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of june 2017

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June 30, 2017

 VENEZUELA SUPREME COURT BARS ATTORNEY GENERAL LUISA ORTEGA FROM LEAVING THE COUNTRY AND FREEZES ALL HER ASSETS

     
CARACAS, VENEZUELA --Venezuela's supreme court has slapped an asset freeze and travel ban on Attorney General Luisa Ortega, a top critic of President Nicolas Maduro, after she accused her of creating a "climate of terror". Ortega has emerged as the most critical voice within the Venezuelan government as the authorities have cracked down on anti-Maduro protests, leaving a death toll of 80 people in just under three months. Ortega, a strong critic of dictator Nicolas Maduro, has been called a "traitor" by the ruling Socialists since March when she opposed a bid by the Supreme Tribunal to strip the opposition-controlled National Assembly of its powers.

      The court, which is closely aligned with the embattled dictator, earlier approved proceedings against Ortega who is accused of allegedly committing "grave errors" in her role as the nation's top law enforcement official. A hearing has been set for July 4 to decide whether Ortega should face trial for alleged professional malpractice. Until her fate is decided, the court ordered her bank accounts and assets frozen, and banned her from leaving the country. Speaking in advance of the ruling, Ortega lambasted Maduro's government. "We have state terrorism in Venezuela, where we have lost the right to protest, where demonstrations are cruelly repressed, where civilians are tried in military courts," said Ortega, 59.

     "We have a constitutional rupture. The constitution is being violated and the state is being dismantled," she told journalists. The condemnation came as Maduro vowed to fend off what he called a coup attempt, after a rogue police pilot allegedly dropped two grenades onto the Supreme Tribunal from a stolen helicopter. Political analysts and Maduro's opponents said they suspected the incident was a hoax. But the leftist leader branded the "terrorist attack" a failed coup backed by the United States. Opposition leaders placed cardboard coffins and body bags at the gates of the National Guard headquarters after the killing of another protester.

LUISA ORTEGA: DISAVOW AND NOT RECOGNIZE ANY DECISION EMANATING FROM THE SUPREME COURT


 
       CARACAS, VENEZUELA  -- 
Attorney General Luisa Ortega said Wednesday she was disavowing and not recognizing two decisions emanating from the Supreme Court, saying they go against what is mandated in the Venezuelan Constitution, and asked Venezuelans to do the same, deepening the conflict inside the troubled government of Nicolas Maduro. This is Venezuela, after almost three months of continuous anti-Maduro protests that have cost 80 deaths, according to Ortega’s office, although some observes, including NGOs and media outlets, put the tragic tally at 94. And again, on Wednesday, in spite of the heavy rains, people took to the streets to block them as part of the third “Gran Trancazo”, the big shut down.

     “I will defend democracy and the Constitution with my life even, I swear”, Ortega said during a press conference at the AG’s headquarters’ auditorium in downtown Caracas. “I told you, I was not going to let them (the Supreme Court) derogate the Constitution”. Ortega invoked Article 333 of the Magna Carta, which states that the Constitution will not lose legal power if overlooked by act of force or derogated by any means not covered in it. Article 333 also requires of all citizens, authorities or laymen, to collaborate actively in restituting it if violated.

     The Supreme Court is maneuvering to allow Maduro to ditch the present Constitution and write a new one through a Constituent Assembly, a plan that counts with the opposition of Ortega and, according to the latest polls, the vast majority of Venezuelans. Tuesday, the court tried to limit Ortega’s powers by handing some competences of the AG’s Office to the more Maduro-friendly Ombudsman, specifically when it comes to criminal investigations. “Somebody wants their investigations made to measure”, Ortega said Wednesday in rejecting the move. Ortega also said that the Supreme Court cannot fire the present deputy AG and appoint a new (presumably pro-Maduro) one, a role which goes to the National Assembly, as it also tried to do Tuesday.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE MATTIS: ASSAD HEEDED US WARNING AGAINST CHEMICAL WEAPONS


 
       GARMISCH, GERMANY  -- 
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis discusses the partnership between the U.S. and Germany during an event commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, Garmisch, Germany, June 28, 2017. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday that Syria appears to have heeded a U.S. warning to not to use chemical weapons. "It appears that they took the warning seriously," Mattis said, referring to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying it had not launched any new chemical attacks.

     A statement late Monday from White House press secretary Sean Spicer warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that if government forces carry out another chemical attack, "he and his military will pay a heavy price." The statement came after American intelligence said it had identified "potential preparations" for another chemical attack in Syria - allegations which the Syrian government denied. The April 4th chemical attack on the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria killed over 80 people and drew harsh criticism from governments abroad, including the United States.

     Speaking from a ceremony in Germany honoring the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II, Mattis also called out Russian president Vladimir Putin for causing international "mischief". Mattis said the Russian people's "leader making mischief beyond Russian borders — will not restore their fortune or rekindle their hope." Mattis also stated that the U.S. remains committed to NATO - something of which he has repeatedly assured European allies, despite President Donald Trump's occasional bashing of the organization, particularly in regards to other countries paying their "fair share".

June 29, 2017

MADURO: WHAT WE FAILED TO ACHIEVE WITH VOTES, WE WOULD DO WITH WEAPONS

     
CARACAS, VENEZUELA --  As the death toll continues to rise from three months of political unrest in Venezuela, the country’s dictator, Nicolás Maduro, has warned that his supporters will take up arms if his government is overthrown. Speaking at a rally to promote a 30 July vote for a constituent assembly, Maduro said he would fight to defend the “Bolivarian revolution” of his predecessor Hugo Chávez. “If Venezuela was plunged into chaos and violence and the Bolivarian Revolution destroyed, we would go to combat. We would never give up, and what we failed to achieve with votes, we would do with weapons. We would liberate the fatherland with weapons.”

      His comments, which were broadcast live to the country, came amid reports of one of the worst outbreaks of looting in three months of deadly protests. Some 68 businesses, including supermarkets, liquor stores, bakeries and food shops were ransacked in a wave of lawlessness that began Monday night in the city of Maracay, 100km west of Caracas, and continued well into Tuesday afternoon. “I have never seen anything like this. It’s been non-stop. Like we are in a war,” said Rodrigo Ruz, an insurance broker who lives in Maracay. “I went to sleep with the sound of shots and mayhem and it’s now midday and it hasn’t stopped,” he added.

     According to Ruz, there was virtually no police presence in the streets of Maracay and the neighboring suburb El Limon, where the violence was at its worst. Local media reported that several people were injured, including a 17-year-old who was shot in the throat with a gun and was declared “braindead”. The headquarters of the governing party, the PSUV, was also reportedly burnt. In a separate incident on Monday night in eastern Caracas, security forces were prevented from entering a middle-class gated community by inhabitants, who fired at them from nearby buildings. Three national guard members suffered gunshot injuries. More than 80 people have died since the clashes began in early April, but Monday night’s violence marked the first time that street clashes have spiraled into more generalized anarchy.

POLICE HELICOPTER ATTACK TARGETS VENEZUELA'S SUPREME COURT


 
       CARACAS, VENEZUELA  -- 
A police helicopter launched a daring attack on the Venezuelan Supreme Court Tuesday, in a dramatic escalation of the months-long crisis engulfing the regime of President Nicolas Maduro. The helicopter was apparently stolen and piloted by an officer in the country's investigative police force, Oscar Perez. As it strafed the court building and the Interior Ministry in Caracas, the attackers fired gunshots and lobbed grenades, officials said. Maduro condemned the attack as an attempted coup, saying "terrorists" were behind the offensive and that an operation was underway to track the perpetrators down.

     But much remained murky about the assault: if it was an attempt to unseat Maduro's government, it was a spectacular failure. No-one was injured and one of the grenades failed to explode, government officials said. It was unclear how a rogue police helicopter could have circled high-profile buildings in the Venezuelan capital without being shot down -- eyewitnesses and local journalists say the assault went on for about two hours. None of those involved in the attack appear to have been tracked down and the whereabouts of the helicopter remains unknown. Earlier on Tuesday, Maduro appeared to foreshadow an uprising, saying that his supporters would be ready to take up arms if the "Bolivarian revolution" was threatened.

     The attack came after months of protests against Maduro's regime and ahead of a vote on July 30 to elect members of a controversial new body that could make changes to the country's constitution. Before the attack began, a man who identified himself as Perez appeared in a video online saying an operation was underway to seize democracy back from Venezuela's "criminal government." Flanked by a group of armed men in military fatigues and balaclavas, Perez claimed to be speaking on behalf of a coalition of military, police officers and civil officials. In his video message, Perez said he was a pilot in the special response unit of Venezuela's Criminal Investigative Police (CICPC) and demanded that Maduro step down.

VENEZUELAN PARLIAMENT ATTACKED AFTER CLASH BETWEEN SECURITY FORCES, LAWMAKERS


 
       CARACAS, VENEZUELA  -- 
The head of the Venezuelan Parliament, opposition lawmaker Julio Borges, said on Tuesday that armed civilian groups attacked the legislative seat after a clash between several lawmakers and members of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB), Venezuela’s militarized police, inside the institution. The clash left at least two female members of parliament injured, Borges told reporters. According to the National Assembly’s Twitter account, opposition lawmaker Delsa Solorzano and several reporters were among the injured who, the institution said, were attacked by members of the GNB.

     “Different lawmakers and Assembly personnel saw (GNB) officers entering (the building) with boxes from the National Election Council ... and a clash occurred there between the GNB officers and the lawmakers,” Borges said, adding that two “female lawmakers” were attacked by the police officers. As a result, the parliamentary session was interrupted and Borges proceeded to talk with the colonel responsible for the institution’s security in order to resolve the conflict, but “immediately,” he said, groups of civilians entered the door.

    These people launched fireworks rockets and other artifacts into the Parliament, according to some videos published on social media. According to the opposition, this group of civilians have attacked the front of the building and threatened to enter “by force.” Lawmakers and workers currently remain locked inside the Parliament, the Chamber’s press chief Alicia de La Rosa told EFE. For Borges, what happened “today is called Nicolas Maduro. That same Nicolas Maduro who said today that if the ballots are no use, then the violence will be, that if the ballots are no use, then the bullets will be.” Borges also said that what happened will give “more strength” to parliamentarians to continue fighting for “a democratic and free country.”

June 28, 2017

VENEZUELA ATTORNEY GENERAL, LUISA ORTEGA DIAZ, AFFIRMS THAT VENEZUELA IS A POLICE STATE

     
CARACAS, VENEZUELA --  Venezuela’s Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz said on Monday during an interview released in Lima, Peru, that subordination of the judiciary to secret services has turned Venezuela into a police state, instead of one with advocacy of citizens’ rights. “Here (in Venezuela), carts go in front of horses, Sebin (the Venezuelan National Intelligence Service) gives the guidelines to the judiciary and this obeys. This is not Rule of Law, but a police state,” she told daily newspaper El Comercio.

     The Attorney General said again that the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) trespassed on the National Assembly with a number of judgments that meant rupture of the constitutional order, Efe quoted. “Should the Constituent Assembly be materialized, we, Venezuelans, would start live the darkest hours in all our republican history. Should this project be consolidated, democracy would be finally dismantled,” she admonished. Pro-government Deputy Pedro Carreño filed the petition last week, contending alleged gross negligence by Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz, admitted a request for a preliminary hearing to bring criminal charges.

    According to Carreño, the Attorney General, at odds with a constituent assembly called by Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro, “is taking a stance that puts peace in jeopardy.” In the statements quoted by EFE, the Venezuelan prosecutor reiterated that the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) violated the National Assembly with a series of judgments that meant the rupture of the constitutional order. In that sense, "to consolidate the (Constituent Assembly), Venezuelans would begin to live the darkest hours of our entire republican history. If this project were consolidated, it would definitively dismantle democracy," she said. Ortega added that "imposing the Constituent is a mistake and could open the door to more violence" because it would mean that a sector will "annihilate" the rest of the country.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY: "ALL DESIGNATED MAGISTRATES SINCE 2010 ARE ILLEGITIMATE


 
      CARACAS, VENEZUELA. - -
All judges, principals and deputies of the Supreme Court of Justice appointed since 2010, were chosen in irregular proceedings, said Pedro Rondón Haaz, magistrate emeritus of the Constitutional Chamber. "The members of the Supreme Court of Justice, and not just those appointed in December 2015, are illegitimate in origin and result of the usurpation of functions." He explained that there are three bodies for the selection: the Judicial Postulations Committee, the Citizen Power and the National Assembly. "The Postulating Committee makes the first step; Call the candidates, receive nominations and make the first selection. The Citizen Power makes a second selection and the National Assembly performs the final ,"

      Rondón Haaz added that as of October 2010 the committee acted as an advisor to the Parliament and its expenses were managed by him, and that therefore functions and powers were usurped so that its acts are illegitimate. This invalidates the appointment of all judges appointed since 2010. He added: "The previous National Assembly usurped powers of the Judicial Branch, whose head is the TSJ." There were several irregularities in the procedure under which members were elected in 2015, who were appointed by the last National Assembly, with a Chavist majority. They are the same magistrates whose disembodiment was requested by the attorney general, Luisa Ortega Díaz.

     "In truth the magistrates of 2015 were chosen by a mockery of the procedure. The time limits for the challenge were not respected, nor was the probation period opened nor was the file established. There was no scale, "he said. In the hands of Parliament. Rondón Haaz said that the current National Assembly can appoint an interim tribunal and empower it to appoint a nominating committee for the final selection, which is adjusted to due process. He said that this is the most expeditious way to resolve the situation. Rondón Hazz emphasized: "The TSJ has not ruled on the breach with fundamental constitutional stages for the appointment of magistrates as of the beginning of the validity of the current Organic Law in 2010." The emeritus magistrate affirmed that the defense of the Rule of Law is at stake: "In the country there is a factual situation, in fact, not of right".

LULA DA SILVA LEADS BRAZIL PRESIDENTIAL POLL AHEAD OF COURT SENTENCE

       BRASILIA, BRAZIL  -- 
Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has kept a clear lead in Brazil’s 2018 presidential race before a looming court ruling that could send him to jail. Lula received about 30 percent of first-round voter intention regardless of the scenario of contenders, according to a Datafolha poll published by Folha de S.Paulo newspaper on Monday. In simulations for a run-off, only Carwash judge Sergio Moro would defeat the former president. Moro is slated to rule in a corruption case in which Lula is accused of having received undue benefits from a construction company in exchange for favors he granted when president.

     On Monday he sentenced Lula’s former Finance Minister Antonio Palocci to 12 years in prison for passive corruption and money laundering. Lula denies wrongdoing and his lawyers say the allegations are part of a campaign to discredit him. Investors are closely watching the case as a possible conviction and higher court confirmation could ban Lula from running. “It should become clear in the next four months whether Lula will be able to run, and that may bring volatility to markets,” Luis Stuhlberger, manager for Brazil’s Verde fund, said at an event in Sao Paulo on Saturday.

     Political uncertainty surrounding next year’s presidential election comes on top of a three year corruption scandal that helped oust President Dilma Rousseff in 2016 and has engulfed her successor President Michel Temer. It may also slow Brazil’s recovery from its deepest recession on record as investors gauge the chances of a maverick winning next year. The far-right congressman Jair Bolsonaro continued to gain ground and is now tied for second place with Marina Silva, the environmentalist who ended third in the 2014 presidential race. Both have around 15 percent of votes.

June 27, 2017

VENEZUELA ATTORNEY GENERAL, LUISA ORTEGA DIAZ, SAYS OFFICIALS THREATENED HER FAMILY

     
CARACAS, VENEZUELA --  Venezuela's attorney general said Monday intelligence officials have threatened and harassed her family after she openly challenged President Nicolas Maduro over the country's deadly political crisis. A staunch ruling party figure, Attorney General Luisa Ortega has been branded a traitor for becoming the highest public official to break ranks with Maduro. She has accused him and his allies of acting unconstitutionally in their standoff against the opposition in recent months of deadly anti-government protests.

     Last week, she filed a challenge against his effort to rewrite the constitution, branding it undemocratic. The court dismissed the appeal two weeks ago. Ortega said members of her family had received threatening telephone calls, and had been harassed and pursued. "I hold the executive responsible for any injury or attack that my family might suffer," she said in an interview with Union Radio. "This is a matter that must be resolved with me, not with my family," she said. "They are being pursued by patrols that appear to be from SEBIN," the state intelligence service, she added. "They are sending them messages directly from SEBIN, which answers to the government."

     Ortega, 59, said she herself had not received threats -- but some government officials have said on television that she should be imprisoned. Maduro is accused of controlling the Supreme Court, which has fended off numerous legal and legislative moves against him over the past year and a half. Clashes at daily protests by demonstrators calling for Maduro to quit have left 66 people dead since April 1, prosecutors say. Protesters blame Maduro for an economic crisis that has caused desperate shortages of food and medicine in the oil-rich country. A survey by pollster Datanalisis indicated that 85 percent of Venezuelans opposed that plan. The president retains the public backing of the military.

VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION BLOCKS ROADS AGAINST CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY


 
      CARACAS, VENEZUELA. - -
The opposition called for residents to block all roads in their neighborhoods, restricting access to schools and health services. Venezuelan opposition leaders have called on their supporters to block all roads in their neighborhoods Tuesday as a way of rejecting President Nicolas Maduro's call for a national constituent assembly, a process to bring together social and other organizations to rewrite the the country's 1999 constitution. The proposal was presented by the president on May Day as an attempt to ease political tensions after opposition and pro-government supporters have taken to the streets in near-daily protests for the past month.

     But the opposition slammed Maduro's announcement as a "coup," claiming that it would consolidate “one more constitutional fraud” and called for people to rebel in the streets in a fresh round of protests Tuesday. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles warned that Maduro's opponents will continue to organize against the government. In recent weeks, waves of protests have resulted in a number of violent incidents that have led to the deaths of more than two dozen people with hundreds more injured. Amid the protests, public institutions including schools and hospitals sustained damaged and many small businesses were looted.

     On Tuesday morning, protesters began setting up road blocks in various Caracas neighborhoods. "They want peace, constituent power, they want elections, constituent power," said Maduro during Monday's rally where he announced the new plans for a constituent assembly. According to the constitution, the constituent assembly would be comprised of 500 members, directly elected by Venezuelans. Maduro said that half of the assembly would be organized by sectoral organizations instead of political parties, such as associations of people with disabilities, student groups, the LGBTQ community, unions, campesino organizations, as well as the private sector.

VENEZUELA'S NATIONAL ASSEMBLY WILL SWEAR NEW TSJ MAGISTRATES BETWEEN JULY 8 AND 14

       CARACAS, VENEZUELA -- 
The president of the Committee of Judicial Applications and deputy, Carlos Berrizbeitia (Unity-Carabobo), informed Monday that the process carried out by his Committee is in the phase of interviews to more than 150 candidates for magistrates of the Supreme Court Of Justice (TSJ). He indicated that these interviews will be held between Thursday 29 and Friday 30 of his month and year in the Federal Legislative Palace and, at the same time, highlighted the success attained by the NA call to postulate in just one week and open the procedure.

     Speaking to the AN press, Berrizbeitia said that the program of the Committee of Judicial Applications has been legally fulfilled as it was approved at its inception, so that between July 8 and July 14, 2017 the plenary will sworn in t 13 new judges and magistrates As well as the 20 substitutes of the TSJ. "More than 150 postulation of great professional individuals with great legislative trajectory in the country, placed their names in this selection process to finally be sworn in and hold the position of magistrates in the highest court in the country," said an NA press release.

     He recalled that the process of recording the collections by interested parties began on Monday, June 19 and ended on Friday, June 23, 2017, with the Secretariat of the Committee of Judicial Applications being in charge of receiving the documents. The members of this Judicial Postulating Committee are Carlos Berrizbeitía, Charim Bucarán, Ismael García, Edgar Zambrano, Sonia Medina, Rafael Guzmán, Luis Carlos Padilla, José Hernández, Maribel Guédez and Olivia Lozano. The Civil Society is represented by lawyers of outstanding judicial trajectory such as Laura Maria Bastidas, Henry Antonio Flores, Ismael Antonio Cortés, Carlos Luna, Perkins Rocha, Ramón Alberto Aguilar, Mariela Parra Landaeta, Joel García and Juan Carlos Apitz.

June 26, 2017

PORTUGAL AND SPAIN INVESTIGATING FRAUD LINKED TO VENEZUELA PDVSA FUNDS, PDVSA SAYS

     
CARACAS, VENEZUELA --  Portugal AND SPAIN ARE investigating alleged appropriation of funds belonging to Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA [PDVSA.UL] that were channeled through now-defunct Portuguese bank Banco Espirito Santo between 2009 and 2014, PDVSA said on Saturday. PDVSA's reputation has been tarnished in recent years by high-profile corruption investigations including guilty pleas by two U.S.-based contractors who authorities said ran a $1 billion corruption scheme associated with PDVSA contracts. Venezuela's opposition-led Congress last year said about $11 billion in funds went missing at PDVSA while Rafael Ramirez, currently Venezuela's U.N. envoy, was at the helm from 2004 to 2014. Ramirez slammed the report as "irresponsible lies."

    "Portuguese law enforcement agencies are investigating supposed appropriation of funds belonging to the corporation that were channeled through the above-mentioned institution," the company said in a statement. The investigators are reviewing operations "in which there could have been money laundering and in which former employees of PDVSA and its subsidiaries could have been involved." PDVSA until 2014 received payments for crude deliveries at its accounts at BES, as the bank was known, according to a 2014 Reuters report that cited an internal PDVSA document. BES collapsed in 2014. Some of its assets were used to create a new bank called Novo Banco.

     PDVSA had also bought $365 million in bonds issued by the holding company of the family of Ricardo Salgado, who was founder and president of the bank, according to a 2014 Reuters special report. The company said it will soon provide details on efforts to seek civil and criminal measures in jurisdictions where it has "identified assets of persons involved in corruption," and said it would carry out "legal actions" in Portugal. It did not provide details on such actions or the amounts being investigated. PDVSA has acknowledged problems with corruption and is seeking to improve procedures but insists that ideological adversaries are exaggerating the irregularities for political gain. "The national oil company will continue reinforcing its internal controls and implementing new mechanisms and procedures to ensure that situations like this do not occur again," the statement said.

VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR NEW NATIONWIDE "GREAT STOPPAGE" FOR THIS MONDAY, JUNE 26


 
      CARACAS, VENEZUELA. - -
The MOVEMENT of Democratic Unity (MUD) invited the civil society to accompany the Student Movement to a "Great Trancazo" on Monday, June 26. The activity will be from 12 noon to 4 pm for "the future of Venezuela". Also, this Monday they will spend days of diffusion to explain the organization of article 333 and 350 in bus stops, street corners and house by house. On Tuesday, the MUD called for a "mobilization for Freedom of Expression" in support of journalists. In Caracas the walk will be from the Plaza Alfredo Sadel to Conatel. In addition, that day will be conducted a session in the National Assembly.

    For Wednesday, the MUD has scheduled a "Great Trancazo Nacional" for four continuous hours. Through a statement, the Bureau of Democratic Unity noted that the only one who has given a "coup" to the Constitution, the country's institutions and, therefore, democracy, is the President of the Republic, Nicolas Mature. In this sense, those who are part of the opposition alliance reject the statements made this Sunday by the president against leaders of the MUD and the student movement. "It is good to remember that it is not precisely the names of students who are on a list punished for being linked to drug trafficking and terrorism," said MUD in a press release.

     According to the MUD more than 80% of Venezuelans reject Maduro’s constituent assembly because "it only has the purpose of perpetuating ihimself in power." The Government, with the latest statements, "instead of pointing to a rectification seeks to deepen the confrontation by pointing out that the actionss of the opposition do not obey reality." "In the MUD we insist and ratify that our objective is to restore the constitutional thread, violated by this government, so we will continue in the streets until the National Assembly is recognized, political prisoners are released, Channel of humanitarian aid are established, set an electoral timetable and disarm paramilitary groups, "says a MUD press release.

AMERICAN FUGITIVES WANTED FOR MURDER ARE GUARANTEED SAFETY IN CUBA

       WASHINGTON, D.C. -- 
Two American fugitives who fled to Cuba after they were accused of killing police officers said that Cuban officials have assured them that detente with the United States will not lead to their extradition. The United States and Cuba held a second round of law-enforcement talks last month dedicated partly to resolving the fate of scores of fugitives after more than a half century with almost no cooperation. The talks are part of a series of U.S.-Cuba negotiations aimed at normalizing relations after the two countries declared an official end to Cold War hostilities on Dec. 17, 2014. The discussions have raised U.S. law enforcement hopes that fugitives living in Cuba for decades will return to the United States to face trial or serve prison under plea deals.

    Assata Shakur’s is a notorious fugitive convicted of the murder of a New Jersey state trooper. Charles Hill, a black militant wanted in the 1971 slaying of a New Mexico state policeman, told The Associated Press that Cuban government contacts had recently reassured him he was at no risk of extradition. Nehanda Abiodun, another black militant wanted in a 1981 armored car robbery that left two police offers and a security guard dead, told the AP she had recently received a similar promise. Cuba is home to dozens of people wanted in the United States on charges ranging from Medicare fraud to killings committed in the name of black and Puerto Rican revolution movements in the 1970s and '80s.

     Cuba has asked the United States to return a smaller number of people, including Luis Posada Carriles, the alleged mastermind of a series of terror attacks against Cuba, including the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed all 73 people on board. Cuba's head of U.S. affairs told the AP shortly after the declaration of detente that Cuba was entitled to grant asylum to U.S. fugitives, a sign that people the country once saw as fellow revolutionary fighters will remain safe. The most prominent is Assata Shakur, who is on the FBI's list of most-wanted terrorists. She broke out of a prison where she was serving a conviction for murdering a New Jersey state trooper. She was regularly spotted in Havana after fleeing to Cuba but has not been seen here in public in recent years.

June 25, 2017

MESSAGE FROM LUIS ALMAGRO TO NICOLAS MADURO: I WILL RESIGN WHEN YOU ALLOW FREE ELECTIONS IN VENEZUELA

     
WASHINGTON, D.C.  Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), offered Saturday morning to resign his post if embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro allows among other things, free elections, the release of hundreds of political prisoners and the opening of a humanitarian aid channel into the oil-rich country. Almagro’s list (about 10) reveals a deep knowledge of and concern for, the Venezuelan situation, a zeal the government has derided as mere “interventionism” (injerencismo) backed by the U.S. Almagro recognizes that the list is long.

     “Regrettably, there are many things that are necessary for the freedom of Venezuela. In exchange for the freedom of Venezuela, I offer my post. Because we will never resign, we will not resign, until we have in our hands the freedom of Venezuela,” he says near the end of the video. In a video posted Saturday morning, Almagro says he has received a strong-arm proposal from Venezuela, who is offering to rejoin the organization if he quits his post, only to deliver later his dramatic counterproposal. “I have publicly received a negotiation proposal, my resignation in exchange for the return of Venezuela to the OAS.

     Here is my response: I will resign the OAS Secretariat General when free national and transparent elections are carried out in Venezuela, with international observers and nobody barred from running before-hand. When political prisoners listed by Venezuela’s Foro Penal are freed and exiles receive an amnesty, when the full powers of the National Assembly are recognized, when a humanitarian channel is opened for aliments and medication aimed at the most needy Venezuelans and when all of the murderers of each demonstrator are tried as well as their chain of command. Also, when there is an independent Supreme Court, an independent electoral board and the unconstitutional Constituent Assembly process is halted.”

VENEZUELAN DICTATOR'S OPPONENTS LAY SIEGE TO AIR BASE IN CARACAS


 
      CARACAS, VENEZUELA. - -
Thousands of Venezuelans marched on Saturday in a new flare-up of months-long protests against embattled dictator Nicolas Maduro, as the head of the Organization of American States dug in his heels in a war of words with Caracas, brusquely rejecting its demand that he resign. Protesters in the Venezuelan capital and other cities marched on military installations, where they demanded an end to "brutal repression" and called for Maduro's resignation and new elections.

     "Let's send a message to the armed forces: Are you going to continue killing Venezuelans or respect the constitution?" opposition deputy Jose Manuel Olivares said in Caracas, as protesters prepared to march on the La Carlota air base. Young protesters broke down a metal fence guarding the air base in Caracas before being repelled by security forces firing tear gas. The opposition coalition known as MUD called on the military on Saturday to "lower its weapons". The government and opposition blame each other for the violence. Al Jazeera's Teresa Bo, reporting from the anti-government protests in Caracas, said demonstrators had told her they believe a proposed constitutional change by Maduro is an excuse by the government to hold onto power.

     A vote on the changes is set to take place on July 30 "People here say that their fight here is gong to get much more intense until that time comes," she said. "They are calling for civil disobedience and they're saying that they will remain on the streets for as long as it takes." David Vallenilla - a 22-year-old protester - died outside La Carlota base on Thursday. Dictator Nicolas Maduro said in an address to troops Saturday that he had managed to break up a U.S.-backed plot to oust him. Like his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, Maduro frequently accuses the U.S. of trying to topple Venezuela's socialist administration. Maduro praised Venezuela's military for standing by the government and he warned that attempts are underway to try to sow further dissent.

CARDINAL UROSA SAVINO CALLS FOR A HALT TO REPRESSION EN VENEZUELA

       CARACAS,, VENEZUELA  -- 
Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino said Friday that demonstrations by Venezuelans are against the grave situation of hunger and lack of medicines and essential goods, as well as the lack of acceptance e of the National Assembly (AN) by Maduro government, and the imprisonment of demonstrators for being adversaries of the government, and the elimination of the elections in accordance to the Constitution and the laws. "To all that we add, without consulting the sovereign people, the call by President Maduro of a new Constituent Assembly sectoral and distorted, biased and with biased bases, which do not respect the universality and proportionality of the vote."

     The Cardinal explained that demonstrations have been attacked by the government in various ways. "I likewise reject the death of some people caused by some opponents. Violence is bad no matter where it comes from. "" For all this repression across the country, I express my strongest rejection of the violent and illegal action of the government authorities who are directing the repression of the demonstrations. " He assured that the government instead of repressing must solve the problems that have taken the Venezuelans to the streets.

     "The Government must give up the imposition of a totalitarian and undemocratic system. That is the call that the Venezuelan bishops have made, and that, in other words, has also been made by Pope Francisco, "he said. He offered his condolences to relatives and friends of the victims, and expressed his solidarity with people who were unjustly subjected to military trials, or arbitrarily detained. He also invited all Caracas residents to pray intensely to the Lord for peace, to stop this violent conflict and allow the Venezuelans to solve all these problems peacefully.

June 24, 2017

DICTATOR MADURO READY TO DIALOGUE WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP IF HE "ACCEPTS REALITY"

     
CARACAS, VENEZUELA   Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro said he was ready to talk to his American counterpart Donald Trump if he could see the truth of Venezuela. "We are ... ready to dialogue with anyone we have to dialogue, including with the US Government," Maduro said Wednesday during his speech at the cabinet meeting in Caracas, where he affirmed that he has already Accepted a request from Washington to hold "very high level" meetings between the two countries.

    "If President Donald Trump managed to visualize with a halo of light ... the truth of Venezuela, I could even talk to him some day," said the Venezuelan president. Washington and Caracas have not had ambassadors since 2010. Between the two countries, tensions prevail. Maduro's government accuses Washington of interfering in his country's internal affairs and of organizing a coup against him through funding violent opposition groups in the Andean country.

    Maduro's announcement, which showed "the goodwill" of Caracas, according to the dictator said, occurred the same day that sources in the US Administration communicated the intention of Washington to announce in the coming weeks new sanctions against Venezuela. The new sanctions can be punctual, which presupposes the embargo of assets under US jurisdiction that belong to people on the "blacklist" and the prohibition of American citizens to maintain any contact with these individuals, reported the US newspaper Politico on Wednesday citing political sources.

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION QUICKLY REJECTED MADURO'S REQUEST TO DIALOGUE WITH THE PRESIDENT AND URGES, INSTEAD, DIALOGUE "INSIDE" VENEZUELA


 
      WASHINGTON, D.C. - -
The US government rejected Friday's request by Venezuelan DICTATOR Nicolas Maduro to hold "high-level" meetings with Washington and said instead that he should focus "on discussions within Venezuela to resolve the political, economic and humanitarian situation" . "We are aware of President Maduro's comments. We recommend that he be involved in discussions within Venezuela to resolve the political, economic and humanitarian situation, "said a State Department official who requested anonymity.

    The spokesman responded in this way to Maduro's announcement that he had approved "high-level" meetings with the United States, and expressed his readiness to dialogue with his American counterpart, Donald Trump, if he could see "the Truth "about the Caribbean country. The US official emphasized that the government of Caracas "has to fulfill the commitments made during last autumn's dialogue process to establish a positive and constructive environment in which negotiations and mediation between all parties can take place In Venezuela".

    "The government must reach an agreement with the opposition parties on a timetable for fast elections, respect for the Constitution and the National Assembly, immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, and satisfy he humanitarian needs of Venezuelans" , he added at the same time that he discarded meetings with Venezuelan officials. Maduro's call for dialogue comes amid a prolonged wave of protests, especially against the Venezuelan government, because of the country's political and economic crisis, which faces a sharp economic recession and an inflation that exceeded 700% a year In 2016. Some of these demonstrations have become violent and have left at least 79 dead and more than a thousand injured, according to figures from the Venezuelan Public Prosecutor's Office.

AT THE UNITED NATIONS, U.S. URGES GLOBAL ACTION ON "THE TRAGIC SITUATION" IN VENEZUELA

       UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK -- 
The international community must act even if the UN Human Rights Council and the Organization of American States (OAS) are blocked from doing so. The United States mission at the United Nations (UN) demanded on Thursday “action” in view of the “tragic situation” in Venezuela. Venezuelan "people are starving while their government tramples their democracy," said US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, in a statement Her appeal was made shortly after the end of the meeting in Cancún, Mexico, of the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly, without any resolution intended to cancel a national constituent assembly attempted by the Venezuelan government to re-write the constitution.

     Nikki Haley said the world community must act even if the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Organization of American States are prevented from doing so. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on Thursday called for international action to address the crisis in Venezuela after a Washington-backed mediation proposal failed to secure the necessary support to be approved by the Organization of American States (OAS). 

     During the three-day meeting of the OAS, the proposal of regional mediation supported by the United States could not overcome the opposition of regional allies of the regime of Nicolás Maduro and of nations of the Caribbean that benefit of the Venezuelan oil at low price. Venezuelans are dying of hunger while their government tramples on democracy Haley did not provide details on the future actions of his country. In May, the United States called for a meeting of the UN Security Council on Venezuela, and it was the first time that the United Nations High Commission dealt with the crisis.

June 23, 2017

ASSASSINATED PROTESTER AFTER BEING SHOT AT POINT-BLANK RANGE OUTSIDE OF LA CARLOTA

     
CARACAS, VENEZUELA   -
A 22-year-old boy died Thursday in the Venezuelan capital after being struck by several gunshots struck when National Guard troops clashed with opposition protesters, two doctors told Reuters. A handful of opponents blocked a Caracas freeway and attempted to enter an airbase by breaking its grates and attacking it with stones, as military personnel opened fire on some demonstrators with unidentified weapons, according to television images.

     David Jose Vallenilla, who was demonstrating at the scene, was shot three times in the chest, doctors at a nearby clinic told Reuters. Ramón Muchacho, the mayor of the Chacao municipality, where the clashes took place, told reporters that the young man would have been shot dead. At least two more wounded arrived at the same clinic where they attended Vallenilla, according to witnesses of Reuters. Hours earlier, the opposition tried to march to the headquarters of the Public Prosecutor's Office in support of the attorney general who has criticized the government, but was prevented by the public force that fired tear gas and water jets."

    On Monday, a 17-year-old boy died after being shot in the chest during a protest day in Caracas. Authorities arrested two captured police officers firing at the crowd of demonstrators. In the midst of a serious political and economic crisis facing the South American oil country, the opposition has been protesting President Nicolás Maduro's government for almost three months. The events surrounding the demonstrations have left at least 79 dead.

NICOLAS MADURO NAMES SAMUEL MONCADA AS NEW FOREIGN MINISTER OF VENEZUELA


 
      CARACAS, VENEZUELA - -
 Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Wednesday appointed the country's foreign minister to the OAS ambassador, Samuel Moncada, replacing Delcy Rodriguez, who leaves office to stand as a candidate for the National Constituent Assembly. "I have asked the Vice-Minister for North America and our ambassador to the OAS, Samuel Moncada, to assume the Foreign Ministry of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to maintain the fight against the truth of our homeland in the world," said Maduro in a mandatory string of radio and television.

      Rodríguez has been a foreign minister since December 2014 and will now be running as a candidate for a possible new constitution in the National Constituent Assembly that has convened Maduro, and for which, by law, she must be separated from her position. On June 1 Maduro announced that Rodriguez, and First Lady Cilia Flores, will be candidates for the Constituent Assembly.

    Rodríguez, who was not present at the meeting of ministers chaired today by Maduro, is in Cancún, where the foreign ministers of the member countries of the Organization of American States (OAS) hold an assembly and discussed the crisis In Venezuela without there being a joint text on the Caribbean country. Maduro highlighted the work of Rodríguez in front of the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry: "The chancellor, who has to leave as a candidate for the National Constituent Assembly, deserves the recognition of the whole country because it has defended as a tiger the sovereignty, peace and independence of Venezuela, "he said. Moncada abandons his position as Venezuela's ambassador to the OAS, which he has been carrying out since March 27 of this year.

NICOLAS MADURO SAYS PROSECUTOR LUISA ORTEGA WANTS TO BE THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE OF THE VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION

       CARACAS, VENEZUELA -- 
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro accused prosecutor-general Luisa Ortega of "betrayal" and presidential ambitions, saying on Thursday that the prosecution fell into "extremism." "If you want to get into the political diatribe because you have aspirations to be a presidential candidate for the MUD, you must make the right decisions for that. She has all the rights to do so, but you can not use such a delicate institution, "Maduro told a press conference with foreign correspondents.

    Referring to Ortega's turn, self-proclaimed Chavista and now one of his biggest adversaries, the president said he saw "as vulgarity the extremism in which the Public Ministry has fallen." "Faced with circumstances like that, where treason is imposed on the legacy of the commander (Hugo) Chavez and has tried to nail a dagger to the Bolivarian Revolution," should prevail "loyalty," he said. Ortega distanced herself from Maduro after rulings by the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) against the opposition majority parliament, and by his open rejection of a Constituent Assembly convened by the socialist ruler.

     "It is very sad that at the end of the road ... one ends up serving the executioners of our people," said Maduro, who asked the prosecutor, whom he said he saw "very nervous and desperate", to "return to balance" Because the country "needs a prosecutor's office that does justice". Maduro also called on the prosecutor to investigate the death of Chavistas in the framework of opposition protests against the government, which left 74 dead since April 1, and to "pick up their monsters," referring to a demonstration by officials of the Public Ministry In support of her boss last Monday.

June 22, 2017

NO OAS RESOLUTION REACHED ON THE VENEZUELAN CRISIS

     
CANCUN, MEXICO  --
As Venezuela spirals into economic and political chaos, the Organization of American States (OAS) has failed for a second time in just one month to reach a resolution that would condemn the current Venezuelan regime led by President Nicolas Maduro. At least 75 people have died in anti-government demonstrations since April, including a teenager who was fatally shot during mass protests in Caracas on Monday, and more than a thousand have been injured. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez left Monday’s OAS summit in Mexico, saying, “Not only do we not recognize this meeting, we do not recognize any resolution coming out of it.” Venezuela announced its intention to withdraw from the OAS in April, a process that would take two years.

     The United States has made clear the OAS should play a major role in sorting out Venezuela’s crisis. In a briefing in April, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said, “The OAS as a body can have, we believe, a constructive influence on Venezuela, on Maduro, on the Venezuelan Government, in urging it to respect its own constitution and fulfill its democratic commitments to its people.” At Tuesday’s OAS general assembly meeting in Mexico, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan reiterated this, saying, “The OAS has a critical role to play. … The United States supports the establishment of an action-oriented contact group of governments in accordance with the principles of the OAS charter and in the spirit of the democratic charter.”

    But on Monday, only 20 states, including the U.S., voted for a draft resolution on Venezuela. 23 out of the OAS’s 34 members must vote in favor to pass the draft. The United States, Mexico, Canada, and several South American nations issued a statement expressing their "disappointment" at Monday’s vote. The Caribbean nations have been some of the most reluctant to vote against the Maduro regime in the OAS, since they have long relied on cheap oil shipments from Venezuela. The OAS resolution would not be a cure all to Venezuela’s myriad problems. “Exactly what follows from such a declaration?” former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela Patrick Duddy asked in an interview with The Cipher Brief.

VENEZUELA'S SUPREME COURT ADMITS LEGAL REQUEST TO IMPEACH ATTORNEY GENERAL


 
      CARACAS, VENEZUELA - -
 Venezuela’s Supreme Court has officially accepted a legal request filed by Chavista legislator Pedro Carreño, asking the body to assess the possibility of bringing impeachment proceedings against Attorney General Luisa Ortega. The motion was submitted to the top court by socialist lawmaker Carreño last Friday, who claimed that Ortega may have broken the law in recent weeks by overstep and ignoring Supreme Court decisions. “There are [Supreme Court] decisions and she does not recognize them, there are grounds for her to be prosecuted,” he told press.

    On Tuesday the Supreme Court confirmed that that it would admit Carreño’s motion for impeachment against the attorney general, citing possible violations of articles in the Constitution, the Citizens’ Power Law and the Law of the Public Prosecution. The attorney general has been locked in a series of legal disputes with the Supreme Court since she broke with the leftist administration of Nicolas Maduro in early April, accusing his government of violating the constitution’s separation of powers. Last week, the chief prosecutor filed several lawsuits against the government and TSJ magistrates, including requests for the body to remove thirty-three of its judges and to allow the prosecution of eight justices sitting on its constitutional tribunal.

    According to Ortega, the 33 judges were appointed via an “irregular process” by the outgoing Chavista National Assembly at the end of 2015, while the eight constitutional judges should be tried for “conspiring against the Republican government of the nation”. The tribunal has ruled on several occasions in favour of the executive branch against the opposition-led National Assembly since the two became deadlocked in January 2016. Both motions were thrown out by the top court, which said that Ortega had failed to identify a “grave fault” committed by the judges or present a convincing legal basis for her case.

MEXICO FOUGHT HARD TO FIND AGREEMENT ON VENEZUELAN CRISIS BUT IT FAILED

       CANCUN, MEXICO  -- 
Mexico's Foreign Minister was determined to ensure that the upcoming final day of the General Assembly of the Organization of the American States (OAS) on Wednesday would not end without any agreement on the crisis in Venezuela, the key issue that defines the success or failure of the summit. At a previous meeting of the OAS foreign ministers on Monday, the group of 14 countries led by Mexico was confident to pass a resolution calling for a reconsideration of the convening of the Constituent Assembly in Venezuela, among other actions.

     However, the group could not manage to achieve three more votes to reach the 23 necessary at the end, since it lost support from some Caribbean nations which placed themselves in the middle between the two blocks in the OAS which maintain different opinions towards the Venezuelan crisis. Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray did not hide his disappointment, but promised to "continue with more strength" and asked the people to "stay alert" because "many things can still happen" in the Assembly regarding the situation in Venezuela. Videgaray did not elaborate more, but several diplomatic sources told EFE that there have been negotiations and meetings both on Monday night and Tuesday to try to adopt a resolution on Venezuela before the regional meeting ends on Wednesday.

     Although only 18 votes are needed to put forward the matter into the Assembly, this group of 14 countries wants to obtain at least 23, which are necessary in order that the decision is indisputable from the political point of view. Deputy Secretary of State of the United States John Sullivan said on Tuesday that his country wants the proposal - which was unsuccessful in the foreign ministers session - to be voted in the Assembly and put the emphasis on the point of the text that proposes to establish a group of countries to facilitate an an end to the crisis in Venezuela. He also defended that authorizing this group is "the minimum" that the OAS can do for the people of Venezuela and that this is a decisive moment for the organization to prove its relevance.

June 21, 2017

MIKE PENCE ACCUSES VENEZUELA'S DICTATOR MADURO OF "ABUSE OF POWER"

     
WASHINGTON, D.C.  --Vice President Mike Pence lashed out at Venezuela Thursday, accusing its government of abusing its power, and falling into authoritarianism. "We need only look to the nation of Venezuela to see what happens when democracy is undermined," Pence said in Miami. The comment was made during talks on Central American security. Pence took the opportunity to condemn President Nicolas Maduro, who has faced two months of violent opposition protests.

     "We must all of us raise our voices to condemn the Venezuelan government for its abuse of power and its abuse of its own people, and we must do it now,” he said. The comments were quickly condemned by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez, who accused Pence of hypocrisy. "[Pence] dares to condemn democracy in Venezuela without noting that the US does not respect or govern by the will of the people,” she said.  On Twitter, Rodriguez also labeled the number two US leader an “insolent imperialist”. Pence’s own government has been mired in scandal for months, with a recent poll finding the majority of Americans believe President Donald Trump is “abusing the powers of his office”.

     Maduro himself later joined the fray, stating it “provokes nausea that a man who doesn't know where Venezuela is on the map gives his opinion about our country”. “I tell the vice president of the United States, get your nose out of Venezuela, there will be no gringo, Yankee, imperialist intervention in Venezuela,” he said. Relations between Venezuela and the US have been frosty for over a decade. Ties have never fully recovered since the US supported a short lived right-wing coup in Venezuela in 2002.

DICTATOR NICOLAS MADURO FIRES MILITARY COMMANDERS AMID UNREST


 
      CARACAS, VENEZUELA - -
 Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro fired four top military commanders Tuesday including the head of a police force that is accused of attacking anti-government protesters during months of deadly unrest. The commander of the National Guard military police, General Antonio Benavides Torres, will move on to "new responsibilities and battles," Maduro told supporters in a speech. He said he was also replacing the heads of the army, navy and the central strategic command body.

     The armed forces have maintained their public backing for Maduro in more than a year of mounting volatility in the oil-rich, crisis-struck state. Analysts say the support of the military is key to keeping the socialist president in power in the face of pressure from the opposition over a desperate economic crisis.  Maduro said he was confirming the overall head of the armed forces, Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, in his post, calling him "a loyal, moral man." The president added that he was ordering 20,000 new police and a similar number of new National Guards to be recruited.

     Prosecutors say 74 people have been killed since April in violence during daily protests by demonstrators demanding elections to remove Maduro from office. Padrino this month warned the security forces not to commit "atrocities," after some police were filmed attacking and robbing protesters. On Monday, a 17-year-old boy became the latest casualty of the unrest when he was shot in the chest and killed in Altamira on the capital's east side, officials said. Video footage filmed by AFP and other media showed uniformed security officers firing at a group of protesters who were carrying makeshift shields during that clash. Military affairs analyst Rocio San Miguel said the incident indicated that "Padrino Lopez and now Benavides Torres have lost authority over their subordinates."
 

COMMUNIST CUBA TELLS TRUMP IT WILL NOT SURRENDER TO HIS NEW RESTRICTIONS ON TRADE

        HAVANA, CUBA  -- 
 Cuba's foreign minister rejected President Donald Trump's new policy toward the island, saying Monday that 'we will never negotiate under pressure or under threat' and refusing to return U.S. fugitives who have received asylum in Cuba. In a hard-edged response to the policy announced Friday, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said from Vienna that Trump's restrictions on transactions with the Cuban military would not achieve their objective of weakening the government.  He said they would instead create unity behind the communist leadership.

     Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said from Vienna that Trump's restrictions on transactions with the Cuban military would not achieve their objective of weakening the government" class="blkBorder img-share"/>  Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said from Vienna that Trump's restrictions on transactions with the Cuban military would not achieve their objective of weakening the government  He described fugitives such as Joanne Chesimard, a black militant convicted in 1977 of the murder of a New Jersey state trooper, as political refugees who had received asylum from the Cuban government and would not be returned because the U.S. has no 'legal or moral basis' to demand their return.

     Surrounded by Cuban-American exiles and Cuban dissidents, Trump announced from a theater in Miami that the U.S. would impose new limits on U.S. travelers to the island and ban any payments to the military-linked conglomerate that controls much of the island's tourism industry.  Trump also declared that, 'the harboring of criminals and fugitives will end. You have no choice. It will end.' He said the U.S. would consider lifting those and other restrictions only after Cuba returned fugitives and made a series of other internal changes including freeing political prisoners, allowing freedom of assembly and holding free elections. 'When Cuba is ready to take concrete steps to these ends, we will be ready, willing, and able to come to the table to negotiate that much better deal for Cubans, for Americans,' Trump said.

June 20, 2017

VENEZUELA'S BISHOPS SUGGEST IT'S TIME FOR CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

     
CARACAS, VENEZUELA   --With democracy apparently going down the drain in Venezuela, the country’s bishops conference has issued a statement saying that perhaps the time has come for civil disobedience and peaceful protest against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, who on Wednesday orchestrated a move that many see as nothing short of a coup. As a result, the bishops onference released a statement saying that Catholics in the country cannot remain "passive, frightened, or hopeless," and also suggested that the time may have come for both civil disobedience to the government of President Nicholas Maduro and also peaceful protest.

     “We cannot remain passive, frightened or hopeless,” the country’s Catholic bishops said after the Venezuelan Supreme Court decided to eliminate the National Assembly, which has been in the hands of Maduro’s opposition for over a year. The move provoked widespread international condemnation, with the Organization of American States condemning it as a “final blow to democracy” in Venezuela, defining the Supreme Court ruling as a “self-coup.” “We have to defend our rights and the rights of others,” the bishops said. “It’s time to very seriously, and responsibly, ask if civil disobedience, peaceful demonstrations, appeals to the national and international public power, and civic protest, are valid and opportune measures.”

    Venezuela is currently the 11th largest oil producer in the world, ahead of both Mexico and Colombia in Latin America, and has reserves larger than Saudi Arabia. Despite this source of wealth, it’s long been plagued by an economic, political, and social crisis, fueled by corruption, abuses of power, and triple-digit inflation. As the crisis has worsened, the Catholic Church has become ever more outspoken against the Maduro regime, highlighting the spike in violent crime and black market operations due to the crippling economy. The Church, the Bishops added, must respond “not only with words but with facts, because a religion that is only vertical, intimate, individualist and spiritualist, which doesn’t question the system and doesn’t commit the faithful in the transformation of society, would be a religion that is opiate of the people.

U.S. FIGHTER JET SHOOTS DOWN SYRIAN WARPLANES


 
      Washington, d.c.  - -
An American fighter jet shot down a Syrian warplane on Sunday after it dropped bombs near local ground forces supported by the United States, the first time the American military has downed a Syrian aircraft since the start of the civil war in 2011, officials said.The confrontation represents a further escalation between forces supporting President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and the United States, which has been directing the military campaign in Syria and Iraq against the Islamic State.

    The American F/A-18 shot down the Syrian government warplane south of the town of Tabqah, on the same day that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps launched several midrange missiles from inside Iran at targets in Syria, hoping to punish Islamic State forces responsible for last week’s terrorist attacks in Tehran. The Guards Corp said it “targeted the headquarters and meeting place and suicide car assembly line” of “ISIS terrorists” in the province of Deir al-Zour, where Islamic State forces surround an estimated 200,000 people in a government-held section of the provincial capital of the same name.

    American officials said there appeared to be no direct connection between the two events, but they underscored the complexity of a region in which Syria, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Israel and the United States with its allies have carried out air or missiles strikes, albeit in pursuit of different and often competing objectives. For the United States, the main focus has been battling the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. This month, Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters, supported by American advisers and air power, began the battle for Raqqa, the militants’ self-declared capital. Even before that battle is over, however, tensions have risen over control of eastern Syria as Iranian-backed militias, including the Lebanese group Hezbollah, have moved to extend their reach toward areas where the American-based fighters are also operating.

RUSSIA WARNS U.S. AFTER DOWNING OF SYRIAN WARPLANE

        MOSCOW, RUSSIA  -- 
 Russia on Monday condemned the American military’s downing of a Syrian warplane, suspending the use of a military hotline that Washington and Moscow have used to avoid collisions in Syrian airspace and threatening to target aircraft flown by the United States and its allies over Syria. The moves were the most recent example of an intensifying clash of words and interests between the two powers, which support different sides in the yearslong war in Syria.

     The Russian military has threatened to halt its use of the hotline in the past — notably after President Trump ordered the launch of missiles against a Syrian air base in April — only to continue and even expand its contacts with the United States military. It was not clear whether the latest suspension would be lasting. Its announcement came in response to an American F/A-18 jet’s shooting down a Syrian government warplane south of the town of Tabqah on Sunday, after the Syrian aircraft dropped bombs near local ground forces supported by the United States. It was the first time the American military had downed a Syrian plane since the civil war began in the country in 2011.

     The Russian Defense Ministry called American attacks against the Syrian forces “military aggression” and announced that it would suspend cooperation with the United States intended to prevent airborne accidents over Syria. “All flying objects, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected west of the Euphrates, will be followed by Russian air defense systems as targets,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement. The United States will continue to conduct air operations over Syria, a spokesman for the American-led task force that is fighting the Islamic State said on Monday. “We are going to continue to conduct operations throughout Syria, providing air support for coalition and partnered forces on the ground,” the spokesman, Col. Ryan Dillon, said in a telephone interview from Baghdad.

June 19, 2017

THE BODIES OF SEVEN SAILORS WHO WERE MISSING AFTER A COLLISION BETWEEN A US DESTROYER AND A CONTAINER SHIP WERE FOUND

     
WASHINGTON, D.C.   --Japanese media said all seven of the sailors who had been reported missing were found dead. The Seventh Fleet statement said the sailors were being transferred to a U.S. naval hospital where they would be identified. "The families are being notified and being provided the support they need during this difficult time," it said. The Fitzgerald, an Aegis guided missile destroyer, collided with the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel more than three times its size some 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka early on Saturday.

     Three people were medically evacuated to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka after the collision, including the ship's commanding officer, Commander Bryce Benson, who was reported to be in stable condition, the Navy said.\ The other two were being treated for lacerations and bruises and others injured were being assessed aboard the ship. The USS Fitzgerald sailed into port on Saturday evening but search and rescue efforts by U.S. and Japanese aircraft and surface vessels had been continuing for the seven missing sailors, the Navy said.

     Benson took command of the Fitzgerald on May 13. He had previously commanded a minesweeper based in Sasebo in western Japan. It was unclear how the collision happened. "Once an investigation is complete then any legal issues can be addressed," a spokesman for the U.S. 7th Fleet said. The U.S. Navy said the collision happened at about 2:30 a.m. local time (1730 GMT Friday), while the Japanese Coast Guard said it took place at 1:30 a.m. local time. The Fitzgerald suffered damage on her starboard side above and below the waterline, causing "significant damage" and flooding to two berthing spaces and other areas of the ship, the Navy said.

CHAVISTS ASK THE HIGH COURT TO AUTHORIZE PROSECUTION OF VENEZUELAN ATTORNEY GENERAL LUISA ORTEGA DIAZ


 
      LA HABANA, CUBA  - -
The ruling parliamentary bloc on Friday called on the Venezuelan high court to authorize a trial against the attorney general, Luisa Ortega, a Chavez confessor who has become a tough opponent of Dictator Nicolás Maduro, a deputy said. "I introduce this document before the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) for the Plenary Chamber to initiate the process established by the laws, qualify the serious offense and declare if there is merit to prosecute the prosecutor," said lawmaker Pedro Carreño, Accusing Ortega of "lying."

     According to Carreño, the head of the Public Prosecutor's Office failed to ensure that she had not endorsed the preselection of 33 TSJ magistrates - accused by the opposition of being under government control - in December 2015. As part of the process of designating judges In charge of the Legislative, Ortega had to validate the candidacies in the Republican Moral Council, that integrates along with the Defensoría del Pueblo and the Comptroller's Office. "She lied to the country. They will be considered as serious offenses of the prosecutor to attack, threaten or injure public ethics or administrative morality, "Carreno said in showing a document that he says proves the irregularity.

     According to Venezuelan law, the removal of the members of the Moral Council corresponds to the Parliament, after ruling by the TSJ in Sala Plena, "to declare that there is merit for its prosecution." The legislative assembly, with a large majority opposition, supports the prosecutor in his confrontation with Maduro and the TSJ, which Ortega accuses of breaking the constitutional order. However, the chamber was declared in contempt by the TSJ for a year and a half, so it considers all its decisions null and void. In the past the court appealed to the figure of the "legislative omission" to endorse for example a decree of economic emergency dictated by the agent.

VENEZUELA'S MADURO SLAMS TWITTER AFTER ALL ACCOUNTS OF COMMUNIST OFFICIALS WERE BLOCKED

        CARACAS, VENEZUELA  -- 
 Venezuela's DICTATOR Nicolas Maduro on Saturday said Twitter was an "expression of fascism" after accounts linked to his government were suspended, accusing the U.S. company of persecuting his followers. One of the Twitter accounts suspended belonged to Radio Miraflores, a station set up by Maduro that broadcasts from the presidential palace, including a salsa music program the president hosts. "Twitter in Venezuela today deactivated thousands of people's accounts," Maduro said at televised rally. "Simply for being 'Chavistas,'" he said, using the term for followers of his predecessor, late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

     Chavez was a pioneer among politicians in the use of Twitter, gathering millions of followers and frequently announcing news on the platform. Even today, Chavez's 4 million followers beat Maduro's 3 million. Maduro encouraged a pro-government journalist to publish photos of the head of Twitter in Venezuela, to show people "who was responsible for the manipulation." It was not immediately clear if Twitter has employees in Venezuela. Media contacts listed on Twitter's corporate website did not return email requests for comment. The company does not list Caracas among the cities where it has international offices. It was not clear why the accounts were suspended, or how many had been affected. Earlier, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said 180 accounts were hit.

     Villegas said the last tweet from one of the accounts @miraflores_TV, reported comments by Maduro against U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence, made on Thursday. Twitter's guidelines say accounts can be suspended for abusive behavior, security or spam, among other reasons. Despite the strong words, Maduro encouraged his supporters to keep using the service as a way of countering online the opposition, which has taken to the streets over the past two months to demand elections, protest restrictions and complain about crippling food and medicine shortages. "They killed thousands of accounts, if they shut down a thousand, we will open 10,000 or more with the youth," Maduro said. "The battle on social media is very important."

June 18, 2017

TRUMP'S NEW CUBA POLICY IS TOO MUCH FOR SOME, NOT ENOUGH FOR OTHERS

     
MIAMI, FLORIDA   --If President Donald Trump did one thing during his Miami trip it was stir up simmering passions about the best course for U.S. policy toward Cuba. Neither side in the emotional debate — those who favor a more hardline approach and those who favor the former Obama administration approach — got exactly what they wanted from Trump, although those who favor a middle ground that aims at sanctioning the Cuban military while not hampering Cuban Americans’ ability to travel and send money to relatives on the island may be most pleased.

     “The actual policy didn’t match the rhetoric in the theater,” said Christopher Sabatini, a professor at Columbia School of International and Public Affairs. “Many of the things that hardliners have denounced will seemingly remain in place.” He said he was surprised that Trump hadn’t instituted a further rollback of the Obama opening, perhaps curtailing cruises to Cuba or restricting embassy operations. Trump’s new Cuba policy left big chunks of the Obama policy of engagement intact, while instituting a policy designed to economically starve important Cuban military enterprises from cash they take in from American visitors and, to a lesser extent, U.S. businesses.

     For Everett E. Briggs, a retired U.S. ambassador, the new Trump policy didn’t go far enough. “I regret that he did not go further in adopting the changes to Obama’s misbegotten actions I and a number of former State Department colleagues advocated earlier this year — namely, to bring U.S. policy into line with existing U.S. law — the Cuba Democracy Act and the Cuba Liberty and Democracy Restoration Act,” he said. “Exempting Cuban ports and airports from the prohibition on dealing with Cuba is a mistake.” “Some will probably say this is not enough, but this is a good start,” said Frank Calzon, executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba. “Today the dismantling of Obama’s outrageous orders have begun.”

RAUL CASTRO REJECTS NEW U.S. POLICY, EXPRESSES READINESS FOR FURTHER DIALOGUE


 
      HAVANA, CUBA  - -
Cuba's government rejected on Friday the newly announced U.S. policy towards Cuba, but said it is open to continue dialogue with Washington on issues of mutual interest. "Any strategy aimed at changing the political, economic and social system in Cuba, whether it aims to achieve it through pressure or imposition, or by using more subtle methods, is doomed to fail," the Cuban government said in a statement published in the state daily Granma. U.S. President Donald Trump earlier in the day announced he was "canceling" the rapprochement with Cuba spearheaded by his predecessor Barack Obama.

     Trump's announcement "reverses the advances made in the past two years since Dec. 17, 2014, when presidents Raul Castro and Obama revealed their decision to restore diplomatic relations and begin the process of normalizing bilateral ties," said the statement. Trump announced a return to restrictions on travel and trade, and "justified that policy with alleged concerns over the human rights situation in Cuba and the need to rigorously apply" the trade embargo and blockade against the island, which Obama had relaxed, it said, adding "once again the U.S. government is resorting to the coercive measures of the past." "Cuba rejects the manipulation with political purposes and the double standard concerning the issue of human rights," said the statement.

    The Cuban government has defended the people's right to universal health and education services, among other social achievements, it said. Saying it will issue a deeper analysis of the scope and implications of the about-face on foreign policy at a later date, the government added it "denounces the new measures to toughen the blockade, which are doomed to fail, as has been repeatedly shown in the past, and will not succeed in their goal to weaken the Revolution." However, the Cuban government also made it clear that it is willing to continue "respectful dialogue" and cooperation with Washington on issues of mutual interest. It vowed to take "any necessary risk" and continue the construction of a "sovereign, independent, socialist, democratic, prosperous and sustainable nation."

FORMER PRESIDENTS GROUP SUBMITS A PLAN TO OVERCOME CRISIS IN VENEZUELA

        MEXICO CITY, MEXICO  -- 
 A group of 21 leaders and heads of government of Latin America and Spain submitted a six-point plan in Mexico on Friday in the face of the political crisis in Venezuela, among which they demand that President Nicolás Maduro freeze the call for a Constituent Assembly. "No one can be indifferent to the pain of the Venezuelan people. The group urges an immediate adoption of concrete measures to ensure a way out of the serious crisis that plagues Venezuelans," said former Mexican President Vicente Fox who read the statement in Mexico City, which will be delivered to the Organization of American States (OAS), AFP said.

    Also present at the press conference were, among other dignitaries, the former presidents of Colombia Andrés Pastrana, Bolivia Jorge Quiroga and Costa Rica Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, members of the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA), an international forum of former Latin American leaders. The plan calls for the "cessation of repression of opponents" to Maduro, punishment for those who have "flagrantly violated" human rights and the release of all political prisoners. It also requires "the restoration of the National Assembly and the elaboration of an electoral calendar" and the "suspension of the initiative of a Constituent Assembly" proposed by Nicolas Maduro.

    They also call on governments to "implement an urgent humanitarian aid" to Venezuela, where the chronic shortage of food, medicines and various products reaches critical levels, which has resulted in lootings. Venezuela, also plunged into an economic crisis intensified by the collapse of oil prices, which represents more than 90% of its revenues, has been shaken since April 1 by opposition protests that law enforcement responds with water cannons and grenade lacrymogene grenades. The National Gard repression has left more than 70 dead. The protests broke out more than two months ago after the Supreme Court took over the powers from the Legislature and were aggravated when Maduro called a Constituent Assembly, considered unconstitutional by Attorney General Luisa Ortega, by the opposition, and some members of the OAS.

June 17, 2017

THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE MUST REJECT VENEZUELA'S CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY

     
WASHINGTON, D.C.    --In the month of July, the Venezuelan government intends to begin rewriting the country’s constitution through a process that is plainly unconstitutional and destined to disempower Venezuelan citizens for years to come. As an organization devoted to advancing human rights and social justice in the Americas, WOLA (the Washington Office on Latin America) calls on the nations of the hemisphere to recognize the importance of this moment by urging the Venezuelan government to put aside its plans to create a new constitution and instead adhere to the country’s 1999 Constitution.

     If carried out as proposed by the government of President Maduro, the National Constituent Assembly would represent an assault on a fundamental principle of democratic governance: the sovereignty of the people. Venezuela’s 1999 Constitution clearly provides that only the Venezuelan people themselves have the authority to call a new Constituent Assembly. But the Maduro government has claimed this authority for itself, refusing to seek the prior consent of the people themselves, as was the case in April 1999, when the question of whether or not to rewrite the constitution was submitted to a referendum of the electorate as a whole.

     Maduro’s bid to rewrite the constitution is a transparent attempt by an unpopular government to remain in power in a context in which they know that they cannot win fair elections. In 2016, the Maduro government thwarted a presidential recall referendum and indefinitely postponed scheduled regional elections. Now, in the case of the Constituent Assembly, the government has created rules for selecting Assembly delegates to favor its supporters: under the procedures proposed by the government, its candidates could take the majority of the seats by winning less than 30 percent of the vote, which is scheduled for July 30.

RUSSIA SENDS OIL AND A LIFELINE TO CUBA'S PARASITIC CASTRO DICTATORSHIP


 
      CARACAS, VENEZUELA  - -
Cuba’s parasitic apartheid Castro dictatorship colonized Venezuela and has been sucking that nation dry for years now. But with the situation there quickly deteriorating, the Castro regime needs a new host to latch on to so they can continue sucking oil and revenue to stay alive. Russia has recently sent Cuba 250,000 tons of petroleum products, but the terms of the deal are shrouded in secrecy.

     News of a Russian contract to supply Cuba with large quantities of diesel and petroleum has exacerbated an already strained relationship between the two nations and the United States.  The Soviet Union, the Caribbean island’s longtime benefactor, once propped up the island’s economy, supplying the vast majority of its energy needs, and buying its sugar at considerably inflated prices. It is generally suspected that cash-strapped Cuba will be receiving the oil at discounted prices, or in conjunction with an offer of Venezuelan drilling rights to Russian oil giant Rosneft.

     Following the 1991 disintegration of the Soviet Union, geopolitical influence in Latin America ceased to be a priority for the new Russian government. However, under the tenure of Vladimir Putin, Russia has sought to increase its geopolitical influence in the region, pursuing closer relations with a bloc of left-wing nations including Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia, that are often at odds with the United State.

CUBA SCRAMBLES AS VENEZUELA'S OIL INDUSTRY COLLAPSES

        HAVANA, CUBA  -- 
 As Venezuela’s oil industry goes down it flames, it’s looking like it may just take Cuba down with it. Venezuela, once the crude powerhouse of South and Central America, is no longer able to produce enough oil to sustain its own economy, much less those of other countries. Cuba is frantically drilling in search for new reserves and reaching out for new suppliers, but there is no guarantee they’ll be able to stabilize their oil income any time soon.

    Cuba became dependent on Venezuelan oil in the 1990s, when they were sold cut-price crude in exchange for the services of skilled laborers in order to bail them out of economic collapse in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union. Currently, Cuba relies on foreign oil for more than two thirds of its daily consumption, with over 100,000 barrels of crude flowing from Venezuela every day for years. Now, quite suddenly, their dependence on Venezuelan oil has been forced to come to a bitter end.

    In the midst of political unrest and economic devastation, Venezuela’s oil exports have plummeted by 40 percent in the last 3 years. During an export drought that lasted the better part of last year, the Cuban government has been combatting the stemmed fuel flow with regular energy rationing. In an attempt to avoid blackouts, the government has ordered cuts in electricity and fuel consumption to most state-run companies and entities (a huge pool in a communist country) by 50 percent, resulting in workers hours slashed and access to vehicles severely restricted. This April, they also began restricting sales of premium gas to government officials and diplomats.

June 16, 2017

U.S. VICE PRESIDENT ACCUSES VENEZUELA GOVERNMENT OF ABUSE OF POWER

     
WASHINGTON, D.C.    -- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence stepped up Washington's war of words with Venezuela on Thursday, telling Latin American leaders the country was a prime example of what happens when democracy is undermined, and urging the region to condemn its government. Opposition has been fanned by President Nicolas Maduro's plan for July 30 elections for a special assembly to rewrite the constitution, which critics say are stacked in his favour. "We need only look to the nation of Venezuela to see what happens when democracy is undermined.

    That once-rich nation's collapse into authoritarianism has pushed it into poverty and caused untold suffering for the Venezuelan people," Pence told a gathering of Latin American leaders in Miami. "We must all of us raise our voices to condemn the Venezuelan government for its abuse of power and its abuse of its own people, and we must do it now," he said to applause at the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America. At least 73 people have died in the unrest in Venezuela since early April, with hundreds injured. The Maduro government calls the protesters violent coup-mongers, supported by the United States.

    Earlier this month, the United States denounced Venezuela for suppressing protests and called for free elections, saying Maduro must not be allowed to follow a "dictatorship" path like Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Pence was at a conference to discuss improving security and economic prosperity in Central America, specifically in the violent nations of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. He praised U.S. President Donald Trump's tough stance against illegal immigration, saying it was responsible for a more than 70 percent drop in illegal crossings of the U.S.-Mexico border since the beginning of his administration in January. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, apprehensions of illegal immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border fell to 19,967 in May from 42,473 in January, a drop of 53 percent.

PROSECUTOR URGES VENEZUELANS TO REJECT CONSTITUTION REWRITE


 
      CARACAS, VENEZUELA  - -
 Venezuela's chief prosecutor called Thursday for Venezuelans to reject President Nicolas Maduro's push to rewrite the nation's constitution and urged the Supreme Court to annul the process immediately, further deepening her divide with the government. Grasping a copy of the nation's blue constitution book in her hands on the steps of the Supreme Court, Luisa Ortega Diaz said she was acting to defend both the embattled nation's constitution and its very democracy. "What's at play here is the country," she said. "The integrity of Venezuelans." Ortega Diaz's remarks were her strongest repudiation yet of Maduro's effort to rewrite the nation's constitution, an act she said would destroy the legacy of the late President Hugo Chavez, who drafted the current charter.|

    A long-time government loyalist, Ortega Diaz first broke publicly with the Maduro administration in late March when she decried a supreme court decision gutting congress of its last remaining powers. Since then, the gulf between Ortega Diaz and the government has only grown, with has repeatedly questioning the validity of convoking a constitutional assembly without the proposal first facing a referendum. Maduro ordered the National Electoral Council to convene the assembly, stating it was his constitutional right, a position the opposition rejects. He also designed the rules by which delegates to the assembly would be elected. The government-stacked council quickly rubber stamped both requests and is moving forward to hold the elections in late July.

    Ortega Diaz is requesting that the Supreme Court's electoral chamber invalidate the process. In doing so, she is sidestepping the court's constitutional branch, whose magistrates were responsible for the March decision against the opposition-controlled congress. That decision was later reversed amid a storm of international criticism and Ortega Diaz's own rebuke. But it instigated the current wave of protests that has left nearly 70 people dead and continues to rock the country. Demonstrators are frustrated with the nation's vast food and medical supply shortages, triple-digit inflation and rising crime. The Trump administration slapped sanctions in May on the Supreme Court's president as well as seven justices from the constitutional chamber who issued the controversial decision.

TAL CUAL: WHO IS IN COMMAND OF VENEZUELA'S NATIONAL ARMED FORCES?

        CARACAS. VENEZUELA  -- 
 Who is in command of the National Guard? Maybe the Minister of the Interior? What happened last Monday, where apart from the brutal repression, members of the Bolivarian National Police (PNB) and the National Guard (GN) were caught on video robbing demonstrators. This might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back within Venezuela’s National Armed Forces (FAN) "I don’t want to see a member of the National Guard committing an act of atrocity in the streets anymore. He who departs from the policy of the State, from the pre-eminence of the respect for human rights and stops behaving like a professional, has to assume his responsibility," Vladimir Padrino López, Venezuela’s Minister of Defense and Commander of the National Armed Forces or FAN (including the National Guard or GN), was quoted as saying.

     Why does the head of the Strategic Command Operations of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces have to make those remarks in public? What is most serious of all is that this is not the first time it happens. A little more than two weeks ago, Padrino López attended an event at a GN facility and also urged its members to respect human rights. The event, broadcast by the FAN’s official TV network FANBTV, was also attended by Antonio Benavides, General Commander of the GN. The day after Padrino López’s remarks, the actions of GN officers, when dealing with peaceful demonstrators in the streets, were the same as Padrino López claimed: His orders were completely ignored.

     Which leads us to ask ourselves: who is in command of the National Guard? Maybe the Minister of the Interior? What happened last Monday, where apart from the brutal repression, members of the Bolivarian National Police (PNB) and the GN were caught on video robbing demonstrators. This might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back within the FAN. The image of the armed institution has been tarnishing by leaps and bounds. Its close link with the government of Nicolás Maduro is costing it dearly. The rejection felt by a good part of society is such that GN officers have the order not to go anywhere in uniform unless it is strictly necessary. Like it or not, the actions of GN officers are harming the FAN. Their violation of human rights affects the entire institution, not only its GN branch. This is a matter of concern among FAN members, which led Padrino López to say what he said.

June 15, 2017

SECRETARY TILLERSON SIGNALS TOUGH TRUMP ADMINISTRATION STANCE

     
WASHINGTON, D.C.    -- U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday said Cuba "must begin to address human rights challenges" if it wants Washington to preserve a move toward more normal relations started under former President Barack Obama. Tillerson, speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee days before President Donald Trump is expected to announce a change in U.S. policy on Cuba, said the opening to the Communist-run island has led to an increase in U.S. visitors and U.S. business ties to the country. However, Tillerson added: "We think we have achieved very little in terms of changing the behavior of the regime in Cuba, restricting their people, and it has little incentive today to change that."

     Reuters reported last week that Trump was expected to visit Miami as early as Friday to announce a new Cuba policy that could tighten rules on trade and travel, rolling back parts of his Democratic predecessor's opening to the island. Many of Trump's fellow Republicans, and some Democrats, objected to Obama's policy shift, saying America's former Cold War foe has not done enough to allow any easing of the 50-year-long U.S. embargo on trade and travel. But the measures have proven popular with the public, U.S. businesses and many lawmakers from both parties.

     Under questioning from Democratic Senator Tom Udall, Tillerson agreed that moves toward more normal relations with the United States have helped some Cubans lift themselves out of poverty and provided opportunities for U.S. company However, Tillerson said there is a "dark side" to relations with Cuba, noting that the government in Havana continues to jail political opponents and harass dissidents. "If we're going to sustain the sunny side of this relationship, Cuba must, absolutely must, address these human rights challenges," Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a hearing on the broad State Department budget. He said the Trump administration's view is that the new U.S. policy is providing financial support to the Cuban government, which would violate U.S. law. "That's the focus of our current policy review."

RAUL CASTRO TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: WE ARE READY TO DEAL


 
      WASHINGTON, D.C.   - -
 The Cuban government is signaling it is willing to enter into detailed negotiations with the Trump administration as the White House prepares to announce an expected rollback of former President Barack Obama's normalization of relations with the island. Cuban President Raul Castro is open to a brokering a new agreement with President Donald Trump, a high-level Cuban government official told CNN. "We know they have a different view of the world. We understand that," the Cuban official said of Havana's posture toward new negotiations.

     In a tweet posted last November in the weeks following the US presidential election, Trump warned he would scrap the Obama administration's diplomatic breakthrough with Cuba unless the Castro government showed a willingness to reach a new agreement. "If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the US as a whole, I will terminate deal," Trump said in a tweet. A separate Cuban government official pointed to comments made by Raul Castro in January.

     "I wish to express Cuba's willingness to continue negotiating pending bilateral issues with the United States, on the basis of equality, reciprocity and respect for the sovereignty and independence of our country, and to continue the respectful dialogue and cooperation on issues of common interest with the new government of President Donald Trump," Castro said in a speech delivered less than one week after Trump was sworn into office. Nearly five months later, the Cuban government has yet to hear what would constitute a "better deal" for Trump, the Cuban official said. Havana, however, does not expect the Trump administration to completely reverse the Obama administration policy and shutter the US Embassy in the Cuban capital. That would be the "nuclear option," the Cuban official said.

VENEZUELA SUPREME COURT BUILDING SET ON FIRE AS ANTI MADURO PROTESTS INTENSIFY

        CARACAS. VENEZUELA  -- 
 Anti-government protesters set fire to the Supreme Court building in Venezuela after the apex court rejected the chief prosecutor’s motion to stop Nicolas Maduro’s push to rewrite the constitution. Clashes at daily protests in Venezuela calling for the socialist president to quit have left 68 people dead since April 1. Opposition leaders said pro-government armed groups known as ‘colectivos’ clashed with protesters and journalists near the Supreme Court on Monday and witnesses’ videos showed fistfights and people being shoved to the ground at the demonstration site.

     Maduro says Venezuela is the victim of an “economic war” that he says can only be addressed by a constituent assembly. The elections council has set an election for the assembly for July 30. The opposition is refusing to participate in the vote, saying it is rigged in favor of the Socialist Party. Protesters blame Maduro for an economic crisis that has caused desperate shortages of food and medicine in the oil-rich country. Maduro says the crisis is a US-backed conspiracy. The president has launched moves to set up an elected assembly to reform the constitution in response to the protests, but his opponents say that is a ploy to cling to power.

     The supreme court Monday voted to reject a motion that would prevent Mr. Maduro from rewriting the country’s constitution. Fanned by anger at triple-digit inflation along with shortages of food and medicine, protests have grown smaller but more violent over the past two months, with dozens killed and thousands injured. Luisa Ortega, a former ally of Mr. Maduro who has turned against him and the ruling Socialist Party, has questioned his handling of opposition street protests in recent weeks and challenged his plan to rewrite a constitution brought in by late leader Hugo Chavez. State officials have launched a series of verbal attacks on Ms. Ortega, ranging from questioning her sanity to accusing her of promoting violence.

June 14, 2017

OAS SECRETARY GENERAL, LUIS ALMAGRO, BLAMES TOP VENEZUELAN MINISTERS FOR VIOLENT REPRESSION OF PROTESTS

     
WASHINGTON, D.C.    -- Secretary General of the Organization of American States Luis Almagro released another statement this week regarding the economic and political crisis in Venezuela. This time he blamed the murder of protesters directly on the country’s Ministers of Interior and Defense Néstor Reverol and Vladimir Padrino Lopez, as well as Major General Benavides Torres of the Bolivarian National Guard. “The Bolivarian National Guard and its leader Major General Benavides Torres are directly responsible for repression,” Almagro said.

    “He has murdered, deprived people of liberty and tortured. This brutal repression shows the National Guard to be a material perpetrator of the violation of rights to life, freedom and the guarantee of due process.” The Secretary General denounced the actions of Reverol and Lopez, saying they were “responsible for every aggression, every shot and every death.” Almagro said the Bolivarian National Guard is an accomplice of the paramilitary groups that have been responsible for so much of the violence and death in recent protests.

     “They even support irregular or paramilitary groups that act against demonstrators,” he said of the two officials. Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López also received direct criticism from Almagro for having “deprived the Armed Forces of their fundamental commitments.” “He is fully responsible for adhering to the criminal conduct of murdering dozens of peaceful demonstrators and is fully responsible for applying military justice to peacefully demonstrating civilians,” Almagro said. He said the Armed Forces can’t continue killing and torturing people with impunity, and stressed that “murder and torture for political reasons, for thinking differently, is a crime against humanity, an international crime.”

VENEZUELAN POLLS SHOW REJECTION OF NICOLAS MADURO'S CONSTITUENT HAS GROWN TO 85%


 
       CARACAS, VENEZUELA   - -
Calling a Constituent Assembly to replace the present Venezuelan Constitution which embattled DICTATOR Nicolas Maduro has been proposing since early May, was never been a popular idea but now is a concept that is rejected by about 85% of the oil-rich country’s population, according to data from pollsters and NGOs curated by LAHT. National Guard light tanks were set on fire only blocks from the Miraflores Presidential Palace between Saturday and Sunday, as anti-Maduro protests devolved into street battles, complete with gunfire and Molotov cocktails, in a particularly eventful weekend after seventy one days of violent riots have so far resulted in 64 deaths (officially).

     Even the Attorney General, Luisa Ortega, a former Maduro ally, has come out against the Constituent, saying the idea “needs to be clarified” and asking the Supreme Court to stop the proceedings. The Supreme Court formally rejected Ortega's arguments on Monday, but she immediately came back swinging, blasted Supreme Court justices, calling for them and their alternates dubiously packed onto the court by the governing PSUV party to be replaced. And the government’s approval rates dovetail with the street demonstrations, it seems.

     The latest poll, published over the weekend, from Caracas consultancy firm Datanalisis shows that 85% of the population rejects having Maduro ditch the present Magna Carta. However, when the idea was first floated by Maduro, in early May, rejection was already around 69%, according to a “poll of polls” covering May published by NGO “Observatorio Electoral Venezolano” (OEV). A poll taken by More Consulting in early May had 68.8% of Venezuelans rejecting Maduro’s call for a Constituent Assembly. Furthermore, 84.3% of those polled said that Maduro needed to ask Venezuelans, through a popular vote, if they wanted their Constitution changed, a referendum that Maduro has rejected.

PROSECUTORS FROM 12 COUNTRIES SUPPORT THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE VENEZUELAN MP

        CARACAS. VENEZUELA  -- 
The Attorney General of Spain has joined the manifesto, signed by prosecutors, prosecutor generals and representatives of prosecutors from several countries, in which they express their concern about the criticism against the Venezuelan Public Ministry Luisa Ortega Diaz and support her. For more than 70 days, in Venezuela there have been demonstrations for and against Nicolás Maduro and his call for a Constituent Assembly, which in some cases has resulted in violent acts, with 71 deaths and more than a thousand Wounded, according to data from the Venezuelan Public Prosecutor's Office.

     Maduro accused the country's attorney general, Ortega Díaz, on Sunday for leading sectors opposed to the formation of a National Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution. On the occasion of these events, representatives from the Attorneys General of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal and Uruguay signed a manifesto expressing their "deep concern for the public statements made against the work Of the Public Ministry of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela ".

     Spain has now signed the text, which argues that the Office of the Prosecutor is investigating "using its constitutional and legal powers" to investigate the various facts that constituted crime during the months of April, May and June.” The undersigned Public Ministries reaffirmed what was expressed by the Ibero-American Association of Public Ministries (AIAMP) on April 6 and express their "conviction about the role that Public Ministries must play yo ensure the rule of law." And they must do so "especially in times of social upheaval that merit the action of their institutions of justice in a timely, independent and transparent manner to clarify all the facts that violate or jeopardize higher legal rights, such as life and personal integrity.

June 13, 2017

ATTORNEY GENERAL LUISA ORTEGA: TSJ MAGISTRATES MUST BE DISEMBODIED IMMEDIATELY

     
CARACAS, VENEZUELA    -- Luisa Ortega Díaz on Monday requested a new measure before the Supreme Court of Justice to challenge the decision of the National Assembly on 23 December 2015 on the legitimacy of origin of 13 principal magistrates and 20 alternates, because in their designation, the Citizen Power did not participated properly. "For the peace of the country, magistrates of the TSJ must be disembodied immediately," the prosecutor told Maripili Hernandez in his program broadcast by Union Radio.

     Ortega Díaz said that at the time, she warned that the process of the election of the members of the TSJ "was done badly", reason why it would be requesting that they are rejected of full right. She also explained that she filed a report with the Supreme Court showing the alleged irregularities presented during the selection process and said that it took 18 months to pronounce on this issue because of the difficulty the Public Ministry had to access the "evidence" Republican Moral Council. These magistrates were sworn in by the Parliament after the victory of the opposition in the legislative elections of December 6, 2015 and before Chavez handed over the leadership of this instance on January 5, 2016.

     "I believe that the lack of Legitimacy of origin of these magistrates is what affects their suitability, their impartiality, is undoubtedly a factor that has contributed to the Supreme Court not giving effective solutions to the crisis of the country but on the contrary, is responsible for accelerating The crisis, "said the prosecutor. He also emphasized that the 33 contested judges should refrain from this case and warned that, if not, she will refuse them. She also criticized that the various appeals she has filed before the Judiciary have not been considered, or even admitted, but there has not been a substantive pronouncement on the matter and so she now has to take this action.

LUISA ORTEGA DIAZ: SEBIN THREATENS ME AND MY FAMILY


 
       CARACAS, VENEZUELA   - -
The Attorney General of the Republic, Luisa Ortega Díaz, denounced that her family has received threats from officials of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (Sebin). The official said Sebin pickup trucks are chasing her relatives. In addition, they have also received calls directly from the agency. "I make the Executive responsible for what can happen to my family, it is not possible that they are objects of threat," she said. On the other hand, she assured that the institutionality of the country has been lost. "An institution gains respect by giving an answer, not denying the requirements," she said.

     Ortega Diaz lamented that all actions carried out by her office "have been rejected, inadmissible, unknown or denied, without a substantive pronouncement" by the highest judicial body. Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz reported that she decided to challenge the appointment of the Supreme Court Justices (TSJ), which was held in late December 2015. The official said in an interview with Unión Radio that she filed a petition for nullity against the designation Of 13 magistrates and 20 alternates and, in addition, requested the nullity of the acts of the National Assembly where they selected to these magistrates.

     "If the magistrates involved in the lawsuit are not inhibited then I refuse them in full," she said. Ortega Diaz stated that, at the time, she did not sign the act of designation of the magistrates for the highest court in the country nor that of the secretary of the Republican Moral Council because the process was flawed. "It was not easy for me to accede to the minutes of the appointment of magistrates, that process was flawed. I said that it was badly done and that I would not sign," she said, adding that it is necessary to convene new magistrates. "The magistrates, for the health of the country, should be discharged immediately," she said.

SECRETARY OF THE VENEZUELAN DEFENSE COUNCIL RESIGNED FROM OFFICE BECAUSE OF HIS DISAGREEMENT WITH MADURO'S NEW CONSTITUTION

        CARACAS. VENEZUELA  -- 
Venezuelan Major General Alexis López Ramírez has resigned as secretary of the National Defense Council, the government's highest referendum body, a government source confirmed Monday, while other sources say he resigned because he was at odds with the constituent process . The general held the position as secretary of the Council of State since July 7, 2014 when he was appointed by Nicolás Maduro, before he had served as commanding general of the Venezuelan Army.

     The journalist and former Venezuelan ambassador Vladimir Villegas said in his Twitter account that López Ramírez resigned because he disagreed with Madur’s call for a National Constituent Assembly. He confirmed the resignation of general Ramírez López. The source consulted by EFE indicated that the major general was asked for his resignation, although he did not specify the reasons. Ramírez López was also head of the presidential guard of the late President Hugo Chávez, with whom he participated in the failed coup attempt of February 4, 1992 against then-President Carlos Andrés Pérez.

     Article 323 of the Venezuelan Constitution states that the Defense Council of the Nation "is the highest organ of consultation for the planning and advice of the Public Power in matters related to the integral defense of the nation, its sovereignty and the integrity of the geographic space ". The National Constituent Assembly, convened by Maduro on May 1, represents the formation of the "constituent power", which would be above the Constitution and with the power to draft a new charter and rebuild the Venezuelan state.

June 12, 2017

PUERTO RICO UPHOLDS STATEHOOD TO BECOME THE 51ST US STATE

     
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO   -- Puerto Rico's governor is vowing to make the U.S. territory the 51st state after statehood won in a non-binding referendum hit by a boycott and low turnout that raised questions about the vote's legitimacy. Gov. Ricardo Rossello told a couple hundred supporters waving U.S. flags late Sunday that he will soon create a commission to appoint two senators and five representatives to demand statehood from the U.S. Congress, which has to approve any changes to the island's political status. "The United States of America will have to obey the will of our people!" Rossello yelled to a crowd clutching U.S. flags and dancing to a tropical jingle that promoted statehood.

     But experts say it is highly unlikely a Republican-controlled Congress would acknowledge Sunday's results, let alone accept them because Puerto Rico tends to favor Democrats. The referendum has sparked dozens of memes that turned viral, including some showing the tropical island covered in snow. More than half a million people voted for statehood during Sunday's referendum, followed by nearly 7,800 votes for free association/independence and more than 6,800 votes for the current territorial status. The referendum coincided with the 100th anniversary of the United States granting U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans, though they are barred from voting in presidential elections and have only one congressional representative with limited voting powers.

     Many believe the island's territorial status has contributed to its economic crisis, largely caused by decades of heavy borrowing and the elimination of federal tax incentives. Puerto Rico is exempt from the U.S. federal income tax, but it still pays Social Security and Medicare and local taxes and receives less federal funding than U.S. states. "We have been a colony for 500 years, and we have had U.S. citizenship for 100 years, but it's been a second class one," a former governor said. Nearly half a million Puerto Ricans have fled to the U.S. mainland to escape the island's 10-year economic recession and 12 percent unemployment rate. Those who remain behind have faced new taxes and higher utility bills on an island where food is 22 percent more expensive than the U.S. mainland and public services are 64 percent more expensive.

THE MUD CALLS ON THE VENEZUELAN PEOPLE TO PREPARE FOR A MAJOR NATIONAL STRIKE


 
       CARACAS, VENEZUELA    -
The first vice-president to the National Assembly, deputy Freddy Guevara said that the country should be prepared for "a great national strike". "The time has come for our country to prepare for a major national strike and for a call for a mobilization to the city of Caracas from all states, a permanent mobilization that will not stop until there is a response to the people of Venezuela" , He said.

     He said that his words correspond to an agreement reached between the members of the Democratic Unit (MUD). He was also emphatic in remembering the differences between Strike and National Paro. On the first, indicated that it comes from the bottom up, while a national strike is "employer". Guevara also said that "the resistance must continue until another public power joins the Attorney General of the Republic’s (Luisa Ortega Diaz) in her campaign to stop the Constituent Assembly ordered by Nicolas Maduro or that the Venezuelan pressure forces the armed forces to withdraw support to the government."

     In his judgment, all these things will happen only if they maintain resistance or redouble it. On the other hand, he added that this week will be made new announcements to the country "on a greater escalation of pressure with greater force" in order to "stop the Constituent Assembly and remove the dictatorship of Venezuela." The declarations offered during a tribute to the young people fallen during the demonstrations carried out this Sunday in the Plaza Brión of Chacaíto in Caracas where in addition, the triumph of Vinotinto Sub 20 was cheered in World-wide Korea 2017 in which the finished as runners-up.

LEOPOLDO LOPEZ TO THE FANB: YOU HAVE THE RIGHT AND THE DUTY TO REBEL AGAINST MADURO DICTATORSHIP

        CARACAS. VENEZUELA  -- 
Leopoldo López, leader of the Popular Will Party, was able to broadcast a CLANDESTINE video from the National Center for Military Proceedings of Ramo Verde, where he is being held, in which he called on the soldiers to rebel against the orders to suppress the demonstrators. "I can tell you that the military also wants change, they also want freedom, they also want democracy and they want to be able to exercise all their functions within the rule of law," emphasized Lopez, who has been behind bars for over three years.

     "To the soldiers who are in the streets today I want to send a very clear message, very serene and framed in our Constitution. You also have the right and duty to rebel. To rebel against orders that seek to repress the Venezuelan people Constitutional rights. "You also have the right and the duty to rebel against orders that seek to repress the Venezuelan people, to rebel to enforce the Constitution," Lopez emphatically said in his statement. He urged the military to say no, because it is their duty to do so, it is an order that they don’t have to carry out.

     He explained that during his time in custody he had the opportunity to share his thoughts with members of different hierarchies. Lopez said that the situation of the military is also similar to that of a political imprisonment. The military must rebel to enforce the Constitution. Do not do it anymore, rebel! Say no, say it's not your duty, let alone it is an order that you must not comply with, "he said in the video of a minute and 15 seconds duration. Lopez's call to the FANs was made days after both Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez and his brother, Caracas Mayor Jorge Rodriguez,met with Lopea at the prison and said that the leader of the opposition had begun a process of dialogue with the Nicolas Maduro government. López has been uncommunicated for 64 days without being allowed to contact his lawyers. His relatives could not see him this weekend either. 

June 11, 2017

VENEZUELA CARDINAL SAYS SOCIALIST REGIME LEAVES PEOPLE 'CRUELLY REPRESSED'

     
CARACAS, VENEZUELA   --One of Venezuela’s cardinals promised to give Pope Francis “a very direct, crude, realistic view of the situation we are going through” in a meeting with the pontiff today, saying the country’s socialist government has left its people “cruelly repressed.” Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, Archbishop of Caracas, the country’s capital, spoke to Crux in advance of a special meeting of the leadership of Venezuela’s bishops’ conference with Francis. The Argentine pontiff has been an outspoken supporter of dialogue to end the crisis, and the Vatican’s position on the matter is clear: Elections need to happen. “The situation is very, very grave,” Urosa told Crux on Tuesday afternoon.

     “What we see is a people who are suffering, who are being humiliated, and who are being cruelly repressed,” he said. Some 70 people have been killed since massive protests began last April, and thousands have been wounded. The country today has a failing political system, people starving to death, and little to no medical supplies. Despite attempts made by Maduro to convince his country of the opposite, Urosa believes that the bishops and the pope are very much aligned, calling for dialogue and a solution to the current crisis, “which the government has caused.” Those solutions, as Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State and former papal representative in Venezuela told Crux and La Nación in May, include calling for national elections.

     Though he too wants elections to be held, Urosa puts it in somewhat different words: “The solution is that the government solves the problems it has caused, and does not insist on wanting to impose a socialist, communist, Marxist, totalitarian and militaristic system as a regime of government.” The leadership of the episcopal conference wanted to share with the Holy Father our concern about the very serious situation that Venezuela is going through, as the pope has repeatedly, since his election to the papacy, expressed great interest and concern for our country. And we would also like to express our gratitude for the concern the Holy Father has for the well-being of the Venezuelan people. We’re going to give him a very direct, crude, realistic view of the situation we are going through. We, as bishops, live in different parts of the country, and each one has a vision and a lot of information, many contacts. The situation is very, very grave. There’s a political crisis that has manifested itself since December 2015, when the government lost the parliamentary elections.

THE MUD PRESENTS A "CRIMINAL COMPLAINT" IN THE OFFICE OF THE PROSECUTOR AGAINST NICOLAS MADURO


 
       CARACAS, VENEZUELA    -
The Venezuelan opposition coalition also introduced a "criminal complaint" in the Prosecutor's Office against President Nicolás Maduro, the judges of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court and the rectors of the Electoral Power for attempting to change "violently" the Constitution. From the headquarters of the Venezuelan Prosecutor's Office in Caracas, Deputy Tomás Guanipa, on behalf of the alliance, said that these officials "have committed a very serious crime of violation of the Constitution", citing the Venezuelan Penal Code. Those who "conspire or rise to violently change the Constitution must be punished."

    In that sense, the opposition spokesperson stressed that the document they delivered to the Prosecutor's Office calls for "a criminal investigation process" against those officials mentioned. A group of former prosecutors, lawyers and judges who served under the government of the late president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, also went to the Supreme Court to join the appeal filed by the attorney general. Former Venezuelan Attorney General Jose Benigno Rojas told the media that his group of jurists decided to "accept" Ortega's call to join the legal appeal that calls for annulling the decisions of the Electoral Power to convene elections to carry out a National Assembly Constituent.

     "For many years we had the enormous historical responsibility to deal with cases and solve many legal situations, we have decided to accept this call and we have gathered in a national legal conglomerate," Rojas said, citing the presence of 43 prosecutors who want "To participate as third parties". The former officials however could not record the document because the competent tribunal designated to receive the document was “closed” today.

VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION (MUD) JOINS PROSECUTOR'S APPEAL TO MAKE NULL AND BLOCK MADURO'S NEW CONSTITUTION

        CARACAS. VENEZUELA  -- 
The Venezuelan opposition decided to join the judicial nullity measure filed by the attorney general, Luisa Ortega Díaz, before the Supreme Court of Justice to block the election of a Constituent Assembly to draft an eventual new constitution. Although there has been no formal pronouncement by the opposition alliance Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD), through social networks the leaders have asked the common citizen to sign this petition. To facilitate the recommendation, the opposition has established a "legal operation committee" so that all citizens who want to join the appeal can do so with the support of volunteer jurists.

     The parliamentarian Jose Manuel Olivares said: "We ask every Venezuelan to go to the TSJ and sign the appeal of the prosecutor against the constituent scam!". Likewise, the first vice-president of the Parliament, Freddy Guevara, made a "call" to join the appeal, and stressed that "if hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans join the prosecutor's suit, it will be a great demonstration of pressure and protest." The initiative of the prosecutor, who has been marking distance from the government for a few months, was made yesterday before the Supreme Court after she was denied a request for clarification on why a Constituent Assembly would be made without a prior consultation with the people .

     The area around the judicial center was blocked by riot police and security forces. This situation was noticed early in the morning by several opposition spokesmen, who through social networks reported that access to the TSJ was blocked by trucks of the National Guard (militarized police). The Venezuelan executive vice president, Tareck el Aissami, has set a date for the exit of the attorney general of the Public Ministry, once the Constituent Assembly is elected and has the power to dictate decisions over any other power of the constituted state. "Within 51 days that Office will be in the hands of a patriot or a patriot who will do justice," he said at a government rally. This process has increased the tension of the country, which has experienced a wave of demonstrations for and against the government since April 1, some of which have degenerated into violent acts that have left 71 people dead, over thousand wounded and at least 422 detained, according to the Office of the Prosecutor.

June 10, 2017

PRESIDENT TRUMP TO REVEAL CUBA POLICY IN MIAMI NEXT FRIDAY

     
Washington, d.c.   -- President Donald Trump will travel to Miami next Friday to announce his administration’s changes to U.S.-Cuba policy, a source with knowledge of the president’s plans told the Miami Herald. The location for the event is still in the works. But scheduling the trip indicates the Cuba policy, which has been undergoing drafts for several weeks, will be imminently finalized. And deciding to unveil the policy in Miami suggests it will please the hardline Cuban exiles whose support Trump considered significant to winning Florida, and the presidency.

     Vice President Mike Pence is also expected to attend. He will already be in town for a Central America conference to be held next Thursday and Friday at Florida International University and U.S. Southern Command. Three Cabinet secretaries — Rex Tillerson of State, John Kelly of Homeland Security and Steven Mnuchin of Treasury — will take part in the conference, but Tillerson plans to depart Thursday, and it’s not clear if Kelly and Mnuchin will take part in the Cuba policy event.

    The revisions have been endorsed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, the only two local GOP members of Congress who backed Trump and as a result have pressured his administration on the issue. Rubio in particular has been working closely with the White House and National Security Council on the upcoming changes. “I am absolutely confident that the president is going to deliver on his word, on his commitments,” Diaz-Balart told the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald in a recent interview. “He was very clear that he thought that President Obama in essence got nothing in exchange for the concessions he gave to the Castro regime.”

VENEZUELA AG ACCUSES NICOLAS MADURO OF 'DESTROYING LEGACY' OF LATE HUGO CHAVEZ


 
       CARACAS, VENEZUELA    --
Venezuela's chief prosecutor asked the Supreme Court to block DICTATOR Nicolas Maduro's plan to convene an assembly to revise the constitution, further deepening her divide with the government. Luisa Ortega Diaz accused Maduro and his administration of "destroying the legacy" of the late President Hugo Chavez, the founder of the governing leftist PSUV party and mentor of the incumbent head of state. "Chavismo is a current of thought, it's a philosophy of life, and this is the principal legacy of President Hugo Chavez," the attorney general said. Ortega Diaz's remarks were her strongest repudiation yet of Maduro's effort to rewrite the nation's constitution.

    A long-time government loyalist, Ortega Diaz first broke publicly with the Maduro administration in late March when she decried a Supreme Court decision gutting congress of its last remaining powers. Since then, the gulf between Ortega Diaz and the government has only grown, with has repeatedly questioning the validity of convoking a constitutional assembly without the proposal first facing a referendum. Maduro ordered the National Electoral Council to convene the assembly, stating it was his constitutional right, a position the opposition rejects. He also designed the rules by which delegates to the assembly would be elected.

    The government-stacked council quickly rubber stamped both requests and is moving forward to hold the elections in late July. Ortega Diaz is accusing the National Electoral Council of breaking key democratic principles such as universal suffrage in approving Maduro's constitutional assembly. Maduro's terms call for allotting a specific number of votes to specific population sectors such as the disabled, fishermen and retirees, as well as one per municipality. Analysts say those terms will heavily favor the government. "The appeal I am attempting is to defend the rule of the people," she said.

US CONGRESSIONAL HISPANIC CAUCUS URGES PRESSURE ON DICTATOR NICOLAS MADURO

        Washington, d.c.   -- 
Members of the Hispanic Caucus of the US Congress Today called on "the leadership of Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Brazil and other countries" of the region to "press" the government of President Nicolás Maduro and seek a solution to the "critical" situation in Venezuela. "We call on the leadership of Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Brazil and other countries in the Western Hemisphere to lobby for the immediate release of all political prisoners, set a clear timetable for elections and accept humanitarian assistance," said Latino congressmen in a statement .

     Legislators invited the rest of Latin American nations to "support multilateral efforts to promote democracy and human rights" in the Caribbean country. Congressmen considered the call for "a fake Constituent Assembly" as another "undemocratic" attempt by Maduro to "consolidate" their power, and assert that the Venezuelan people have been denied the fundamental right to choose their government. "The situation of human rights and the humanitarian situation in Venezuela is critical, but as a result of the corrupt and inept economic management of the Maduro government, the Venezuelan people are suffering from food shortages and lack of access to medicines," they said.

    "The Organization of American States and its Secretary General Luis Almagro have insisted that Venezuela promptly release all political prisoners, accept humanitarian aid and hold elections without delay," legislators recalled. Latino congressmen also urged US President Donald Trump "to continue working with regional partners toward a peaceful resolution in Venezuela and increase the country's support to countries that have received a significant number of refugees Venezuelans." Al Jazeera's Latin America editor Lucia Newman, reporting from the capital, Caracas, said protesters were keeping up the pressure on the government.

June 9, 2017

PROTESTER AND GUARDSMAN KILLED AS VENEZUELA UNREST PERSISTS

     
CARACAS, VENEZUELA  -- Opposition protests in Venezuela took a deadly turn again Wednesday when a teenager was killed at a march demanding an end to the government's push to rewrite the struggling nation's constitution. Hours later, the body of a national guardsman was found in a residential neighborhood in eastern Caracas. Hundreds of national guardsmen and police officers fired tear gas at protesters a day after Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez called for members of the military to refrain from excessive use of force.

     Videos circulating on social media showed paramedics trying to resuscitate a lifeless young man as he bled profusely from his chest. The office of the public ombudsman, an agency of the national government, tweeted late Wednesday that an autopsy had determined the youth was struck by a homemade explosive. Opposition leaders identified the young man as 17-year-old Neomar Lander, and his relatives said he had gone with family members to demonstrate peacefully. "I'm going to keep fighting," said the teen's uncle, Mauro Arellano.

    Residents banged on pots and pans for an hour in protest as night fell near the site of his death. Stores were closed and streets empty long before dark in a usually bustling part of the capital. About 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) away, authorities found the body of William Jose Mendoza, a sergeant with the national guard Wednesday evening, Caracas-area mayor Ramon Muchacho said. No details were immediately released on how or where he might have been killed. "We deplore all violent acts," said Muchacho, who is an opposition politician. "Especially those that put an end to the lives of Venezuelans, as happened with Neomar Lander and this new act."

THE U.S. IS EXPECTED TO ANNOUNCE THAT IT MAY LEAVE THE U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL OVER 'ANTI-ISRAEL BIAS'

 
        UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK   --
The U.S. is expected to announce Tuesday that it may withdraw from the U.N. Human Rights Council, pending reforms to policies and removing what Washington views as a perceived "anti-Israel bias" among member states.  Reuters reports that diplomats and activists are expecting U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley to deliver an ultimatum when she addresses members in Geneva for a three-week session. Haley has recently ramped up her criticism of the council, warning in an opinion column published in the Washington Post last week that she will "outline changes that must be made."

     Haley accused the council of "whitewashing brutality" by welcoming countries such as Venezuela and Cuba as members, though she did not mention the inclusion of other alleged rights violators such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, both U.S. allies. The Ambassador also said the council must "end its practice of wrongly singling out Israel for criticism." "When the council passes more than 70 resolutions against Israel," Haley wrote, "and just seven resolutions against Iran [...] you know something is seriously wrong."

    The administration of President Donald Trump is not the first to criticize the council for its focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Former President George W. Bush boycotted the council in 2007, and the U.S. was later brought back into the fold when Barack Obama assumed office in 2009. The possibility of a U.S. exit from the council has alarmed human rights groups, including those with links to Israel. Reuters reports that a letter written to Haley in May from eight independent groups, including Freedom House and the Jacob Blaustein Institute, warned that a U.S. exit might make Israel more vulnerable to targeting by other members.

GUILLERMO COCHEZ DEMANDS VENEZUELA'S VICE-PRESIDENT FOR MONEY LAUNDERING IN PANAMA

        PANAMA CITY, PANAMA   -- 
Attorney and former Panamanian OAS ambassador, Guillermo Cochez, presented on June 6 in the Anti-corruption Prosecutors, related to the Attorney General, to investigate the current vicepresident of Venezuela, Tareck El Aissami, and his partner Samark López for the charge of possible committing a crime against the economic order regarding money laundering, which is penalized In the criminal code of the republic of Panama. Click here to download it. Cochez explains that his action is based on the results of the investigations carried out by US Treasury officials that revealed the inclusion of these two people and their companies in the black list of the Office of Foreign Resource Control (OFAC), for allegedly being involved In drug trafficking and money laundering.

     In his demand, Cochez also points out that El Aissami and López could attempt against public security, an offense established in the Panamanian law under the category of "Terrorism and Financed Terrorism ". Even more serious is the fact that he believes that it is also possible that they are directly or with some of their employees "offering money or giving benefits to Panamanian officials to avoid financial alarms." For this reason, the criminal action includes the request to investigate the possible committing a crime against the public administration, under the category "corruption of public servants".
Modus operandis

     Guillermo Cochez points out that, according to OFAC investigations, "Lopez was responsible for opening accounts in the United States and created ghost companies in countries such as Panama, Barbados, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the United States, among others, to send and receive money from the Venezuelan Vice President." These corporate frontage used a first structure, called Group A, and made up of 25 people, 22 companies and 12 bank accounts. The report from the United States Treasury indicated that a second group, B, came with a complex financial structure and a network of companies and front-runners covering seemingly legal, large-scale businesses such as financial, oil, and of civil engineering.

June 8, 2017

DELCY RODRIGUEZ CONFIRMS THAT OPPOSITION LEADER LEOPOLDO LOPEZ IS TALKING WITH THE GOVERNMENT

     
CARACAS, VENEZUELA  -- Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez has confirmed that Bolivarian authorities have begun a dialogue with right-wing opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who is serving a 13-year prison term for his responsibility in the violent events occurred here in 2014. The Venezuelan diplomatic head said yesterday night that there is evidence of this process of talks with the national coordinator of the Voluntad Popular rightwing party, one of the groups leading the violent demonstrations that have hit Venezuela since early April.

     During a meeting held in Fuerte Tiuna, broadcast by the state-owned Venezolana de Television, the foreign minister said although Lopez's wife, Lilian Tintori, denied such a meeting, 'a dialogue with Leopoldo Lopez has begun and we are going to show on television.' The mayor of the Libertador municipality in Caracas, Jorge Rodriguez, also referred to the issue on Monday, June 5, assuring that Lopez was willing to negotiate his release and accept the benefit of house arrest instead of jail; however, his wife was the one who prevented this was completed.

    The socialist leader stressed that 'he has the evidence,' which supports what he said and he is willing to present them to the country in case of being denied. Lilian Tintori, wife of Leopoldo Lopez, said on Monday that her husband was not willing to negotiate his release, although he admitted that the issue of the house arrest measure was one of the items discussed. The Caracas mayor said Lopez 'was very willing during the meeting to propose, even to sign documents to stop violence.' Leopoldo Lopez, former mayor of Chacao and leader of Voluntad Popular, is serving a prison sentence for being the main instigator of the coup plot called La Salida, in 2014, which killed about 43 people.

NORTH KOREA LAUNCHES MULTIPLE GROUND-TO-SHIP MISSILES 


 
        PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA   --
"North Korea fired multiple unidentified projectiles, assumed to be surface-to-ship missiles this morning from the vicinity of Wonsan, Gangwon Province," the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said, according to the Yonhap News Agency. The JCS said the South Korean military has beefed up surveillance and vigilance against the possibility of additional provocations, maintaining full preparedness. The statement said the launches were immediately reported to South Korean President Moon Jae-in but gave no further details.

     The missiles fired Thursday traveled around 120 miles, according to the military. The latest provocation came less than a week after United Nations Security Council passed a new resolution expanding sanctions against the country as punishment for its missile tests. North Korea conducted ballistic missile tests over three consecutive weekends in May going back to Mother's Day, but last weekend there were no launches. The remote country is on pace to break its record setting 2016 missile test-launch record. The latest missile tests come as South Korea suspended its use of the American-based missile defense system THAAD.

     The Terminal High-Altitude Defense System (THAAD) has already been in operation in southeastern South Korea, with two launchers and radar. The system typically has six launchers – four of which are in in South Korea, but have yet to be installed. South Korea’s new President, Moon Jae-in, said his office was not briefed on the arrival of four new launchers and ordered an investigation. He also demanded an environmental assessment on the deployment site, saying the country’s Defense Ministry might be attempting to avoid an environmental inspection there. There are about 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea as deterrence against potential aggression from North Korea.
Southern Command of the US Army carries out joint exercise in the Caribbean near Venezuela

SOUTHERN COMMAND, BASED IN MIAMI,  BEGAN NAVAL EXERCISES NEAR TO VENEZUELA

        CARACAs, VENEZUELA   -- 
Southern Command, based in Miami, began this week in the Caribbean Tradewinds 2017, a year-round maritime safety and disaster response exercise involving 18 nations in the region. The exercise started Tuesday in Barbados, where it will develop its first phase until June 12, and from June 13 to 17 will continue in Trinidad and Tobago, off the coast of Venezuela.

     Tradewinds, is an opportunity for participating nations to collaborate on the challenges of regional security, is an exercise to enhance the capacities of the defense forces of partner countries, counteract transnational organized crime and terrorism, and to carry out assistance Humanitarian and relief operations during disasters, Southern Command said in a statement.

     "The exercise helps ensure continued partnership and, through training with members of the forces around the world, ensure a better response to natural disasters and land and sea threats, including illicit trafficking in a critical region," said Admiral Kurt W. Tidd, commander of the Southern Command. Among the participating nations are Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago. Military personnel from the United States, Canada, France, Mexico and the United Kingdom also participate.

June 7, 2017

JAILED VENEZUELA OPPOSITION LEADER, LEOPOLDO LOPEZ, URGES MORE ANTI-MADURO PROTESTS

     
CARACAS, VENEZUELA  -- A prominent opposition leader jailed in Venezuela, Leopoldo Lopez, urged more street protests against the "tyranny" of DICTATOR Nicolas Maduro, in a video message made in his cell. Lopez, 46, however stressed several times that he backed only "peaceful" demonstrations. Prosecutors in Venezuela say 65 people have died since April 1, when near-daily pro- and anti-Maduro rallies turned more violent, with protesters and security forces targeted. The opposition and anti-Maduro protesters are demanding early elections to force out the widely unpopular president, who has ruled over the country's sharply declining economy.

     Lopez, looking fit and wearing a white t-shirt and a crucifix around his neck in the video, expressed his "admiration for the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans" who had gone into the streets "for democracy." He added that "rebellion, resistance and the protests are legitimate" against a government that was "despotic," "tyrannical" and hapless in the face of the economic crisis. The struggle evinced by the protests, he said, was "historic" and "cannot end until we have reached victory." It was not clear when exactly the video was recorded. The version released on YouTube

    It was made public after Lopez, who was detained in 2014 and sentenced to 14 years behind bars on charges of inciting violence in anti-government protests, was visited in prison by Spanish former prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Zapatero is leading an effort to build dialogue between the opposition and Maduro's government to de-escalate the situation. Lopez and Zapatero held a "conversation with much respect," according to a message on the opposition leader's Twitter account, which is handled by his wife Lilian Tintori. Zapatero was accompanied by Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez and her brother Jorge Rodriguez, who is mayor of a Caracas district, the account said.

U.S. CONSIDERS POSSIBLE SANCTIONS AGAINST VENEZUELA OIL SECTOR 


 
        washington, d.c.  -- 
The Trump administration is considering possible sanctions on Venezuela’s vital energy sector, including state oil company PDVSA, senior White House officials said, in what would be a major escalation of U.S. efforts to pressure the country’s embattled leftist government amid a crackdown on the opposition.The idea of striking at the core of Venezuela’s economy, which relies on oil for some 95 percent of export revenues, has been discussed at high levels of the administration as part of a wide-ranging review of U.S. options, but officials said it remains under debate and action is not imminent.

     The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the United States could hit PDVSA as part of a “sectoral” sanctions package that would take aim at the OPEC nation’s entire energy industry for the first time. But they made clear that the administration is moving cautiously, mindful that if such an unprecedented step is taken it could deepen the country’s economic and social crisis, in which millions suffer food shortages and soaring inflation. Two months of anti-government unrest has left more than 60 people dead. Another complicating factor would be the potential impact on oil shipments to the United States, for which Venezuela is the third largest oil supplier after Canada and Saudi Arabia.

     It accounted for 8 percent of U.S. oil imports in March, according to U.S. government figures, “It’s being considered,” one of the officials told Reuters, saying aides to President Donald Trump have been tasked to have a recommendation on oil sector sanctions ready if needed. “I don’t think we’re at a point to make a decision on it. But all options are on the table. We want to see the bad actors held to account.” The U.S. deliberations on new sanctions come against the backdrop of the worst protests faced yet by socialist President Nicolas Maduro, who critics accuse of human rights abuses in a clampdown on the opposition. Since Trump took office in January, he has stepped up targeted sanctions on Venezuela, including on the vice president, the chief judge and seven other Supreme Court justices. He has pressed the Organization of American States to do more to help resolve the crisis.

VENEZUELA TRIES TO RESELL $5 BILLION BOND AT DEEP DISCOUNT

        CARACAs, VENEZUELA   -- 
Venezuela is attempting to resell at a deep discount $5 billion of bonds it originally issued in December through a Chinese brokerage as it struggles to squeeze through a tightening cash crunch, according to investors who were offered the bonds. The move is the country's latest extraordinary move to raise funds after being shut out of the international debt market in recent years as its oil-rich socialist economy crumbles. But even bond funds that specialize in distressed debt are hesitating to buy in because of concerns about the irregularities surrounding the deal and questions from opposition lawmakers about its legality.

     While much of Wall Street sees default as a matter of time, the offer could appeal to investors willing to take on the risk in exchange for potentially significant returns. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. recently paid $865 million for $2.8 billion in Venezuelan bonds in a transaction that drew widespread condemnation from rivals of embattled President Nicolas Maduro, who accused the New York bank of helping finance his increasingly authoritarian and isolated administration. "It's like they're having a going-out-of-business sale," said Russ Dallen, partner at the brokerage Caracas Capital Markets. "And that's what buyers should be worried about. Either they're really desperate or they're just filling up their credit card with no plans of paying back."

     Haitong Securities USA, a unit of China's Haitong Securities Co. Ltd., in recent weeks has been marketing the distressed debt to U.S. hedge-fund managers who specialize in buying emerging-market bonds, the investors who were offered the bonds said. Haitong had the title of underwriter when Venezuela issued the bonds to a state-owned bank in December. Unlike the bonds Goldman bought, the debt securities being shopped by Haitong aren't registered with the international organizations that settle such transactions, meaning they cannot be traded electronically, a risk that investors said was keeping them from buying them.

June 6, 2017

POPE FRANCIS WILL MEET WITH VENEZUELA BISHOPS AS CRISIS DEEPENS

     
THE VATICAN CITY  -- Pope Francis will receive the president of the Venezuelan Bishops Conference at the request of conference members in the Vatican on June 8 to discuss the dramatic situation in that South American country. The meeting, which was announced on June 5 by the Vatican spokesman Greg Burke, comes in the midst of an ongoing national crisis in Venezuela marked by daily protests that have lasted more than 70 days and by acts of repression from the forces of President Maduro’s government.

    More than 70 people have been killed during the protests as conditions in this polarized society have become more explosive. Many average Venezuelans now struggle to find something to eat, according to Caritas Venezuela. The church’s relief and development agency also denounced the fact that 11.4 percent of children under 5 in Venezuela now suffer from acute malnutrition. Archbishop Diego Padrón of the Archdiocese of Cumaná, the president of the conference, will lead the delegation to the summit with the pope. He will be accompanied by the bishop of Barina, Monsignor José Luis Azuaje, the conference’s first vice president; and the bishop of San Cristóbal, Mario Moronta, the second vice president.

    They will be joined by the conference’s secretary general, Monsignor Victor Hugo Basabe, bishop of San Felipe. Venezuela’s cardinals—Jorge Urosa and Baltazar Porras—will also join the delegation for its meeting with the pope and senior Vatican officials. The delegation is expected this week in Rome. Its members are expected to meet with the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who served from 2009-2013 as nuncio in Venezuela; with the secretary for relations with states, Archbishop Paul Gallagher; and the substitute in the Secretariat of State, Archbishop Angelo Becciu.

ISIS CLAIMS LONDON TERROR ATTACKS THAT KILLED 7;  POLICE ARREST 12 IN RAIDS


 
         LONDON, ENGLAND -- 
 The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the latest London terror attack through its propaganda wing Amaq News Agency, the SITE intelligence group reported Sunday. The terror network reportedly claimed a "detachment" of its fighters crashed a rented van into a crowd of people on London Bridge before going on a stabbing rampage Saturday night, killing seven people and wounding nearly 50 others. However, ISIS gave no evidence to back up its claim. Earlier on Sunday, British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the “evil ideology” behind the London attacks.

     May addressed the attacks Sunday after a meeting of the government’s COBRA emergency committee. She called for a tougher stance against extremists and tougher controls on cyberspace to prevent its use by extremists. She said the measures were needed because “terrorism breeds terrorism” and attackers copy each other. Counterterrorism police carried out raids in east London and arrested 12 people in connection with the attacks. "Searches of a number of addresses in Barking are continuing," London Metro Police said as the raids were being conducted. The homes raided included one belonging to one of the three terrorists who carried out the attacks, Sky News reported.

     "He's lived here for about three years," neighbor Damien Pettit said. "He's one of our neighbors. I've said hello in passing more than 50, 60 occasions. He has two young kids. He was a very nice guy." ISIS has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in recent years -- but police have pushed back in some instances. The terror network announced it was behind the deadly attack on a casino and shopping complex in the Philippines last Friday -- but Manila police said the killer was a Filipino gambling addict heavily in debt, with no terror links. Saturday’s horror began around 10 p.m. local time when a white van veered off the road and barreled into pedestrians on London Bridge. The van’s three occupants then jumped out with large knives and attacked people at bars and restaurants in nearby Borough Market, police said.

FOUR ARAB NATIONS SEVER DIPLOMATIC TIES WITH QATAR, EXPOSING RIFT IN THE REGION

        DUBAI, QAtAR  -- 
Saudi Arabia and other Arab powers severed diplomatic ties Monday with Qatar and moved to isolate the energy-rich nation that is home to a major U.S. military base, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups and backing Iran. The decision plunged Qatar into chaos and ignited the biggest diplomatic crisis in the Gulf since the 1991 war against Iraq. Qatar, home to about 10,000 U.S. troops and the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, criticized the move as a "violation of its sovereignty." It long has denied supporting militant groups and described the crisis as being fueled by "absolute fabrications" stemming from a recent hack of its state-run news agency.

    Saudi Arabia closed its land border with Qatar, through which the tiny Gulf nation and international travel hub imports most of its food, sparking a run on supermarkets. Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates began withdrawing their diplomatic staff from Qatar and regional airlines announced they would suspend service to its capital, Doha. Yemen's internationally backed government, which no longer holds its capital and large portions of the war-torn country, also cut relations with Qatar, as did the Maldives and one of conflict-ridden Libya's competing governments.

     The move came just two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia and vowed to improve ties with both Riyadh and Cairo to combat terrorism and contain Iran. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the move was rooted in longstanding differences and urged the parties to resolve them. Saudi Arabia said the decision to cut diplomatic ties was due to Qatar's "embrace of various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilizing the region," including the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaida, the Islamic State group and militants supported by Iran in the kingdom's restive Eastern ProvinceThe Gulf countries ordered their citizens out of Qatar and gave Qataris abroad 14 days to return home to their peninsular nation, whose only land border is with Saudi Arabia. The countries also said they would eject Qatar's diplomats. The nations also said they planned to cut air and sea traffic.

June 5, 2017

PRESIDENT TRUMP'S CUBA POLICY LIKELY TO BE 'DRASTICALLY DIFFERENT,' LAWMAKER SAYS

     
WASHINGTON, D.C.  -- President Trump's Cuba policy, largely influenced by two Florida lawmakers, is expected to target travel to the Communist country and U.S. business ventures there. Republicans U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Sen. Marco Rubio have been discussing changes in Cuba policy with the administration. Both are considered top congressional advisers on the subject and both criticized former president Barack Obama's attempts to improve relations with Cuba as weak.

     If interpreted broadly, his proposal could shut down practically all travel to Cuba because the military controls the ports and airlines and a majority of hotels, said John Kavulich, senior policy adviser to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. “That’s unlikely to happen,” said Kavulich. Instead, any policy affecting U.S. business dealings in Cuba is expected to be more narrowly drawn, he said. Trump's changes likely won't go as far as some Cuban-Americans in Florida would like. “While I don’t expect them to agree with everything I want, I’m grateful that they listen,” said Diaz-Balart. “I believe a drastically different deal with Cuba is imminent.”

     Rubio's positions are considered more moderate, Kavulich said, and in line with the broader interests of the U.S. business community that has expressed concerns about some proposals. Those include increasing U.S. travel enforcement to Cuba, reversing the ability to travel alone to the country and discouraging U.S. businesses from ventures with Cuban companies tied to the military. Changes in U.S. Cuba travel policy would likely decrease the number of Americans traveling to the country and hurt local businesses. President Donald Trump is looking to reverse former President Obama’s controversial Cuba policy.

65  KILLED DURING VENEZUELAN PROTESTS, YOUNG MAN DIED AFTER BURNED, STABBED


 
         CARACAS, VENEZUELA  -- 
 The Venezuelan Minister of Communications, Ernesto Villegas, confirmed on Sunday the death of Orlando Figuera, 21, who was stabbed and burned during protests on May 20. "Young Orlando Figuera has just died of a cardiopulmonary arrest, he was stabbed and burned alive by those sick with hate in Altamira on May 20," Villegas wrote on Twitter. The young man had been treated in the Domingo Luciani hospital since the day of the attack, which took place in Altamira, in eastern Caracas.

     Villegas said that 80 percent of Figueras' body was burned to the first or second degree, while he had received stab wounds to the chest, head and mouth. He also published on Twitter a video of Figuera's mother, Ines Esparragoza, calling on the leaders of the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) to stop this violence. "Why does Julio Borges allow this? Why does (Henrique) Capriles allow this? Who am I going to blame? The opposition, their vandalism," said Esparragoza. Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz said on Friday that the alleged perpetrators of this lynching were identified and asked the State to provide the victim with medical care for the delicate state of health.

     Julio Borges is the president of the National Assembly and Henrique Capriles is governor of the state of Miranda and a former presidential candidate. Figuera's death brings to 65 the number of dead in violent protests in Venezuela since the start of April. The MUD has called for constant protests to fight back against a political and economic crisis that is blamed on Maduro, especially the country is critically short of food and medicine. More recently, the protests have targeted the government's attempt to write a new Constitution and have called for early presidential elections.

UNITED AIRLINES ENDS FLIGHT TO VENEZUELA, FURTHER ISOLATING THE COUNTRY

        WASHINGTON, D.C.   -- 
United Airlines will end its daily flight service to Venezuela in July, further isolating the crisis-hit South American country from international travel after the exit of many major airlines in recent years. Many airlines have left after a protracted dispute over billions of dollars they say the government owes them. They say President Nicolas Maduro's administration has failed to reimburse companies in hard currency for ticket sales in local currency, as per strict currency controls in the socialist nation.

     United, which flies daily between Caracas and Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, confirmed to Reuters that it was halting that route, though said it was not because of any payment dispute. While the flight is popular with Texas-based oil executives and Venezuelans living in the United States, few tourists travel to the crisis-stricken country and flights often have low occupancy. "In every market we serve, we continually review demand for service and because our Houston-Caracas service is not meeting our financial expectations we have decided to suspend it, effective July 1," United spokesman Charles Hobart said in an email to Reuters.

      In addition to currency disputes and low occupancy on flights to Venezuela, airlines also fret about security for their crews on the ground. Unrest prompted by food shortages has resulted in the deaths of at least 64 people since April. On Saturday, a few hundred activists staged a protest in western Caracas. United in April added a one-hour stop in the Caribbean island of Aruba to its Houston-to-Caracas leg, a move analysts said was to ensure crews would not have to stay overnight in Venezuela. Airlines from Lufthansa to Air Canada have pulled out of Venezuela in recent years, citing everything from the payment dispute to safety concerns.

June 4, 2017

VENEZUELA'S ATTORNEY GENERAL TAKES PROTESTERS' SIDE AGAINST DICTATOR MADURO: MILITARY IS KILLING CIVILIANS

      CARACAS, VENEZUELA -- Venezuela’s Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz has broken ranks with the nation’s socialist government, condemning the armed forces for using excessive violence against unarmed protesters and triggering most of the 71 deaths occurring since the current wave of unrest began in March. Ortega announced at a press conference Wednesday that her office had found evidence that the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) was responsible for one of the most prominent protester deaths that have occurred this year: 20-year-old Juan Pernalete, whom GNB officers killed with an exploding tear gas canister to the chest.

    Chavistas had claimed Pernalete was shot by anti-government protesters. Maduro himself had personally claimed that the growing number of deaths at peaceful protests were part of a larger conspiracy by opposition leadership, who were willing to kill their own people to disgrace socialism. “Use of violence as a political weapon does not contribute to a climate of trust and tranquility in society,” Ortega asserted during her announcement. Ortega also condemned the government for reportedly using military tribunals to process civilians who were arrested for peacefully protesting against socialism.

    Ruling chavistas have come out to condemn Ortega as a traitor for acknowledging the massacre of Venezuelans, including many under the age of 20, during the recent wave of protests. Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino López issued a statement accusing Ortega of “not only affecting the morale of our armed forces corps, but instigate violence against them and feed the negative attitude that right-wing groups are trying to impose.”
Community Minister Aristóbulo Istúriz called Ortega a “traitor” and questioned the validity of the existence of an attorney general.

VENEZUELA PROSECUTOR: 19 DEATHS DURING PROTESTS CAUSED BY SECURITY FORCES


 
         CARACAS, VENEZUELA  -- 
 The Attorney General of Venezuela, Luisa Ortega Diaz, said on Friday that 19 out of the 63 deaths which occurred during the ongoing protests in the country over the last two months can be attributed to police or military forces that try to contain the demonstrations. Ortega said, in an interview with the radio station Union Radio, that 19 out of the 63 deaths are certainly caused by the security forces, and stressed that the Prosecutor’s Office has requested to apprehend 19 uniformed men and that this has not been done yet. She also said that at least 422 people have been arrested because of the violent events resulting from demonstrations which began on April 1, and added that 28 out of the 422 have been arrested for violating fundamental rights.

    The prosecutor said that the Attorney General’s Office has opened 3,390 investigations into violent acts that occurred amid the social and political upheaval which has left 1,189 injured and 35 arrest warrants pending to be executed. She reiterated that the Bolivarian National Guard of Venezuela, which tries to contain the opposition protests, cannot carry out military functions in such scenarios, which is why it was urged to use force only in moderate manner and not to shoot tear gas directly at the demonstrators. On the other hand, the prosecutor said she was aware of a probable decision by the Supreme Court of Justice to remove her power to conduct the criminal prosecution.

    According to her, this would come at a high political cost, it would be another setback in human rights, while she added that the accusatory criminal process constitutes a very important guarantee in the country and there is no constitutionally valid way to go back to a different criminal process. The prosecutor also said the society aspires that the highest ranked court guarantees the applicability of the Constitution. Ortega criticized on Friday the Supreme Court’s decision in which it supported conducting National Constituent Assembly elections without prior consultation with the citizens, and said it was a violation of human rights, with people’s participation reduced to a minimum.

DIOSDADO CABELLO, LEADER OF THE SOCIALIST PARTY AND ALLEGED DRUG LORD, ACCUSES LUISA ORTEGA OF TREASON

        CARACAS, VENEZUELA   -- 
Diosdado Cabello, an alleged drug lord who moonlights as the Socialist Party (PSUV) second-in-command and state television host, personally apologized for Ortega. “I was president of the National Assembly when this person was appointed attorney general,” he lamented on his TV show. The Attorney General’s office has counted 55 deaths since March, when the Supreme Court attempted to usurp the legislative power of the National Assembly, triggering daily protests for the past 56 days. The publication Runrunes suggested on

    Thursday that the number was much higher – 71 people – due to the Attorney General’s office not including some dead who were discounted as crime victims, not protest victims. Among the dead whose ages are available to the public were a 14-year-old and 15-year-old boy; the average ages of those killed is 27. The GNB has largely created the climate of violence that has caused these deaths. In the most gruesome incident documented so far, the GNB ran unarmed protesters over using armored tanks on a crowded Caracas highway when the protesters refused to move.

     The opposition has repeatedly called for soldiers to no longer obey Maduro and cease attacking and killing civilians. Some reports suggest that at least some within the military ranks are listening – opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski told reporters this month that he knew of dozens of cases of desertion in their ranks. The Penal Forum NGO issued a report this week that, to their knowledge, up to 60 soldiers are facing military tribunals for expressing discontent with the direction Maduro is taking the country. Experts believe Maduro will be unable to maintain power without support from the military.

June 3, 2017

INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT: ATTORNEYS  AND GENERAL PROSECUTORS IN SOLIDARITY WITH LUISA ORTEGA DIAZ

      CARACAS, VENEZUELA -- In a document, the Attorneys General and Prosecutors of Ibero-America point out that "the autonomy of the Public Prosecutor's Office vis-à-vis the legislative and executive branches constitutes a guarantee for the equality of citizens before the law. They published a letter in support of the autonomy and independence of the Public Ministry of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. In the text, signed by attorneys general of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Portugal, Peru and Uruguay, it is emphasized that "the autonomy of the Public Prosecutor's Office vis-à-vis legislative and executive powers constitutes a guarantee for the equality of citizens before the law. "

     The autonomy of the Public Ministry constitutes a guarantee for the equality of citizens before the law "To maintain the ownership of the criminal prosecution by Public Prosecutors, free from all types of pressure, interference, harassment or threat of any power, public or private, is a guarantee of the effective and timely application of justice, Respect for due process and, ultimately, the safeguard of the rights and guarantees of all citizens, "said the letter. Finally, they showed their "full support" to the Venezuelan Public Ministry and its head, Dr. Luisa Ortega Díaz. Maintaining the ownership of the exercise of criminal action by Public Ministries is a guarantee of effective and timely enforcement of justice.

     In the last hours, the attorney general described as a "setback" the decision of the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) that guarantees the election of a National Constituent Assembly to modify the Constitution without consulting the citizens. "This sentence is a setback for human rights (...) It now it intends to violate the progressiveness of human rights through a constitutional process where popular participation has been reduced to its minimum expression," said the head of the Public Ministry after recording a document in the highest court.

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT: "BARGAINING TABLE IS NECESSARY IN VENEZUELA"


 
         BRUSSELS, BELGIUM  -- 
 Antonio Tajani, the president of the European Parliament, labeled on Tuesday the current state of affairs in Venezuela as “dramatic,” urging both the Venezuelan government and dissent to take part in a bargaining table. Tajani, on visit to Florence, Italy, for a meeting of Euro-deputies with Latin American parliamentarians, voiced concern about the standoff in Venezuela.

     “No opposition can be done from the jail; there is shortage of medicines; many children have nothing to eat,” he said. In this regard, he proposed “a bargaining table for both parties” as soon as possible to put an end to the conflict. By the same token, one of the co-presidents of the Euro-Latin American Assembly (EuroLat), Spanish socialist Ramón Jáuregui, recalled that “the European Union (EU) has claimed an internal dialogue to arrive at an arrangement between the government and the opposition for a democratic and peaceful solution of the conflict in Venezuela.”

     “Europe wants to continue helping with such international mediation and wants to offer Venezuela economic and humanitarian aid,” he added, as quoted by Efe. Jáuregui made such comments during a news conference in the context of the meeting of European and Latin American congresspersons in order to assess their bilateral relations and prepare the upcoming summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), to take place in El Salvador in October.

ISIS CLAIMS ATTACK THAT LEFT 37 DEAD IN MANILA CASINO

        MANILA, PHILIPPINES   -- 
Thirty-seven people have been killed in a Manila casino, following an attack in the early hours of Friday morning by a lone gunman who fired shots from an assault rifle and set fire to gambling tables. The victims, who did not appear to have been shot, are thought to have died of suffocation, Southern Police District Director Superintendent Tomas Apolinario said Friday. "Most of the victims were women who were found dead inside the bathroom," he added. Despite ongoing ISIS-affiliated militant activity in the southern Philippines island of Mindanao, authorities ruled out terrorism as the motive for the attack.

    However, late Friday, ISIS claimed responsibility in a statement from its Amaq media wing, which said "Islamic State fighters" carried out the attack. Earlier, authorities said 35 bodies were found in the casino area in Resorts World Manila after a lone gunman fired shots and set fire to gambling tables in the early hours of Friday morning. Police told CNN Philippines that another two bodies were found in the hotel, although it was not mentioned whether these were hotel guests or employees All of the bodies were found in Resort World Manila's casino area, he said. Of those killed, more than 20 were resort guests and 13 were staff. More than 70 people were injured. The gunman later killed himself.

     Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde told reporters that police think it's likely the suspect was a foreigner. "He looks Caucasian, he talks English, he's big and he's white, so he's probably a foreigner," he said. The armed suspect forced his way into the Resorts World Manila (RWM), an upmarket hotel and casino complex near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, around midnight local time (Thursday ET). According to security footage viewed by police, the gunman entered via the parking lot. Police later searched a car and found registration information which they haven't made public

June 2, 2017

PRESIDENT TRUMP CONSIDERS ROLLING BACK OBAMA'S OPENING WITH CUBA

      WASHINGTON, D.C.  --President Trump is considering reversing major pieces of the Obama administration’s opening with Cuba and reinstating limits on travel and commerce, citing human rights abuses by the Castro government as justification for a more punitive approach. Mr. Trump wants to announce the changes in Miami as early as June and deliver on a campaign promise that remains a cherished demand for the politically conservative Cuban-American exile community, according to aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

     But he has not made a final decision on the steps he will take because of internal disagreements within his administration over how far to go in unwinding one of President Barack Obama’s most significant foreign policy achievements Clamping down on engagement with Cuba would be a high-profile way for Mr. Trump to showcase a stark break with his predecessor and to fulfill a pledge, delivered during a speech in Miami in September, to a crucial constituency that disproportionately supported him.

     It would also enable the president to reward the loyalty of Cuban-American lawmakers who have been agitating for a harder line on Cuba, including Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, both Republicans of Florida. As the White House labored in March to corral Republican votes for an unpopular health care overhaul measure, Mr. Diaz-Balart asked for assurances from Mr. Trump that he would hold to the hard line on Cuba he laid out in his campaign. The Florida Republican supported the measure and has played an influential role in shaping the new Cuba policy. “It is my duty to advocate for the issues that are important to my constituents, and I will not apologize for using every available avenue to effectively resolve them,” Mr. Diaz-Balart said in a statement.

VENEZUELAN ATTORNEY GENERAL ASKS SUPREME COURT TO STOP MADURO'S CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY


 
         WASHINGTON, D.C.   -- 
 Once again, the Attorney General of Venezuela, Luisa Ortega Díaz, has called into question actions undertaken by the ruling Partido Socialista Unido Venezolano (United Socialist Party of Venezuela). She has filed a document before the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice against the Constituent Assembly of Nicolás Maduro. In a press conference offered from the same seat of the Judiciary, Ortega pointed out that within the Constituent Assembly that Maduro plans to call to write a new Constitution “popular participation has been reduced to a minimum.”

     The prosecutor criticized the recent ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) in which it endorsed the call for rewriting the constitution, and in which they ruled that a prior consultative referendum is not necessary. The main representative of the Public Ministry, on the other hand, said that the Constituent Assembly “violates the progression of human rights” and “is a setback.” Ortega said that the call to amend the Constitution, should include levels of popular participation greater than or equal to those seen the last time the South American nation rewrote its Constitution, in 1999. “We want to clarify if the power exercised in representation of the people, is above the people itself,” she said.

     The attorney general addressed the Executive and Judiciary and questioned: “Are we afraid of popular sovereignty; why are we not talking about democracy?” She also recalled that sovereignty must reside in the people, and not in any public power of the state. “We have asked for clarification on the part of the Supreme Court, as to whether participatory democracy has lost force, because…it seems that participatory democracy is being eliminated”; she pointed out. Ortega has previously publicly questioned acts of the Maduro regime. Earlier this year she called into question another decision by the Supreme Court which usurped the functions of the National Assembly, the only branch of government which is controlled by the opposition.

NORTH KOREA SAYS IT IS READY FOR INTERCONTINENTAL  BALISTIC MISSILE TESTS

        PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA  -- 
North Korea said on Wednesday it is ready to test launch intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), one day after the United States successfully tested a defense system to intercept such projectiles. The North Korean army is ready to conduct a real ICBM test at any time and place if ordered by its leader Kim Jong-un, according to an article in the Rodong Sinmun, the official daily of the country’s ruling Workers’ Party.

     In his New Year address to the nation, Kim said the country was in the final phase of developing an ICBM that would allow it to target the US with a nuclear weapon in the future, with the aim of aiding the survival of the communist regime. In the editorial cited by state news agency KCNA, which also includes Pyongyang’s analysis of the US test, the North said no foreign forces could stop its progress in becoming a nuclear and missile power in the East. Pyongyang said it will continue to strengthen its self-defense capacities in view of the hostile policy of the US, and warned the Donald Trump administration to choose the “correct” option between life and death.

     Washington said on Tuesday it successfully intercepted a dummy ICBM on the country’s west coast, amid escalating tensions with North Korea. Repeated weapons tests by the North – the last of which took place Monday – have led to increased tensions on the peninsula, and a heated exchange of rhetoric with the Trump administration, which has also hinted at possible preemptive strikes. On Tuesday, Pyongyang said Washington was seeking to unleash a nuclear war, accusing it of sending atomic bombers close to its territory following the latest missile test.

June 1st., 2017

NO AGREEMENT REACHED AT OAS AS DIPLOMATS HUDDLE ON VENEZUELA CRISIS

      WASHINGTON, D.C.  -- Top diplomats from across the Western Hemisphere fell short Wednesday in their bid to reach agreement about how to address Venezuela's deteriorating democratic crisis, with some countries insisting that foreigners had no right to intervene in Venezuela's internal affairs. An emotional gathering of the Organization of American States ended with no consensus, other than an agreement to keep talking. Unable to secure enough support for either of two draft resolutions, the foreign ministers said they'd reconvene in a few weeks.

     The failure came despite the urgent pleas from some nations represented at the extraordinary meeting in Washington, where foreign ministers broadly shared one hope: that Venezuela, which has vowed to leave the regional group in protest of its potential intervention, would reconsider. Beyond that, there were few points of agreement. Anti-government demonstrators clash with security forces in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 31, 2017. As President Nicolas Maduro faces daily protests in the streets he has offered to rewrite the constitution as a way out of the impasse, something the opposition as rejected out of hand.(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

     "We're talking about people dying, dying," said Brazil's Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes. He argued that democracy was "not a luxury" and asked plaintively: "What can we do collectively to make a difference, to reach out to the Venezuelan citizens, to rescue their fundamental freedoms?" But left-leaning nations that have been sympathetic to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro insisted the OAS had no business interfering in the crisis, in which protests against Maduro's government have left at least 60 people dead. Nicaraguan diplomat Luis Alvarado said his country condemned and rejected the attempt to "subvert the rights" of a sovereign country

PRESIDENT TRUMP TO ANNOUNCE RESTRICTIONS ON WASHINGTON'S CUBA POLITY


 
         WASHINGTON, D.C.   -- 
 President Donald Trump is planning to travel to Miami in the near future to announce changes in US policy toward Cuba that could “significantly” toughen conditions for bilateral trade and Americans’ visits to the communist island, three officials close to the process confirmed to EFE on Tuesday. Upon his inauguration in January, Trump ordered his team to conduct a comprehensive review of the more open policy toward Cuba launched in December 2014 by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

     That review is nearly finished and Trump’s team expects soon to present to the president a “series of options” for him to decide upon, an official with the White House National Security Council, who requested anonymity, told EFE on Tuesday. According to two other officials close to the process, the White House has already decided that Trump will give a speech “in the style of a campaign rally” in Miami in the coming weeks to announce the changes, something that – at this stage – is being planned for mid-June. The decision has been made for Trump to go to Miami and give a speech, but the details are still being discussed, an official familiar with the internal White House activities, also requesting anonymity, told EFE.

     Among the changes being considered are prohibiting US firms to negotiate with entities linked to Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) and the possibility of imposing more restrictions on Americans’ travel to the island. In addition, it is probable that Trump will nullify the presidential order issued by Obama in 2016 with the aim of establishing his revised Cuba policy, which served as a guide whereby the responsibility of each government agency in the new relationship with Havana would be clearly delineated. Although Trump is not planning to break diplomatic relations or close the US Embassy in Cuba, the changes being considered are far from being merely symbolic, the officials told. Prohibiting all transactions linked to the Cuban army might seem innocuous, but in practice what it will do is “basically suffocate all trade with Cuba,” the official predicted.

VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION THREATENS COUNTRY WON'T PAY GOLDMAN SACHS' $2.8 BILLION BOND DEAL

        CARACAS, VENEZUELA  -- 
Julio Borges, leader of Venezuela's National Assembly, has said that a future government may not pay $2.8 billion in bonds that Goldman Sachs purchased for as little as 30 cents on the dollar.Borges said Goldman was helping to support the current government and trying to "make a quick buck" off of Venezuelans' suffering. The leader of Venezuela's National Assembly has threatened that a later government may refuse to pay $2.8 billion in bonds that Goldman Sachs recently purchased from the country's central bank.

     "It is apparent Goldman Sachs decided to make a quick buck off the suffering of the Venezuelan people," Julio Borges, the leader of the opposition-controlled congress, said in a letter dated on Monday to Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein. "Given the irregular nature of this transaction and the absurd financial terms involved that are to the detriment of Venezuela and its people, the National Assembly will soon launch an investigation into the matter.

     I also intend to recommend to any future democratic government of Venezuela not to recognize or pay on these bonds," Borges wrote. The terms of the bond deal, reported this week by the Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the transaction, called for Goldman to pay around $865 million for $2.8 billion in bonds issued by the state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, in 2014, maturing in 2022, working out to around 31 cents on the dollar and implying an annual yield above 40 percent. Borges said the deal offered a "financial lifeline" to President Nicolas Maduro's regime, which has been accused using violence against frequent protests.

 

 

 

 

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