the damage he is causing, for the damages he is trying to do, "Maduro shot. "Julio Borges should be tried by the laws of the Republic and punished severely by traitor! Traitor I say! Here there are no untouchables in Venezuela! ) Justice! For there to be peace, "Maduro demanded to the applause of constituent legislators.

    Borges is on a tour in Europe, which has led him to meet with the leaders of France, Germany and England, before whom he denounced the deterioration of democracy and the violation of human rights by the Venezuelan government. Borges denounced that the opposition-majority parliament elected in December 2015 was virtually stripped of all its functions by the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ), a fact that was aggravated after the installation of the Constituent Assembly, dominated by the ruling party and that opposition denounces as a fraud to the Constitution and a coup. During the tour, the European leaders have expressed their support for the Venezuelan Parliament and have expressed their concern about the situation of the South American country.

THE US CONSIDERS A MOCKERY VENEZUELAN VP ARREAZA'S PARTICIPATION IN THE UN HUMAN RIGHT COUNCIL


        WASHINGTON, D.C.   -- 
The United States considered today as a "mockery" to the UN Human Rights Council the presentation that will make next week before that institution the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza. This was asserted in a statement by the United States representative to the UN, Nikki Haley, echoing reports that Arreaza will speak on Monday at the opening of the 36th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. "Instead of welcoming the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, the Human Rights Council should denounce his government," said Haley, who is part of Donald Trump's administration as the United States representative to the United Nations.

     According to Haley, the fact that Arreaza addresses the council "represents a mockery of the institution" because the government of Nicolás Maduro "continues to rob the Venezuelan people of their freedom and prosperity." "Even the fact that Venezuela is a member of the UN Human Rights Council demonstrates the desperate need for reform," said the US ambassador. The Human Rights Council has been very critical in recent weeks over the repression by the Government of Maduro of demonstrators and detainees.

     A report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights denounced the lethal use of force and acts of torture by police and military personnel against demonstrators and detainees - many of them arbitrarily - during protests against the new Venezuelan Constituent Assembly. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, in presenting the final report last August 30, said that democracy in Venezuela "is barely alive, if it is still alive." The UN will ask the Human Rights Council at its next Monday session to consider taking measures to prevent further deterioration of human rights in that country, through a monitoring mechanism, regular reports or a commission of inquiry. EFE

SPAIN TO PROMOTE SANCTIONS IN THE EUROPEAN UNION FOR MEMBERS OF DICTATOR MADURO GOVERNMENT

          MADRID, SPAIN  -- In a statement issued by the Moncloa Palace shortly after Tuesday's meeting with the National Assembly's board of directors, the Spanish government said that "Spain will continue to promote the adoption by the EU of restrictive measures, individual and selective, against responsible for the current repression "that Venezuela lives. Spanish government is committed to work to open a humanitarian channel to meet the basic needs of the Venezuelan people.

     The Spanish government will continue to push for EU sanctions against members of Nicolás Maduro's government, said President Mariano Rajoy during a meeting held this Tuesday in Madrid with the president of the National Assembly, Julio Borges, and his first vice president Freddy Guevara. In a statement released by the Moncloa Palace shortly after Tuesday's meeting, the Spanish government said that "Spain will continue to promote the adoption by the EU of restrictive measures, individual and selective, against those responsible for the current repression." He also promised to work to open a humanitarian channel to meet the basic needs of the Venezuelan population.

     For his part, Borges said that the pressure of Venezuelans both outside and within the country and the international community are necessary to force a change in the country. "We need to force the government to negotiate, not to stay in power as they want, but to have a democratic transition in Venezuela," Borges said. Borges and Guevara began a tour of Europe last week, meeting initially in Paris with the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, who also was willing to push new sanctions. Last week they spoke with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin and with British Prime Minister Theresa May in London. It is time to impose economic sanctions to Mature Dictatorship.

September  8, 2017

AS POPE FRANCIS FLEW OVER VENEZUELA, HE SENT A MESSAGE TO DICTATOR NICOLAS MADURO

      BOGOTA, COLOMBIA  --  Pope Francis sent a telegram to embattled Venezuelan head of state Nicolas Maduro Wednesday, as he flew over Venezuela for a state visit to neighboring Colombia, telling Maduro that the Pontiff was “praying that all in the nation (Venezuela) may promote paths of solidarity, justice and concord”, in the crisis-stricken nation. Pope Francis sent a telegram to the heads of state and presidents of every country he flew over while on his way to Colombia. The Maduro telegram was the only one however in which the Pontiff made a special petition for “solidarity, justice and concord.”

     The communication as published by Radio Vaticana: His Excellemcy Nicolas Maduro, President of the Bolivarian Reublic of Venezuela, Caracas. As my apostolic visit to Colombia takes me over Venezuela, I send cordial greetings to your excellency and all the people of Venezuela. Praying that all in the nation may promote paths of solidarity, justice and concord, I willingly invoke upon all of you God’s Blessings of Peace. International pressure on Maduro is certainly mounting: also on Wednesday, the President of the opposition-held legislative National Assembly, Julio Borges, held a landmark visit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel,

     Merkel publicly pledged her support to the cause of a democratic Venezuela and who didn’t rule out EU sanctions against the Maduro regime, which is already in the U.S. Treasury watchlist. National Assembly Vice President Freddy Guevara also met with Merkel. Venezuela is still reeling from four months of violent anti-Maduro street protests, which cost the lives of 126 demonstrators and security forces (according to a U.N. report published this week) where NGOs put the death toll past 163 killed in protests and related events such as riots and looting. Street protests practically ended after Maduro seated a Constituent Assembly that, according to the Venezuelan opposition and 40-plus countries, was imposed in a fraudulent manner.

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY OFFERS SUPPORT TO OPPOSITION LEADERS JULIO BORGES AND FREDDY GUEVARA


        LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM   -- 
British Prime Minister Theresa May today reiterated her 'unwavering support' for Venezuela's opposition-held National Assembly, as she met with its leader Julio Borges in London. "We have been consistent in our condemnation of the actions of the Venezuelan government and in our unwavering support for the National Assembly as a democratic institution," May said after the meeting.  May has also met with the mother of detained Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and says she is "deeply troubled" by the jailing of political prisoners in the country. Lopez is under house arrest after being released from a jail sentence for leading anti-government demonstrations. May said his detention was "a matter of great concern."

    The meeting is the latest in a European tour that has seen Borges meet with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Tuesday and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday. Borges leads the opposition-dominated assembly that President Nicolas Maduro has effectively shut down. International powers accuse Maduro of dismantling democracy by taking over state institutions in order to resist opposition pressure for him to quit, amid an economic crisis that has caused shortages of food and medicine.

    "Today's meeting is an unambiguous signal that the UK will continue to work with our international partners to put pressure on the authorities to decrease tension in Venezuela and prevent the country from being taken further away from democracy," May said. The prime minister also expressed "great concern" for the continued detention of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, whose mother accompanied Borges on the trip. "I once again urge the Venezuelan government to ensure that human rights, the rule of law, the separation of powers and the integrity of democratic institutions are respected," May said.

MEXICO EXPELS NORTH KOREAN AMBASSADOR OVER HIS COUNTRY'S NUCLEAR TESTS

          MEXICO CITY, MEXICO  -- The Mexican government on Thursday said it had declared the North Korean ambassador to Mexico persona non grata in protest at the country’s nuclear tests, an unusually firm step that moved it closely into line with Washington. In a statement, the government said it had given Kim Hyong Gil 72 hours to leave Mexico in order to express its “absolute rejection” of North Korea’s recent nuclear activity, describing it as a grave threat to the region and the world.

     Mexico has traditionally sought to steer clear of diplomatic ructions, but in the past few months it has adopted robust language to condemn the governments of Venezuela and North Korea as they descended into increasing international isolation. Facing a rocky relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump due to his threats to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Mexico has backed him diplomatically on issues that imply no great political cost for the government. “North Korea’s nuclear activity is a serious risk for international peace and security and represents a growing threat to nations in the region, including fundamental allies of Mexico like Japan and South Korea,” the Mexican government said.

     Mexico’s step follows a tide of international condemnation of North Korea for repeated missile launches in recent weeks that intensified again following a nuclear test on Sunday. An official at the Mexican foreign ministry noted, however, that President Enrique Pena Nieto’s government was not breaking diplomatic ties with North Korea. "With this diplomatic action, Mexico expresses to the Government of North Korea absolute rejection of its recent nuclear activity, which means a frank and growing violation of international law and represents a serious threat to the Asian region and to the world," he said.

September  7, 2017

POPE FRANCIS WILL MEET WITH VENEZUELAN'S BISHOPS DURING HIS VISIT TO COLOMBIA

      VATICAN CITY, ROME  --   Vatican spokesman Greg Burke has confirmed a meeting with the bishops of Venezuela in Pope Francis' official visit program to Colombia. There is also no meeting with the former guerrilla group FARC and other opposition groups such as the ELN. Informal encounters and conversations with Venezuelan bishops during the trip are, however, probable. In addition, two cardinals of the crisis state are coming to Bogota airport to receive the Pope.

     During his travels to Colombia, Pope Francis is concerned primarily with pastoral questions, although the peace process will also play an important role, said Burke. Pope Francis has visited Colombia twice during his time as a bishop, as well as twice as a priest in the 1970s; he had journeyed to the cities of Bogota, Medellin, and La Ceja. The opening day (7 September) in Bogota will be entitled, "Handicrafts of Peace, Promoter of Life". On the 8th of September in the village of Villavicencio "Reconciliation with God, with the Colombians and with nature" will be in the foreground.

     Further details of the trip were revealed by the Vatican: The outward flight is handled via the airline Alitalia, the return flight with the Colombian Avianca. Whether a meeting with the guerrillas does not actually take place during the Colombian trip is still questionable, despite Vatican denials. On Friday, representatives of the rebel group ELN declared that they were seeking to meet with the Pope to officially ask forgiveness for their "Mistake" of the assassination of Bishop Jesus Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve, said the Colombian radio station RCN radio on its website.

GERMANY WON'T RULE OUT EUROPEAN UNION SANCTIONS AGAINST VENEZUELA


        BERLIN, GERMANY  -- 
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is refusing to rule out European Union sanctions against Venezuela following a meeting with senior opposition figures. Merkel's office said she met briefly Wednesday in Berlin with Julio Borges, president of Venezuela's National Assembly, and Freddy Guevara, the legislature's first vice president. It said Venezuela's current domestic political situation, its "worrying human rights situation" and worsening economic conditions in the country were the focus of talks.

     Merkel pledged to support "the Venezuelan people and all democratic forces." Her office said she "didn't rule out EU sanctions" when it came to finding a peaceful solution to the conflict. She urged President Nicolas Maduro's government to reopen negotiations with the opposition and make good on a promised "national dialogue" in Venezuela. Berlin has denounced over the past few weeks "the systematic elimination of the fundamental rules" of democracy and the rule of law by the Maduro Government.

     Borges posted in his Twitter account several images of his meeting with the chancellor, who expressed, in her words, her "absolute support" to the Venezuelan people and the National Assembly presided by Borges. Merkel also told them "their deep concern about the grave humanitarian crisis and constant violation of human rights" in the country and pledged to be a factor supporting democracy in Venezuela. The German government has expressed regret that the trip to Europe of the activist and wife of opposition leader Leopoldo López, Lilian Tintori, was prevented.

IS CHEVRON VIOLATING PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SANCTIONS AGAINST DICTATOR NICOLAS MADURO

          CARACAS, VENEZUELA   -- Venezuelan DICTATOR Nicolas Maduro met with top executives of U.S. oil giant Chevron to discuss the impact of economic sanctions imposed by Washington, state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) said on Tuesday. Maduro spoke with the president of Chevron Africa and Latin America Exploration and Production, Clay Neff, and Ali Moshiri, adviser to Chevron's CEO, to explore mechanisms that will lead to a continuation of the relationship between PDVSA and the U.S. firm, despite the sanctions.

     The sanctions throw a wrench into joint operations "that had been developing very successfully," said PDVSA, which the sanctions directly target. Maduro let Chevron know Venezuela is interested in preserving its "commercial ties" with the firm and "the Venezuelan state is interested in conserving foreign investment in the country," the company said. [ Following the announcement of the sanctions, Maduro called for a meeting with various U.S. companies that do business with Venezuela, saying that U.S. investors with significant investments and interests in oil, gas and other businesses are also affected.

     On Aug. 25, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order that "prohibits dealings in new debt and equity issued by the government of Venezuela and its state oil company" and also prohibits "dividend payments" to the South American country's government. In announcing the sanctions, the White House said that these "measures are carefully calibrated" to deny the Maduro government "a critical source of financing" to maintain its rule. In announcing the sanctions, the White House said that these "measures are carefully calibrated" to deny the Maduro government "a critical source of financing" to maintain its rule.

September  6, 2017

ANGELA MERKEL TO ANALYZES WITH JULIO BORGES AND FREDDY GUEVARA THE WORRYING SITUATION OF VENEZUELA

      BERLIN, GERMANY  --   German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet tomorrow with Venezuelan National Assembly President Julio Borges and Vice President Freddy Guevara to analyze the "worrying" human rights situation in the Latin American country and the problems of supplying with food and medicine the population. According to Efe, a spokesman for the German government, the meeting, to be held in the Chancellery behind closed doors, aims to study the internal political evolution of Venezuela, after the two opposition leaders have already visited Paris and Madrid.

     The spokeswoman recalled that Merkel has already shown her "great regret" for preventing the trip to Europe of the activist and wife of opposition leader Leopoldo López, Lilian Tintori, who will not be able to participate in the Berlin meeting. The German Government has denounced in recent weeks "the systematic elimination of the fundamental rules" of democracy and the rule of law by the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Berlin is convinced, the spokesman continued, that the only way out for the current crisis is peaceful negotiations, and he urged the Maduro government to return to the negotiating table with the opposition.

      Borges and Guevara met yesterday in Madrid with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis and were received in Paris the day before by French President Emmanuel Macron. German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her "great regret" that Lilian Tintori's trip to Europe could not be realized, and, therefore, she will not be able to attend the Berlin meeting. The German government has denounced over the last few weeks "the systematic elimination of the fundamental norms" of democracy and the rule of law by the regime of Nicolas Maduro.

VENEZUELA DICTATOR NICOLAS MADURO WON'T ATTEND UN RIGHTS COUNCIL MEETING


        GENEVA, BELGIUM  -- 
Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro will not intervene next Monday at the UN Human Rights Council, the United Nations said on Tuesday. He will be replaced by Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza Montserrat, a diplomatic source added in a statement. The UN specified that the permanent mission of Venezuela did not explain the reason for the cancellation and that they merely reported that Arreaza would replace Maduro.

      The Venezuelan mission, for its part, has not explained the reasons for such unexpected cancellation. The same sources reported yesterday afternoon that they had received a verbal note from the Venezuelan mission stating that Maduro would like to speak on the opening day of the thirty-sixth regular session of the Council. This fact was later confirmed by the Venezuelan mission. Diplomatic sources explained that several countries were preparing to respond the day after Maduro's intervention and denounce the situation of the Bolivarian nation.

      The source also explained that Maduro's announcement caused surprise and amazement, and more his participation in the Human Rights Council, since this body has been very critical in the last weeks with the repression exerted by its government against demonstrators and detainees. On Monday, a note verbally transmitted from the Permanent Mission of Venezuela to the agency in Geneva had confirmed the presence of the Venezuelan dictator to speak at the thirty-sixth session of the Human Rights Council.

CUBAN OPPOSITION GROUP DENOUNCED 511 POLITICALLY MOTIVATED ARRESTS IN AUGUST

          HAVANA, CUBA  -- The dissident Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) denounces that last August it registered at least 511 arbitrary detentions for political reasons, a "disquieting indicator" despite declining cases compared to July, the organization said on Tuesday. In its monthly report last month, the CCDHRN "verified and recorded" 11 cases of physical assault and 9 acts of harassment and intimidation attributed to political police and "parapolitical elements".

     In the new recount on the human rights situation on the island, the Commission denounced that the Cuban government prevented to leave from the country at least six independent civil society activists who wanted to attend conferences or training courses. For the dissident group - the only one in Cuba to report such incidents - this means a "flagrant violation" of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

     According to the CCDHRN, the "main targets of political repression" on the island remain the female opposition group Damas de Blanco and the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu). Last July, the Commission recorded 575 arbitrary detentions, almost 200 more than the previous month and the highest figure in the last nine months. So far this year, the organization has documented 3,706 cases of political arrests. The Cuban government does not recognize internal dissent because it considers them as "counterrevolutionaries" or "mercenaries," denying that there are political prisoners in its prisons and claims that they are common criminals.

September  5, 2017

FRENCH PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON MEETS WITH VENEZUELA OPPOSITION LEADERS

      PARIS,  FRANCE  --  French President Emmanuel Macron met with Venezuela opposition leaders Monday to discuss the embattled nation’s humanitarian and political crisis, two days after a leading activist was barred from leaving the country in order to attend the Paris meeting. Foreign nations including Spain and the United Kingdom, whose leaders are expected to meet with members of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly this week, have decried the socialist government’s move to bar Lilian Tintori from leaving Venezuela.

     Julio Borges, president of the National Assembly, and Freddy Guevara, the legislature’s first vice president, are proceeding with meetings scheduled this week with European leaders aimed at increasing international pressure on President Nicolas Maduro to hold elections, respect a balance of power and allow humanitarian aid. Borges and Guevara told Macron that Venezuelans are in dire need of basic necessities like food and medicine at the same time that Maduro’s government is stripping away basic civil rights. Borges said Macron asked “several times what he could do to relieve the crisis” and offered the possibility of providing humanitarian aid.

     That’s a prospect that Maduro is likely to reject. The Venezuelan leader has routinely refused to accept any foreign assistance, denying the nation is facing a crisis and claiming it could pave the way toward foreign intervention. “Dozens of countries have offered free food and medicine and it’s unbelievable that the main obstacle is (the) government, the one which is supposed to defend the rights of the Venezuelan people,” Borges said. Hours after the meeting, Macron’s office issued a statement by the president indicating he was ready to push for European sanctions against Maduro’s administration. Condemning what he called repression of the opposition, Macron said France was ready to launch European discussions “toward adopting measures targeting tho

VENEZUELA INCREASINGLY ISALATED; IT LODGES PROTEST AGAINST 'MEDDLING'  OF EUROPEAN DIPLOMATS


        CARACAS, VENEZUELA  -- 
Venezuela has delivered a formal protest note to the ambassadors of Spain, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom for "meddling" in the internal affairs of the country, the foreign ministry has said. "We had to make this announcement as a matter of urgency given the permanent interference of these ambassadors and their governments in Venezuela's internal affairs, in the functioning of its democracy, in the functioning of its public powers," Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said.

     The protest notes, which were presented individually to the ambassadors of Spain, Germany and Italy were in response to the statements issued by the ambassadors of Spain, Germany and Italy questioning the ban on opposition figure Lilian Tintori to leave the country, On Aug. 30, the criminal investigation unit, CICPC, found 200 million bolivares in cash, about US$60,000 at the official exchange rate, inside a vehicle belonging to Tintori in four wooden crates and an investigation has been opened, which prohibits her from leaving the country while it continues.

     "The ambassadors were used by Mrs. Tintori, who had prepared a press conference, accompanied by ambassadors, knowing that she would not be able to leave Venezuela because of the case in which she is accused," said Arreaza. Likewise, the Venezuelan official rejected the position of figures such as Spanish President Mariano Rajoy and Argentine President Mauricio Macri, who made statements "in a crude way about the government of Venezuela." "These kinds of expressions are impertinent and offensive towards Venezuelan democracy," Arreaza added. The foreign diplomat instead urged all countries with a true desire to help bring peace to Venezuela to join with others in respect for Venezuela's sovereignty, its democracy and its institutions.

FRANCE AND VENEZUELA OPPOSITION CREATE AM INTERPARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE FOR DEMOCRACY

          PARIS, FRANCE -- The President Venezuela National Assembly Julio Borges and the Vice-President Freddy Guevara were welcomed by the French Senate chief Gérard Larcher, who recommended the creation of the Interparliamentary Committee between the Foreign Policy Commissions of the French Senate and the Venezuelan National Assembly to ensure democracy and restore the thread constitutional in the South American country.

     "The situation in Venezuela is not indifferent to me. We are willing to advocate for democracy in Venezuela. The only democratic legitimacy of Venezuela is that of the National Assembly, elected by the vote of the Venezuelan people and recognized by all of us in the international community, "Larcher said at the end of the meeting. He also demanded the release of all political prisoners.

     In the Chamber of Deputies, the President of the National Assembly of France, François Rugby, welcomed the absolute support and recognition of the Venezuelan Parliament as "the only constitutional legislative body recognized by the international community, historically elected by 14 million of Venezuelans. "Rugby reiterated the respect that must exist for the Venezuelan National Assembly and reject all initiatives implemented by the regime against it and taking away their powers. Thus closed the first day of the tour of the President of the National Assembly, Julio Borges, accompanied by Freddy Guevara, for the most important countries in Europe. This Tuesday they are expected to be received by the head of the Spanish government, Mariano Rajoy in Madrid.

September  4, 2017

NORTH KOREA SUCCESSFULLY TESTED A PROJECTILE 10 TIMES MORE POWERFUL THAN ITS TEST A YEAR AGO

      PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA  --  Sunday's tesT -- North Korea's sixth-ever -- was 10 times more powerful than its test a year ago, Japanese officials said, and North Korea claims to have developed projectiles with increasingly frightening ranges. If that is true, North Korea may be a step closer to being able to reach the US mainland with one of its warheads, as it has threatened. While North Korea has ratcheted up its ballistic missile testing this year, amid an exchange of threatening rhetoric with US President Donald Trump, this marks the isolated nation's first nuclear test of Trump's presidency.

     Trump tweeted that he was meeting with military leaders about North Korea, while also entertaining nonmilitary options, such as "stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea." That's a relatively short list topped by China, the hermit kingdom's No. 1 ally, and to a lesser degree, India and Russia, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity. In other tweets, Trump said China "is trying to help but with little success," and "South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!"

     Defense Secretary James Mattis said Sunday that any North Korean threats toward the US or its territories or allies -- specifically Guam, Japan and South Korea -- would be met with an "effective and overwhelming" response. He further urged leader Kim Jong Un to "take heed of the United Nation's Security Council unified voice. "All members unanimously agreed on the threat North Korea poses and they remain unanimous in their commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula because we are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea, but as I said, we have many options to do so," Mattis said. Asked by a reporter Sunday whether the US would attack North Korea, Trump responded: "We'll see."

NORTH KOREA HYDROGEN BOMB TEST SPURS EMERGENCY SECURITY COUNCIL SESSION


        UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK  -- 
A North Korean nuclear test -- labeled by experts as the pariah state's most powerful ever -- drew rebuke from around the globe, including from North Korea's strongest ally, with several nations joining forces to come up with an appropriate response.

     The United States, Japan, France, the United Kingdom and South Korea quickly requested an emergency session of the UN Security Council after the test, which North Korea's leaders said demonstrated the country was capable of putting an advanced hydrogen bomb atop an intercontinental ballistic missile. The meeting, now scheduled for Monday at 10 a.m. ET, was announced as UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the North Korean test as "profoundly destabilizing for regional security."

     The power of the blast was not immediately clear. While the seismic tremors it created led a Norwegian group to say it was eight times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, South Korean experts said the yield was less than half the Norwegian group's estimate. It's nearly impossible to verify Pyongyang's claim that it detonated a hydrogen bomb, experts say, or whether North Korea has the capability to deploy such a weapon on a missile. Still, the test drew sharp admonitions from several nations, including the United States, which made it clear military action remained among its options.

TAL CUAL: CRIMINALS TAKE OVER HOSPITAL IN VENEZUELA

          CARACAS, VENEZUELA -- TalCual: Moments of terror were felt at the Ruíz y Paez Hospital in Ciudad Bolívar, capital of Bolívar state, last Sunday between three and six in the morning. As reported by local daily El Nacional, during that time some criminals broke into this public health center in an attempt to finish off a few members of rival gangs being treated there, but they were also willing to take the lives of the medical staff on duty. The criminals carried firearms and bottles of rum and had no problem to enter the premises.

     It is worth keeping in mind that, at that same exact time, the country was carrying out military drills ordered by the commander-in-chief and "son" of the late "eternal" Hugo Chávez, Nicolás Maduro, to deal with the threat of a military attack by the "American Empire" against Venezuela. We are not experts in the field, but a hospital should be a place under the control of the National Armed Forces (FAN) when carrying out their drills, because casualties that the invading forces may cause would ultimately be taken there, right? But, as we learned from El Nacional, the criminals took over the place for a while – three hours as a matter of fact – and were willing to apply the death penalty to anyone who dared to cross their path.

     This is one more example of the control criminals have over the life of the country. A control that has been allowed – and maybe endorsed, encouraged and tolerated – by the Government since 1999. A control that has been tightened virtually throughout the country. It is something that has been going on long before the threats of Donald Trump or sanctions that the U.S. government has imposed on the high-ranking members of the so-called Bolivarian revolution. It is one of the main concerns of Venezuelans who are afraid to go into the street because they know the risks of being robbed, kidnapped or killed. The police arrived at the scene at eight in the morning, two hours after the offenders took off. If that’s how they deal with ordinary criminals, just imagine if the U.S. Marines ever showed up on the Venezuelan coastline.

September  3, 2017

VENEZUELA CHARGES PREGNANT WIFE OF LEOPOLDO LOPEZ WITH OFFENSE OF HAVING MONEY IN HER CAR

    
CARACAS, VENEZUELA--  Lilian Tintori, the pregnant wife of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez who met in January with US President Donald Trump has been charged Friday with holding about $10,000 in cash "illegally." Tintori, who is pregnant with her third child with Lopez, was charged by the office of Maduro-imposed Attorney General Tarek William Saab the day after Maduro went on live television making fun of the explanation the activist gave for having 200 million bolivars in cash, that her grandmother was sick, after being detained with the money Tuesday night.

    “Yeah, that’s a little money they had for granny,” Maduro said in mocking tones Thursday night. Less than 24 hours later, Tintori (who was originally detained and let go) was charged with an offense. Public mockery before an arrest is not uncommon in Venezuela under Maduro, apparently a practice borrowed from Cuba. Tintori told the web site of national newspaper “El Nacional” that she is sure this is a personal vendetta and not a legitimate case. “They are making a personal case of this, a scandal where there is none, We need money cash because of the hospitalization of my grandmother, who does not have insurance, she is 100 years old”. she was quoted as saying, while leaving the headquarters of the CICPC investigative police.

    “It is not a crime to possess cash. I am not a public official, I am a mother, wife and human rights activist,” Tintori added. Hours after talking to “El Nacional” Tintori published a tweet in her personal account: “The persecution of the dictatorship against our family continues. Nothing will stop our struggle for freedom, peace and democracy.” Tintori was amongst the first foreign dignitaries to meet with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office. Since then, Maduro has tightened his control over Venezuela by imposing a Constituent Assembly, a supra-Constitutional body not recognized by the opposition nor 61 nations around the world, including the USA and Europe.

THE HOAX INVENTED BY MADURO ON TINTORI'S MONEY IN HER CAR WAS TO STOP HER FROM LEAVING THE COUNTRY


        CARACAS, VENEZUELA  -- 
"Today Venezuela and the whole world know the real reason for the regime to invent the hoax against Lilian Tintori, the basic objective was to stop, at all cost, the tour that was already scheduled to meet the leaders of Spain, France, Germany and Great Britain." Venezuelan deputy Lester Toledo in his first reaction to the arbitrary withdrawal of Tintori’s passport in Maiquetia when she was ready to begin her international trip. Toledo explained that the bottom line is that the regime was already aware of the important agenda that the wife of Leopoldo López had planned to meet with several presidents and foreign ministers. This was the reason for the scandal of money, to fabricate an excuse to prohibit Tintori for leaving the country.

     "Lilian had already confirmed the meetings with President Mariano Rajoy of Spain, Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and with Prime Minister Theresa May of Great Britain.” The purpose of these meetings was to highlight the humanitarian crisis that overwhelms the Venezuelans, was to denounce the systematic violation of Human Rights in the country, talk about the illegitimate National Constituent Assembly, that was the agenda, and this agenda was what the regime fears so much, therefore they prohibited her departure from the country. "For Toledo, the financial and banking crisis that has provoked the Venezuelan government is extremely regrettable and it is a reality that citizens are forced to have cash reserves in their pockets to solve their emergencies, whether health, food or of any other need.

    "There is no article on the Constitution, no organic or ordinary law that prohibits any citizen to carry cash, therefore Lilian has not committed any crime, and as she has faced it, like any other Venezuelan, had to get money available to face a family emergency." He reiterates that those who have to explain to Venezuela and the world for their actions are the "ringleaders of the regime," those who have committed crimes of corruption in cases like Odebrecht, PDVSA, Clap, among other scandals such as money laundering and drug trafficking. "Lilian's voice is not going to be stopped by a ban on leaving the country or any new montage of the regime. Her denunciations will continue to rumble outside the borders of Venezuela, we are a whole team of Venezuelans who are forced to leave the country, but we have a mission and a commitment with the Venezuelan people. This action against her will be added to the large file that we have collected on violations of Human Rights in Venezuela and is further evidence that the dictatorship is more isolated every day. "

SPANISH PRESIDENT RAJOY CONSIDERS "UNFORTUNATE" THAT LILIAN TINTORI CANNOT LEAVE VENEZUELA

          MADRID, SPAIN  -- Spanish President Mariano Rajoy on Saturday considered “lamentable” the ban on leaving Venezuelan territory imposed by dictator Nicolas Maduro on Lilian Tintori, the wife of opposition prisoner Leopoldo López . This prohibition to leave the country prevent her scheduled visit to La Moncloa on Tuesday.They can lock people but not ideals. Freedom for Venezuela," stated Rajoy. The Spanish conservative president was scheduled to receive Tintori and Venezuelan parliament president Julio Borges as part of the European tour of these Maduro’s opponents.

    Tintori has been summoned to justice after Venezuelan police seized 200 million bolivars inside the trunk or her car on Tuesday (more than $ 61,000 at the official exchange rate, or $ 10,000 on the black market. This Saturday, when she went to the airport ready to leave for Europe, the police informed her that she was not authorized to depart and held her passport. "The dictatorship wants to prevent us from carrying out a very important international tour," Tintori said on Twitter.”

    In addition to meeting in Madrid with Rajoy, López's wife had scheduled meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May. "Spain condemns this new violation of human rights in Venezuela, which does not contribute to a peaceful and democratic solution to the crisis in that country," said the official statement from Spain Foreign Ministry. Rajoy received Tintori in September 2015, and became the first president-in-office to meet with the wife of Venezuelan opposition leader López.

September  2, 2017

NORTH KOREA SAYS MISSILE TEST AIMED TO COUNTER US-S.KOREA EXERCISES

    
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA --  President Donald Trump said in a Tuesday statement that “all options are on the table” following the latest North Korean missile launch. He wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning, "The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!" North Korea has acknowledged firing a ballistic missile over Japan, saying it was to counter current joint exercises by South Korea and the United States.

     In a Wednesday morning dispatch from Pyongyang, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted leader Kim Jong Un saying the drill for the launch of the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile was "like a real war" and the first step by North Korea’s military for operations in the Pacific and "a meaningful prelude to containing Guam." US president says missile launch over Japan shows Pyongyang’s contempt for international standards of behavior. The mid-range missile, which passed over Japan just after 6am local time, was one of the most provocative launches yet by North Korea and sent a clear message to Washington just weeks after Kim Jong-un threatened to target the US Pacific territory of Guam with similar weaponry.

     Officials in South Korea said the missile may have flown further than any other tested by North Korea. “The world has received North Korea’s latest message loud and clear,” the US president said in a written statement. “This regime has signalled its contempt for its neighbours, for all members of the United Nations, and for minimum standards of acceptable international behaviour. “Threatening and destabilising actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world. All options are on the table. However, there was no immediate direct response from Washington. Asked what he intended to do about North Korea, as he left the US capital to survey storm damage in Texas, Trump said: “We’ll see, we’ll see. Asked a similar question, the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said: “We’ll have more to say about it later.”

TALKING TO NORTH KOREA IS 'NOT THE ANSWER,' TRUMP SAYS, CONFLICTING WITH REX TILLERSON


        WASHINGTON, D.C.  -- 
President Donald Trump, responding to North Korea's latest missile launch, tweeted this morning that talking to North Korea is "not the answer." "The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years," he wrote. The president's stance seems to conflict with comments made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday, in which he advocated for continued diplomacy. "We’re going to continue our peaceful pressure campaign, as I have described it, working with allies, working with China as well, to see if we can bring the regime in Pyongyang to the negotiating table with a view to begin a dialogue on a different future for the Korean Peninsula and for North Korea," Tillerson said in an interview with Fox News.

     Trump warns 'all options are on the table' after North Korea fires missile over Japan. In May, Trump himself told Reuters that he "would have no problem speaking to" North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to deter further development of the country's nuclear program. On Monday, North Korea launched a missile that flew over Japan — a challenge to Trump's Aug. 8 warning to Pyongyang that any further threats to the U.S. would be met with "fire and fury." Two days later he said, "Maybe that statement wasn't tough enough." In a statement on Tuesday, the president said, "All options are on the table" when it comes to North Korea.

     "The world has received North Korea's latest message loud and clear: This regime has signaled its contempt for its neighbors, for all members of the United Nations and for minimum standards of acceptable international behavior," Trump said. After decades of relying on Russian-made planes, China is modernizing the People's Liberation Army Air Force with a new domestic-built fleet Days after North Korea launched a missile over the Japanese island of Hokkaido, U.S. fighter jets and bombers conducted a show of force alongside Japanese and South Korean allies, according to the U.S. military. U.S. Marine Corps' F-35B fighter jets from Japan joined Air Force B-1B bombers from Guam Wednesday for the first time, which included flying over the Korean Peninsula and practicing attack capabilities with South Korean aircraft.

KIM JONG-UN HAS HAILED HIS 'INVINCIBLE FRIENDSHIP WITH SOCIALIST ALLY CUBA

          PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA  -- The totalitarian leader hailed his “invincible friendship” with Cuba via a patriotic article published by state owned newspaper Rodong Sinmun. In the article Kim vowed to support Cuba in “defending the sovereignty of the country” in the face of increasing threats from the US. Addressing Cuban leader Raul Castro Ruz directly, Kim paid tribute to the country for defending its territory, socialism and the revolution from “moves of hostile forces”. His defiant message comes just days after North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan in a bold test that ALLIES: Kim hailed his friendship with Cuba President Raul Castro Ruz

     The article reads: “The DPRK-Cuba friendship is the invincible friendship forged under the banner of socialism. “The Korean and Cuban peoples keenly felt through their life experience that socialism represents the ideal and rosy future of mankind. “So they have fulfilled their sacred obligation in the joint struggle against the imperialists and for building socialism. “Today the Cuban people are firmly defending the sovereignty of the country and socialism, and are successfully advancing the revolution and construction, foiling every hideous move of the US to isolate and stifle Cuba under the correct leadership of the Communist Party of Cuba headed by Raul Castro Ruz.”

     The article was published today to mark the anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between North Korea and Cuba. North Korea and Cuba became allies at the height of the Cold War on August 29, 1960. Now Kim has praised the relationship as “the invincible friendship forged under the banner of socialism”. The last time Cuba turned to a foreign ally for support against the US was the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In 1962, then Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev sent nuclear missiles to Cuba in response to a US deployment of ballistic missiles to Italy and Turkey. After a period of tense negotiations, former US President John F Kennedy eventually convinced Khrushchev to dismantle Cuba’s nuclear weapons.

September 1, 2017

VENEZUELAN NEW CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY CUBANA APPROVES TREASON TRIALS FOR OPPOSITION LEADERS

    
CARACAS, VENEZUELA -- Venezuela's new constituent assembly has unanimously voted to put opposition leaders on trial for treason. The assembly said it would pursue those it accuses of supporting US economic sanctions against the country. Washington approved the measures last week in response to what it called the "dictatorship" of President Nicolás Maduro. President Maduro has accused the US of trying to cripple Venezuela's economy amid an ongoing economic crisis. US President Donald Trump signed an executive order on 25 August to ban trade in Venezuelan debt or the sale of bonds from its state oil company.

     His reasons included "serious abuses of human rights" as well as the creation of the "illegitimate" constituent assembly, which the US accuses of usurping the democratically elected parliament. The constituent assembly, which was convened by President Maduro and is made up of government supporters, has been condemned by international leaders as unconstitutional.On Tuesday, members of the assembly unanimously approved a decree calling for the investigation of "traitors" who supported the economic sanctions.bImage copyrightEPAImage captionConstituent assembly member Gladys Requena's shouts of "Viva Maduro!" were met by a standing ovation

     During the three-hour session, they took turns denouncing those who have been critical of the government in ever more colourful language. Among those they attacked for allegedly being "engaged in the promotion of these immoral actions against the interests of the Venezuelan people" were not only members of opposition parties but also former supporters of the socialist government. The sacked chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega, who over the past months has become one of the most vocal critics of the government, came in for particular vitriol. The head of the opposition-controlled parliament, Julio Borges, was named as "one of the real enemies of Venezuela" for asking US bank Goldman Sachs to stop buying Venezuelan bonds. Borges reacted by saying that it was time the government stopped looking for others to blame for Venezuela's economic and political crisis.

THE UNITED STATES CONDEMNS THE CALL BY VENEZUELA'S ILLEGITIMATE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY FOR TRIALS OF  POLITICAL OPPOSITION LEADERS


        WASHINGTON, D.C.  -- 
The United States condemns the call by Venezuela's illegitimate Constituent Assembly for trials of the political opposition, including members of the democratically-elected legislature, on charges of treason and alleged involvement in Venezuela's economic crisis," Nauert said. "Venezuela's economic situation is the result of the misguided policies and corruption of the Maduro regime, which bears direct responsibility for the suffering of the Venezuelan people."

     "This injustice is only the latest in a sustained effort by the Maduro regime to undermine democracy, repress political dissent, and sow fear among its critics," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Wednesday. "It embodies yet another rupture in Venezuela's constitutional order and defies the fact that in democracies, ideas and opinions are not crimes." "This injustice is only the latest in a sustained effort by the Maduro regime to undermine democracy, repress political dissent, and sow fear among its critics," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Wednesday.

     "It embodies yet another rupture in Venezuela's constitutional order and defies the fact that in democracies, ideas and opinions are not crimes."
Maduro's team argues its political opponents are responsible for President Trump's decision to impose sanctions on his government. The proposal to try them for treason was delivered through the new assembly that Maduro established to rewrite the constitution in order to circumvent those opponents, in defiance of domestic protests and Western condemnation. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's team pointed out that Venezuela has faced economic struggles for years, quite apart from last week's sanctions.

UNITED NATIONS EXPRESSED CONCERNS ABOUT THE TREASON TRIALS FOR VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION LEADER

          New York CITY, NEW YORK -- The country's all-powerful new constituent assembly for instance announced Tuesday it would hold treason trials for opposition leaders it said are promoting economic sanctions imposed by the United States. The widespread rights abuses committed against protestors in Venezuela has left democracy "barely alive", the UN said Wednesday. A fresh UN report warned that the rights situation in Venezuela was at "grave risk" of unravelling further as the authorities continue to systematically and brutally repress demonstrators, and urged international action.

     Recent actions by Venezuela's authorities "support the feeling that what is left of democratic life in Venezuela is being squeezed", UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein told reporters in Geneva, where the report was being launched.
He did not go as far as French President Emmanuel Macron, who on Tuesday accused his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro of creating a "dictatorship", but said there had clearly been "an erosion of democratic life." "It must be barely alive, if still alive." Wednesday's report accused Venezuelan authorities of implementing a policy of repression to crack down on months of street protests against Maduro.

     "The generalized and systematic use of excessive force during demonstrations and the arbitrary detention of protesters and perceived political opponents indicate that these were not the illegal or rogue acts of isolated officials," the report said. The extent of violations "in our view point to the existence of a policy to crush dissent and instil fear in the population with the intention of curbing these demonstrations," one of the report authors, Herman Vales, told reporters. Venezuela, which is suffering from an acute economic crisis marked by shortages of basic goods, has experienced months of deadly street demonstrations against Maduro that have left 125 people dead, according to prosecutors.

VENEZUELA'S OUSTED CHIEF PROSECUTOR FLEES TO COLOMBIA


        BOGOTA, COLOMBIA  -- 
Venezuela's ousted chief prosecutor and her husband — two of DICTATOR Nicolas Maduro's most outspoken critics — fled the country and landed Friday afternoon in Colombia. Luisa Ortega Diaz and German Ferrer arrived in Bogota aboard a private plane traveling from Aruba, Colombian migration authorities said in a statement. The couple didn't request asylum, according to a senior Colombian official speaking on condition of anonymity because he's not authorized to discuss the politically sensitive case.

    Ortega and Ferrer have long been aligned with Venezuela's ruling socialist party but recently broke with Maduro, publicly denouncing his push to convene a constitutional assembly that was installed in early August and is now going about the task of upending Venezuela's institutions. One of the assembly's first acts was to remove Ortega and appoint one of Maduro's key allies, Tarek William Saab, as the nation's new top law enforcement officer. On Thursday, the government-stacked Supreme Court ordered Ferrer placed under arrest, a day after Saab accused him of orchestrating a $6 million extortion ring that allegedly occurred under Ortega's watch.

     Ferrer denied the accusations and many believe they are politically motivated. In June, the Supreme Court barred Ortega from leaving the country and ordered her bank accounts frozen as part of its investigation into a complaint filed by a pro-government lawmaker that accused her of acting as an opposition leader and requested a probe into her "mental insanity." Univision reported Friday that Ortega and Ferrer fled in a speed boat to Aruba, which lies a short distance to the northern coast of Venezuela.

VENEZUELA'S FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL SAYS DICTATOR MADURO IS INVOLVED IN ODEBRECHT SCANDAL

           BOGOTA, COLOMBIA   --    Venezuela's sacked attorney general Luisa Ortega said Friday she had evidence that DICTATOR Nicolas Maduro and his inner circle were implicated in the massive corruption scandal around Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht. Odebrecht has admitted to paying hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to win juicy contracts in 12 countries, including Venezuela -- a massive scandal that has rocked Latin American politics. But no names had yet surfaced in Venezuela. Ortega, who was fired after emerging as a top critic of Maduro, said the bribe-taking there went all the way to the top.

     "They are very worried and anxious, because they know we have details on all the cooperation, amounts and people who got rich, and that investigation involves Mr Nicolas Maduro and his inner circle," she told a meeting of Latin American prosecutors in Mexico by conference call. Ortega did not say where she was calling from. She has faced growing harassment in Venezuela, where security forces recently raided her home and the authorities have issued an arrest warrant for her husband, a lawmaker who also broke with Maduro. She had blistering condemnation for Maduro's government, which has installed an all-powerful Constituent Assembly that on Friday seized the powers of the opposition-majority legislature.

     "We have seen how all Venezuela's institutions have degenerated, how they have abandoned the rule of law, been turned into the promoters of a totalitarian government," she said. "We're living through a difficult situation in Venezuela... persecuted and dominated with the weapons of hunger and sickness. It's a struggle to find food and medicine in our country. The government is trying to rule the people through poverty." She urged her colleagues from around the region not to share information on ongoing investigations with her successor, Maduro ally Tarek William Saab, saying anything they sent to Venezuela would be "used for the opposite of its intended purpose." She also condemned the government's treatment of her, her family and her friends. "I am being systematically persecuted," she said.

 

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