Latest News
of JUNE 2016


June  30, 2016


CARACAS, VENEZUELA--  The head of the Venezuelan parliament, opposition lawmaker Henry Ramos Allup, said on Monday that the government of pro-Chavez President Nicolas Maduro should be on “advance notice” that the chief executive may soon be out of power. “The government is in a phase of advance notice, as is said in the labor area,” said the opposition legislator at a press conference at the seat of the unicameral National Assembly.

      “They know they’re in their final days, and they’re going to pay, whether they’re civilians or soldiers,” he said, adding that “when this comes about, which will be soon, (the officials) are going to have to answer to the courts for their evil deeds.” The parliamentary leader’s remarks were delivered after arriving in Caracas after several days in Washington participating in an Organization of American States session discussing an OAS report on the Venezuelan crisis to invoke activating the entity’s charter vis-a-vis Caracas.

     The lawmaker emphasized the “defeat” that he said the Maduro government suffered in a 20-12 OAS vote after discussing the report, despite Venezuela’s refusal to accept its contents. “I don’t know why the Venezuelan government is trying to make a resounding defeat into a triumph that doesn’t exist,” said Ramos Allup referring to the government’s claims that the OAS vote last Thursday was a victory. Ramos Allup also mentioned the dialogue process that the Union of South American Nations is trying to promote with the mediation of several former presidents, including former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA-- --
In the view of Venezuelan Ombudsman Trek William Saab, only Chavista “isolated voices” are behind a proposal to request the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) “the abolition” of the National Assembly, a move he branded as “extremist” and “radical.”

     “The isolated voices asking for the abolition of public powers will not be backed. These are individualities that must assume their own representation, for what Venezuela wants today is cooperation between public powers,” the human rights advocate stressed. Although Saab claimed he was not familiar with the proposal, he added that such initiative is not supported by top government officials who, in his words, are advocating “talks, agreements with public and private sectors to move the country forward.”

   On Tuesday, coordinator of pro-government “Podemos” (We can) party and Aragua state former governor Didalco Bolívar said that the Great Patriotic Pole (GPP) “has began discussions to request the TSJ Constitutional Chamber to abolish the Congress” for its alleged usurpation of powers. The 1999 Constitution only allows dissolving the Congress under one circumstance: That most of legislators censure three times in a row the Executive Vice-President. Venezuela's government is considering asking the high court to dissolve the legislature controlled by President Nicolas Maduro's opponents who are seeking to remove him from office, a spokesman said Tuesday. It was the latest maneuver in a political conflict that has raised tensions in the volatile South American country as it struggles with an economic crisis.


         HAVANA, CUBA --
 The Four Points by Sheraton in Havana, the first hotel to be managed by a U.S. chain in Cuba in more than 50 years, formally opened for business on Tuesday. Located in the Miramar neighborhood, the hotel – to date known as the Hotel Quinta Avenida – is included in the contract signed between U.S.-based Starwood and Cuba to operate two hotels in the capital, the first such agreement of its kind since 1959, announced on the eve of President Barack Obama’s visit to the island last March.

    Starwood sources told EFE that, starting on Tuesday, the hotel will operate under its new name. Simultaneously, remodeling of the building will be undertaken as per the vision and standards of Four Points by Sheraton, a division of Starwood mainly geared toward business travelers. Before yearend, Starwood will also take over the operation of the mixed-management Hotel Inglaterra, located in a prime location in Old Havana. The U.S. hotel chain also announced in March that it hopes to finalize another contract with Cuba’s Habaguanex, a firm operating in Havana’s historic downtown, to include in its Luxury Collection the Hotel Santa Isabel, an attractive colonial palace located on the shore of Havana Bay.

    After the December 2014 announcement of the rapprochement between Washington and Havana, Cuba has experienced a boom in foreign tourist arrivals, with more than 3.5 million people visiting the island in 2015. The increase in tourists forecast for this year will translate into a significant demand for lodging. Of the currently available 62,000 hotel rooms in Cuba, more than 60 percent have foreign marketing contracts and 16 percent are managed by mixed companies. Authorities have announced plans to expand the number of rooms to 85,000 by 2020.

June  29, 2016


Two explosions have rocked Istanbul's Ataturk airport, killing at least 32 people and wounding around 147 others, Turkey's justice minister and another official said Tuesday. (DHA via AP) Bodies are seen outside Turkey's largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, Turkey, following a blast, June 28, 2016. Medics and security members work at the entrance of the Ataturk Airport after explosions in Istanbul, Tuesday, June 28, 2016. Two explosions have rocked Istanbul's Ataturk airport, killing several people and wounding others.

     Turkey's justice minister and another official said Tuesday. A Turkish official says two attackers have blown themselves up at the airport after police fired at them. The official said the attackers detonated the explosives at the entrance of the international terminal before entering the x-ray security check. (IHA via AP) Turkish rescue services gather outside Istanbul's Ataturk airport, Tuesday, June 28, 2016. Two explosions have rocked Istanbul's Ataturk airport, killing several people and wounding others, Turkey's justice minister and another official said Tuesday. Ataturk is Turkey's largest airport and a major transport hub for international travelers. One witness told CNN Turk that gunfire was heard from the car park at the airport. Taxis were ferrying wounded people from the airport, the witness said.

    Authorities halted the takeoff of scheduled flights from the airport and passengers were transferred to hotels, a Turkish Airlines official said. Earlier an airport official said some flights to the airport had been diverted. Turkey has suffered a spate of bombings this year, including two suicide attacks in tourist areas of Istanbul blamed on Islamic State, and two car bombings in the capital, Ankara, which were claimed by a Kurdish militant group. In the most recent attack, a car bomb ripped through a police bus in central Istanbul during the morning rush hour, killing 11 people and wounding 36 near the main tourist district, a major university and the mayor's office. Turkey, which is part of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, is also fighting Kurdish militants in its largely Kurdish southeast.


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA-- --
Mayor of Libertador Municipality Jorge Rodríguez  ASSURES THAT THE Signatures collection was a fraud against the Constitution. Rodríguez announced that the Venezuela’s ruling party would bring lawsuits against the country’s opposition for irregularities during the gathering of signatures for a recall vote to cut the term in office of President Nicolás Maduro

     Jorge Rodríguez, leader of ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and mayor of Libertador Municipality, on Monday said that the country’s opposition disregarded the Constitution when collecting signatures for a recall vote against the mandate of President Nicolás Maduro because, in his words, they only validated 396,000 signatures. During a press conference, he announced that PSUV would report on the irregularities committed by anti-government umbrella group Unified Democratic Panel (MUD) during the signatures gathering.

    Out of 1,957,779 signatures the opposition delivered to the National Electoral Council (CNE), 1,352,052 are valid while 605,727 are null due to irregularities, including over 10,000 signatures of dead people; 9,333 non-existent identification numbers; more than 3,000 minors, and 1,355 politically disqualified people, state-run news agency AVN reported. Rodríguez claimed that in five days, with 300 fingerprint scanners provided by the CNE, the opposition failed to validate the number of signatures they previously handed over. For this reason, he described this fact as an election fraud.


          Washington, d.c. --
Russian intelligence and security services have been waging a campaign of harassment and intimidation against U.S. diplomats, embassy staff and their families in Moscow and several other European capitals that has rattled ambassadors and prompted Secretary of State John F. Kerry to ask Vladimir Putin to put a stop to it. At a recent meeting of U.S. ambassadors from Russia and Europe in Washington, U.S. ambassadors to several European countries complained that Russian intelligence officials were constantly perpetrating acts of harassment against their diplomatic staff that ranged from the weird to the downright scary.

    Some of the intimidation has been routine: following diplomats or their family members, showing up at their social events uninvited or paying reporters to write negative stories about them. But many of the recent acts of intimidation by Russian security services have crossed the line into apparent criminality. In a series of secret memos sent back to Washington, described to me by several current and former U.S. officials who have written or read them, diplomats reported that Russian intruders had broken into their homes late at night, only to rearrange the furniture or turn on all the lights and televisions, and then leave. One diplomat reported that an intruder had defecated on his living room carpet.

     In Moscow, where the harassment is most pervasive, diplomats reported slashed tires and regular harassment by traffic police. Former ambassador Michael McFaul was hounded by government-paid protesters, and intelligence personnel followed his children to school. The harassment is not new; in the first term of the Obama administration, Russian intelligence personnel broke into the house of the U.S. defense attache in Moscow and killed his dog, according to multiple former officials who read the intelligence reports. There was a debate inside the Obama administration about how to respond, and ultimately President Obama made the decision not to respond with similar measures against Russian diplomats, McFaul said.

June  28, 2016


“Venezuela achieved a resounding success at the OAS (Organization of American States) (…) The Democratic Charter was activated. The national government is trying to turn an overwhelming defeat into a triumph that does not exist for them,” said Speaker of the National Assembly (AN) Henry Ramos Allup in reference to the special meeting last Thursday of the OAS Permanent Council.

     During a press conference held at the AN headquarters, opposition legislator Luis Florido explained that the Democratic Charter “is not an event, but a process.” In this regard, he added that such mechanism has reached its second phase.“The first phase begins when the Permanent Council agrees to weigh on the enforcement of the Democratic Charter, following a proposal made by any OAS Member State or the secretary general to activate this mechanism; the second one takes place when the Member States consult on the different measures to be applied through the Charter; we are in this phase.

The third and last phase comes when the Permanent Council is convened and they weigh on actions to be taken in Venezuela.” The Democratic Charter aims to re-establish the country’s constitutional regime. The actions that may be taken under this legal instrument involve sanctions or the withdrawal of Venezuela from the Permanent Council, a move the AN, in its words, is not seeking. Add to this, the creation of in situ missions and adoption of cooperation humanitarian actions for the country.


           MIAMI, FLORIDA --
As 11 Cuban migrants came ashore in Dania Beach Saturday night, officers were forced to use a Taser and bean-bag guns on the migrants. Hollywood police spokeswoman Meredith Elrich said the Coast Guard reported seeing the migrants with “machetes and large knives” and threatening to harm themselves, The Associated Press reported.

    An officer fired his Taser at one migrant who jumped from the boat and ran toward a large crowd on the beach, she said. “From what I understand, when Coast Guard and FWC tried to approach the vessel offshore there were knives onboard,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Tyson Matthews told Miami Herald news partner CBS4. “And they were holding those weapons to their stomachs and threatening to hurt themselves, it looked like.”

     The migrants, 10 men and one woman, were taken into federal custody. Six were taken to Broward Health Medical Center and five were in custody at the Dania Beach Border Patrol Station, the Sun Sentinel reported. One migrant had a possible stab wound to the abdomen, said Capt. Greg May of Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue on Saturday. U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Frank Miller told the Miami Herald it is “more than likely” the migrants will be allowed to stay under the U.S. wet foot, dry foot policy, but a final decision has yet to be made.


Retired Navy Cdr. Daniel Dolan, writing in the blog USNI News, stated that the Russian government is building a spy base in Nicaragua in a startling Cold War-like buildup of both its military and intelligence presence in the West, The Washington Free Beacon reports. Beacon writer Bill Gertz, citing unnamed defense officials, reports a recent deal between Moscow and Managua also involved the costly sale of 50 T-72 Russian Tanks. Nicaragua is still headed by the White House's onetime Cold War nemesis leftist Daniel Ortega.cost of the tanks, an estimated $80 million, is $9 million more than the entire Nicaraguan defense budget for 2015, Gertz writes.

      Gertz writes no details could be learned of where the spy site will be located, but notes it "could be disguised as a Russian GLONASS satellite navigation tracking station" that's nearing completion — "the Russian version of the Global Positioning System network of satellites used for precision navigation and guidance." Gertz notes some reports indicate the GLONASS station may be situated near Laguna de Najapa, north of the capital of Managua — or along the Caribbean coast. "While any nation has the right to choose its international partners, we have been clear that now is not the time for business as usual with Russia," an unnamed State Department official tells Gertz.

     Southern Command spokesman Lt. Col. David Olson tells Gertz the United States respects the right of nations to modernize their defenses. "We're aware of Russian engagements in our hemisphere," he said. "The nature of Russia's engagements in our hemisphere isn't new and similar to engagements with other nations. We are confident that our partner nations understand our desire to be their security partner of choice, as well as our commitment to work side by side with them in support of our shared interests and democratic values." News of the deal comes as three Americans, working for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, were expelled from Nicaragua without explanation, the Free Beason and Daily Mail both report.

June  27, 2016


Spain voted in repeat general election on Sunday in efforts to end its worst political stalemate in recent history. With aftershocks from Brexit still being felt, all eyes are on the leftist Podemos party which calls for structural reforms of the EU. With almost all of the votes counted in Sunday’s General Election, Spain's conservative People's Party (PP) of acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has won over 30 percent of the seats, with up to 133 PP politicians to be represented in the parliament. The victory has cemented the acting prime minister’s right to continue governing Spaniards, Mariano Rajoy said, praising the success of his PP party.

    "We won the election, and we demand the right to govern," he said during a victory speech in Madrid. On Twitter, Rajoy thanked all PP members, saying “the victory is yours and of those Spaniards that believed in this project.” The Unidos Podemos party showed disappointment with its third place in the election results, saying it expected to perform better. "These are not good results, they are not what we expected," Podemos political press secretary Inigo Errejon said.
"They are not good for Unidos Podemos and we don't think they're good for Spain because they reverse the move for political change." The leader of Spain’s Ciudadanos party said he is ready to initiate talks with the PP party and discuss the question of forming a coalition government.

     The collaboration between the PP and Ciudadanos party, which garnered 32 seats, would still be seven seats short of securing a majority. However, the coalition could potentially gain another six seats from regional parties. According to exit polls, the Unidos Podemos (United We Can) alliance led by the leftist Podemos party would have from 91 to 95 seats in the 350-strong assembly, Reuters reported, citing the poll by state broadcaster RTVE. The Socialists could get 81-85 seats, while Spain's liberal Ciudadanos (Citizens) party might have up to 30 seats. The preliminary numbers mean the PP party didn't get enough seats to form a government on its own, not reaching the required majority of 176 lawmakers.


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA --
Opposition governor and two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said the time for dialogue with Venezuela’s government to resolve a simmering political and economic crisis had long passed. “There has been no dialogue here, the culture of dialogue has been destroyed,” Capriles said at a Friday news conference in Caracas. “The government is only interested in a show and in buying time.” Capriles urged the opposition alliance to remain unified but also to review its agenda to stay in line with the demands of ordinary Venezuelans as they face the worst recession in decades and the world’s fastest inflation.

      He said there should be no mediated talks with the government until the national electoral board, or CNE, sets a date for the opposition’s recall referendum on the rule of President Nicolas Maduro. Capriles’s comments came as former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has been in Caracas pushing for mediated talks with the the South American regional bloc known as Unasur. The state-run Telesur network reported in late May that leaders of the ruling socialist party and opposition had met in the Dominican Republic.
The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States on June 1 approved a declaration that supported the initiative by former heads of state of Spain, the Dominican Republic, and Panama to “reopen an effective dialogue between the government and the opposition.” On Friday, Maduro’s government filed a suit against the leadership of opposition-controlled National Assembly at the Supreme Court for usurping its powers, Elvis Amoroso, the government’s legal representative, said on state television. Since winning control of congress in December elections, the opposition has seen its central initiatives and majority narrowed by the court. “We can’t keep going to the table with the mediators until the mediators themselves tell the government to respect the constitution and set a date for the referendum,” Capriles said.


           PANAMA CITY, PANAMA--
Panama officially openED its canal this weekend to ALLOW PASS OF bigger cargo ships after nearly a decade of expansion work aimed at boosting transit revenues and global trade. On Sunday, a VIP ceremony was held on the banks of the canal to inaugurate the completion of the works. President Juan Carlos Varela unveiled the new locks and third shipping lane built into the 102-year-old canal. Foreign dignitaries, including the presidents of Taiwan, Chile and other Central American nations, were present at the ceremony.

     A Chinese-owned Neopanamax-class cargo ship was the first vessel to officially test the new infrastructure, entering from the Atlantic and exiting into the Pacific a few hours later. The Neopanamax vessels are much bigger than the Panamax-class ships that previously were the largest able to pass through the 80-kilometer (50-mile) long canal. Each is able to haul three times as much cargo as the smaller predecessors. The expansion work began in 2007 and was meant to have been completed in 2014, but it ran well past deadline, and over budget. The expansion is estimated to have cost $5.5 billion. However, outstanding disputes between the Spanish- and Italian-led consortium that carried out the work and the Panamanian government could yet hike that figure by hundreds of millions more.

      For Panama, the unveiling of the broader canal is a moment of pride and of opportunity. Now, ships as long as the Eiffel Tower is tall, and as broad as Olympic-sized swimming pools, will be able to use the canal. Annual cargo volumes should double over the next decade, leading Panama to hope to triple the $1 billion in shipping fees it receives each year. Also, with the country these days linked to the "Panama Papers" scandal of offshore businesses owned by the world's wealthy and influential, the expanded canal is seen as a chance to burnish the country's tarnished image. This will show the "real face of Panama," Panama Canal Authority (ACP) chief Jorge Quijano told AFP in an interview this week. World trade should also benefit from what will essentially be an inter-oceanic highway for goods between the United States and Asia. More cargo on bigger ships should mean lower transport costs.

June  26, 2016


      WASHINGTON, D.C. --
The Democratich Charter remains as a threat if Chavism doesn’t change. The head of the Organization of American States has blamed Nicolás Maduro’s government for Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis, saying the South American oil-rich nation was now mired in poverty, corruption and violence. Despite opposition by Venezuela and allies such as Ecuador and Bolivia to Thursday’s proceedings, Almagro won the backing of a majority of member states, 20 countries, to invoke the organization’s democratic charter on Venezuela, which could eventually lead to the country’s suspension.

     The meeting came as Washington opened new talks with Maduro’s government this week to ease tensions between the ideological foes. The US state department described talks between veteran diplomat Tom Shannon and Venezuelan officials in Caracas as positive. Almagro said Venezuela’s crisis had reached breaking point. “These challenges cannot be blamed on external forces,” he told the council. “The situation facing Venezuela today is the direct result of the actions of those currently in power. “Venezuela should be one of the most prosperous and influential countries in the region. Instead, it is a state mired in corruption, poverty and violence. It is the population who suffers the consequences,” he added.

     Almagro cited Venezuela’s “unprecedented and unnecessary” humanitarian crisis, the jailing of opposition members and reports of torture as examples of abuses by the government against its people. The country’s economic crisis has deepened in the wake of weaker global oil prices, while soaring inflation and food shortages have caused unrest. Almagro called on member states to support calls by Venezuelans for a referendum to recall Maduro. “Fundamental freedoms, human rights and democracy don’t exist just when it’s convenient. We are compelled to indicate problems wherever they may exist, especially so in a difficult context,” Almagro said. “It is in keeping with these standards that we believe the constitutional order in Venezuela has been altered,” he added.


           HAVANA, CUBA --
Cuba has denied visas to U.S. Rep. John Katko and a delegation from the House Homeland Security Committee that wanted to visit this weekend to inspect airport security. Katko, chairman of a subcommittee on transportation security, said Friday that the congressional delegation visit was called off at the last minute after the Cuban government blocked the trip. Katko, R-Camillus, and members of the congressional delegation wanted to assess security risks at Cuban airports before the start of daily commercial air service with the United States later this year. 'We tried for over a month and a half to get visas, and we couldn't get them," Katko said in an interview Friday.

     Katko said his delegation had planned to visit airports in Havana, smaller airports in other Cuban cities, and stop at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay. At a hearing last month, Katko and other members of the Homeland Security Committee questioned whether proper security screening equipment and procedures will be in place before the start of more than 100 roundtrip commercial flights per day with the United States. "Our job is to look at last point of departure airports around the world, and they're not letting us do it," Katko said Friday. "Some experts believe Cuba could become a gateway to the U.S. for terror suspects from Europe. But they're not even letting us take a look at their airports"

     Katko and House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, have said they felt stonewalled by U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials who declined to answer questions about the security capabilities of Cuban airports. The House members wanted to know if Cuba had adequate body scanners, explosive detection equipment, and the ability to screen for fraudulent passports or IDs. The committee also wanted to know if federal air marshals would be allowed on flights to and from Cuba. Democrats say Katko wants to politicize a Homeland Security issue before the U.S. resumes flights to Cuba. Katko said he does not necessarily trust Cuban President Raul Castro and his government to make airport security a priority. "This is a government that was only just removed as a state sponsor of terrorism one year ago, and it is not enough to rely on the Castro regime's word that these airports are safe," Katko said.


The leader of the campaign to recall Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, HENRIQUE CAPRILES,  said on Friday that the opposition has validated more than twice the number of signatures needed to initiate the process of convening a referendum.

     “In total, despite all those obstacles, of everything that happened, of all the people who were left out, of all who were excluded ... despite everything, 409,313 patriotic Venezuelans managed to validate their signatures,” two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said. Capriles detailed the figures with the head of the MUD opposition alliance at the conclusion of the five days the group was given by electoral authorities to validate the signatures. Once the process of signature validation is finalized, the MUD still needs to get support from 20 percent of registered voters – some 4 million people – to activate the referendum aimed at ousting Maduro.

     "Today it was the day of the battle of the fingerprints and the Venezuelans have defeated those who are leading the Government. The great defeated is Nicolas Maduro because we are going to revoke him and the recall referendum will be completed this year," he said. Capriles also mentioned that this day of the final validation that culminated Friday showed all the irregularities allowed by the Electoral power to prevent the process, and warned that they will demand that this not be repeated in the new coming stage. "We will not allow all the obstacles we have encountered to be replicated during the recollection of the 20%, is this clear to you CNE ladies...”

June  25, 2016


      WASHINGTON, D.C. --
During his presentation at the OAS Permanent Council, the body’s top representative Luis Almagro claimed that “holding a dialogue is not about talking, but showing commitments to democracy.”

     Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) Luis Almagro on Tuesday asked for an agreement on “mediators, content and timing” so that “distrust does not hinder” talks between the Venezuelan government and the opposition. “A successful dialogue entails agreement on mediators, content and timing that generates mutual trust,” Almagro tweeted after a meeting on Tuesday of OAS Permanent Council, which received Spanish ex-President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to elaborate on the situation of international mediation in Venezuela.

     “Holding a dialogue is not about talking, but showing commitments to democracy, the observance of human rights, non-existence of political prisoners or arbitrary detentions,” the body’s top representative stated during his four-minute remarks at the meeting, according to Efe. Almagro further asked for more Ibero-American leaders to join the initiative for a dialogue underway, including a recall vote in Venezuela this year against the government of President Nicolás Maduro, and the release of political prisoners.


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA --
In words of Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, the Archbishop of Caracas, holding a recall referendum for early termination of President Nicolás Maduro's mandate is an essential requirement for government-opposition talks intended to overcome the current climate of polarization and tackle the problems hitting Venezuelans. "Dialogue requires respect for the Venezuelan people's will to hold a vote on whether the current government should continue in office or not," said the Archbishop of Caracas in an interview with private television channel Globovisión, as quoted by Efe.

     He said respect for the Constitution is "very important," and thus called upon authorities, specifically the National Electoral Council (CNE), not to hinder the vote. "It is an obligation of the government, especially of the CNE, to quickly allow the conduct of the referendum which is requested by the Venezuelan people.” Urosa also urged the electoral body to "facilitate" the process. Also the cardinal noted that a dialogue is necessary and it should be allowed to be accomplished. There must be a "mutual respect " and a true willingness to solve the problems confronted by the country. "

     Last month, a trip to Venezuela by the Chancellor of the Pope was thwarted. Monsignor Paul Gallagher, who although officially was coming to attend an episcopal ordination, planned to meet with various sectors to try to lay the groundwork for a dialogue between the Government and the opposition. The Vatican, in a brief note, reported days before the arrival of the prelate that he would not be able to travel for reasons not attributable to him. Obviously, the refusal by the authorities to receive the prelate caused the cancellation, said the President of the National Assembly, Henry Ramos Allup.


           WASHINGTON, D.C. --
Through a communiqué, 1,200 lawyers worldwide asked the Venezuelan justice for the immediate release of opposition leader Leopoldo López. In the document, they termed “parody of criminal proceeding” the trial against the former mayor of Chacao municipality and four students for violent events occurred during a march in February 2014.

     The document, which was read early on Wednesday at the Caracas Lawyers’ Association, indicates that “the unfair imprisonment of Leopoldo López and the unfair sentence against him, (both moves) violating the most elemental guarantees of the due process, mean an unquestionable evidence of what the current Venezuelan political regime stands for.” However, the text does not only request the release of the dissenter and other political prisoners, but also urges authorities “to fully guarantee the democratic principles, transparency and free competition in electoral processes, and the necessary political pluralism.”

      The legal team responsible for the defense of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López, led by attorney Juan Carlos Gutiérrez, urged again Judge Susana Barreiros to observe a ruling issued by the United Nations. In leaving the 13th hearing of the national coordinator of opposition Voluntad Poplar (People's Will) party, Gutiérrez related that López took the floor at the outset and then left after reiterating that he would not attend the lawsuit provided that he judge would decide on the UN resolution. López asked the judge to "break the dam of injustice to make run a river of freedom in Venezuela." As recommended by the UN Committee against Torture (CAT), the dissenter should be released for considering that his detention was arbitrary and all his rights had been violated.

June  24. 2016


      WASHINGTON, D.C. --
A debate that had been billed as a moment of truth for Latin America’s faith in democracy ended in a whimper Thursday as the Organization of American States concluded four hours of talk without deciding whether to intervene in Venezuela’s economic and political crisis. Despite the lack of a conclusion – the next step was anything but certain – the often emotional statements from the assembled delegates of 34 Western Hemisphere nations made one thing clear: any action on Venezuela will leave the OAS divided between those who favor pressuring the government of President Nicolás Maduro to make accommodations to his opponents and those who believe such a move would violate the country’s sovereignty.

    Nicaragua and Bolivia demanded the resignation of OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro, whose 132-page indictment of Maduro’s leadership triggered Thursday’s meeting to assess Venezuela’s compliance with the group’s Democratic Charter. Ten others joined those nations in voting to halt the discussion before it had even begun. “The abusive and surpassing of authority by the secretary-general tramples the charter of the OAS by trying to overthrow a sovereign state,” said Denis Moncada Colindres, Nicaragua’s ambassador. But another 20 countries voted to go forward, a sign that a majority of the OAS’s member-states, which rarely bring to a vote anything that doesn’t already have a consensus, are increasingly concerned about Venezuela’s worsening economic and political conditions.

     That vote allowed Almagro to deliver again a scathing assessment about food shortages, rising inflation, and alarming homicide rates. The presentation alone, coming from Almagro, was progress, said Andres Gonzalez Diaz, the Colombian ambassador. “What’s important is now the topic has been unveiled,” he said. The move would allow member states to seek action later. Venezuela could and should be one of the most prosperous countries in the region. Instead, it is a state mired in poverty, corruption and violence. Maduro’s government had violated the OAS’s requirements for democratic rule by altering the country’s constitutional order, Almagro said


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA --
From his cell in Ramo Verde prison (north-central Miranda state), Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López wrote a letter where he remarked that “the (OAS Inter-American) Democratic Charter would pave the way for the process so that the dialogue that is non-existent in Venezuela may first be held and be effective, with clear agenda and steps.”

    López claimed that, for the government, such legal instrument is unnecessary and could hinder the process for talks that, in his view, are “barely needed in Venezuela.” However, the leader argued that a dialogue is possible and agreements can be reached on topics such as the democratic coexistence, the economic reconstruction and the country’s security. In this connection, he underscored that “no talks may be above the people’s constitutional right to hold the recall vote against (the mandate of President) Nicolás Maduro in 2016.”

     López further asserted that the opposition umbrella group Unified Democratic Panel (MUD) “has voiced will to rebuild and reconcile Venezuela and hopes that a dialogue may take place to give real and concrete solutions to nationals.” Apropos a meeting of the OAS Permanent Council taking place on Thursday to raise the question of Venezuela’s current situation, he urged American nations to support Venezuelans and the country’s democracy.


           HAVANA, CUBA --
Havana, Cuba (CNN)Colombia's government and FARC rebels signed a ceasefire agreement Thursday that could end five decades of bloody conflict while negotiators work to reach a final peace deal. The signing took place in Havana, where the two sides have been negotiating since November 2012 to end the civil war that has killed or displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

    The agreement was signed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Timoleon "Timochenko" Jimenez, top commander for the FARC, the Spanish acronym for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. While a groundbreaking deal between the government and the FARC, the agreement does not include other guerrilla and paramilitary groups. The longest-running insurgency in the Western Hemisphere, the FARC sought to emulate the Cuban revolution and install a Marxist-style government in Colombia. Critics accuse the rebels of engaging in drug trafficking and kidnapping to finance their guerrilla war.

     Billions of dollars in U.S. counterinsurgency aid has helped the Colombian government turn the tide against the FARC, which suffered as top commanders were killed and thousands of foot soldiers abandoned the insurgency. At the beginning of peace talks, FARC rebels proposed a bilateral ceasefire, but Colombian government officials resisted the overture, saying the guerrillas had used previous ceasefires as an opportunity to take over large swaths of the countryside. Santos said Monday that he expected the final peace deal to be reached by July 20. A referendum then would be called for Colombians to vote on whether to accept or reject the agreement.

June  23, 2016


Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles criticized Spanish ex-President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero for not tackling at the OAS Permanent Council the question of a recall vote to cut the term in office of President Nicolás Maduro. Capriles met with US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon, who on Tuesday arrived in Caracas. Capriles told the top diplomat that “in Venezuela no dialogue steps have been taken.” In the political leader’s view, in the country there is “a false call” for talks from Head of State Nicolás Maduro, a move that “only aims to gain time” not to hold a recall vote against his mandate.

    Capriles further explained to Shannon that Maduro invited three international mediators who recently met with opposition and government delegations separately in the Dominican Republic. Such remarks came in connection with an international taskforce of ex-presidents involving, among other, Spain’s former Head of Government José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Efe reported. In this regard, the governor said he was struck by the fact that during the OAS Permanent Council on Tuesday Zapatero did not raise the question of the recall vote the country’s opposition wants to set in motion.

    "Then I think that ex-President Rodriguez Zapatero should review what is his position, because what we have heard today so far is general information, and Venezuelans are not for general information," he added. Also said that the Venezuelan opposition asked other mediators to be included and mentioned that Pope Francisco "should appoint a person" for this purpose "if indeed there is a desire for a dialogue process". "It is the Government that does not allow that a dialogue in this country. Venezuela doesn’t want a photo, that is to lose time, because the Venezuelans are in an emergency situation now," he reiterated.


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA --
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez issued a call for the immediate resignation of Organization of American States (OAS) General Secretary Luis Almagro. Rodriguez cited ongoing attempts by the general secretary to intervene in Venezuelan national affairs, which she said constituted an overstepping his powers. Almagro began his term as general gecretary for the regional bloc just last year. "Venezuela demands the immediate resignation of @Almargo_OEA2015 in light of his persistent attacks against [our] country, in blatant violation of the OAS Charter,” expressed Rodriguez via her Twitter account @DrodriguezVen.

      Rodriguez condemned Almagro for his recent actions invoking the Democratic Charter against Venezuela to justify regional intervention and denounced his alliance with the South American nation’s right-wing opposition. However, in a recent exclusive interview published by the Grupo de Diarios América (Spanish: American Group of Daily Newspapers), Almagro insists that it was never his intention to suspend Venezuela from the regional bloc and that he fully supports “serious dialogue”. “Invoking the Democratic Charter establishes a process, in which suspension is naturally the last step. No one aspires to reach that outcome,” Almagro explained.

     With respect to the continued attempts to secure dialogue between the Bolivarian government and the opposition, Almagro commented, “We have always favored a dialogue and we have made several calls and offered our services to facilitate in this case and other countries of the region.” Their statements come as a recent Hinterlaces also poll found that 67% of Venezuelans disagree with an international intervention. Furthermore, a clear 84% majority further oppose any international military action taken to intervene in the country and remove President Nicolas Maduro from the government. On Tuesday, the OAS will discuss Venezuela's proposal to evaluate General Secretary Almagro while on Thursday, the Permanent Council will gather to debate ongoing tensions in Venezuela per Almagro’s request.


           MADRID, SPAIN ---
"We would like to be more involved in Venezuela, among other things because there are 200,000 Spaniards and because Venezuela forms part of our historic community of nations," commented Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs José Manuel García-Margallo

     Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo on Monday urged the European Union (EU) to have a more active involvement in the crisis currently facing Venezuela. “The EU necessarily has to get involved in Venezuela; it is a very important country for the EU,” the Spaniard said upon his arrival at the union’s Foreign Affairs Council, where they are to raise the question of the country’s situation despite the fact that such topic is not included on the meeting’s agenda.

     According to Efe, the minister stressed that Spain “requests more active participation, involvement from the EU.” “The EU must play a role and Spain must play a role in Latin America in all scenes,” he highlighted. “We would like to be more involved in Venezuela, among other things because there are 200,000 Spaniards and because Venezuela forms part of our historic community of nations,” the top diplomat commented.

June  22, 2016


      WASHINGTON, D.C.--
Venezuela has asked the Organization of American States (OAS) to cancel a Thursday meeting on the country's economic and political crisis in which its possible suspension could be discussed. In a letter to OAS General Secretary Luis Almagro, Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez asked the 34-country organization to scrap a session of its permanent council in Washington requested by Almagro to discuss possible punitive measures, including suspending Venezuela over its human rights record. Almagro "is not entitled" to convene the meeting, the letter said, adding that his request must be declared "inadmissible."

    Almagro requested the meeting invoking a charter which regulates government behaviour in member states and enables the OAS to address the "alteration of the constitutional order" that "seriously impairs" democracy in a member country. Venezuela's opposition-controlled legislature had asked him to invoke the charter to assess whether the government of President Nicolas Maduro violated standards. The opposition accuses the authorities of curtailing freedom of expression and jailing dozens of its leaders and activists for political reasons, among other charges. The government denies the accusations. Maduro vehemently denounced Almagro's move earlier this month.

    Almagro had "misused" the charter's authority by improperly opening the possibility of intervening in the affairs of a member state, Alvarez wrote on Monday. The OAS council is set to talk with three ex-leaders trying to mediate between Maduro and opponents seeking to remove him from office tomorrow. The three mediators are former Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, and former presidents Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic and Martin Torrijos of Panama. The mediation led by Zapatero has been proposed as a possible alternative to suspending Venezuela from the OAS. Maduro's opponents are pushing to hold a referendum on whether to cut short his term to ease mounting humanitarian concerns. The opposition blame him for an economic crisis that has led to food shortages and prompted riots and looting. Maduro blames the crisis on an "economic war" against him by the business elite.


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA --
Venezuelan politician Leopoldo Lopez “represents all prisoners of conscience in the world,” Spanish lawyer Javier Cremades said on Monday in Caracas. Cremades is in Caracas to work with the legal team defending Lopez, one of Venezuela’s most prominent opposition leaders. “This is not a cause for Venezuela, this is a global cause, an international cause, Leopoldo Lopez represents all prisoners of conscience in the world today.

    There are other heroes with him, almost 100, in jail wrongfully,” Cremades said. The lawyer arrived in the capital on Sunday with former Spanish Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz Gallardon. Cremades and Ruiz Gallardon were to take part in an appeal hearing for Lopez, who was sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison for violence that occurred during an anti-government march. The hearing, however, was suspended because one of the judges became ill on Monday. The new date for the hearing has not been announced.

    The suspension of the hearing coincided with the visit of Cremades and Ruiz Gallardon, who traveled to Caracas to advise Lopez’s defense team. Cremades criticized officials for transferring Lopez from the prison where he is being held on the outskirts of Caracas to the court only to have the hearing suspended at the last minute. On Monday evening, Cremades and Ruiz Gallardon hope to visit Lopez at the military prison. Other foreign politicians have tried to visit Lopez, but only former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was able to meet with the opposition leader.


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA---
Following claims made by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro inviting him to dialogue without previous conditions, the Legislature’s head Henry Ramos Allup replied he would not any way accept the initiative because sincerity in the president’s intention cannot be verified. President of the National Assembly (AN) Henry Ramos Allup rejected the call for a dialogue made last Thursday by Venezuelan Head of State Nicolás Maduro.

    “Do you think that the AN board is stupid as to attend a meeting to resolve a conflict with someone who is part of the conflict? How can your (Supreme) Tribunal (of Justice), ‘your private lawyer’s office,’ deal with a constitutional conflict when the Tribunal is part of the constitutional conflict,” he addressed himself to Maduro. Allup also criticized the actions that the national Government has taken through the efforts of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Delcy Rodriguez so that the National Assembly is not authorized to express its opinion on the Venezuelan crisis at the Organization of American States (OAS) on June 23.

    "We hope they grant us the right to speak at the OAS, so we can exercise our rights." If they do not give us the right to speak, please gentlemen of the government stay quiet (...), we will continue repeating nationally and internationally our message about the deep and terrible damage that this government is doing to this country that only could be repaired when we get rid in a constitutional, democratic, peaceful and electoral manner of this government. The AN Speaker further said that, under a TSJ provision, the Legislature could not choose its lawyer. Rather, this would be appointed by the Comptroller’s Office, which in the official’s view is “the very government.”

June  21, 2016


The validation of signatures to try to activate the recall referendum for the mandate of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro begins today until June 24 at the regional offices of the National Electoral Council (CNE, in Spanish). At the request of the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD, in Spanish), a coalition of opposition organizations, the process against the also leader of United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV, in Spanish) will be held for eight hours a day at 128 points set for it.

     The MUD delivered last May 2,957,779 signatures, out of which 605,727 did not meet the criteria of the electoral law, as it was explained by the president of the CNE, Tibisay Lucena. The minimum required by law to aspire to apply the recall is just 200,000 signatures, but the opposition registered detainees, minors and dead people, among others, in order to show a supposed popular discontent. Therefore, before the Supreme Court Maduro sued the opposition, which received a political blow when 5,660 Venezuelans registered rejected to sign from June 13 to 17.

      At the end of this phase, the next step is to examine the validation, scheduled to be extended for 20 working days. If this stage is validated, the opposition must gather another four million signatures for the recall to be convened. The opposition leaders seek to make the referendum to be held before January 11, because if they win, there will a call for elections, but if it is not made before that date, the country will be directed by a Vice president appointed by Maduro until 2019. The only recall process in Venezuela was activated with 2,436,830 firms in 2004, when President Hugo Chávez, exactly on August 15 of that year, won with the 60 percent of the votes.


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA ---
Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López, who is serving a prison sentence for almost 14 years, on Sunday stated that “no talks should be” above the recall vote provided for as a right in the country’s Constitution. In this connection, he urged the world to back this mechanism. No talks should be above the constitutional right to hold the recall vote against (the government of President) Nicolás Maduro in 2016,” López stressed through his Twitter account, which has been managed by his relatives since he was taken to a military prison.

    In another message, the political leader asked the world “to morally condemn dictatorship, support the recall vote in 2016, and encourage a true dialogue (that is) non-existent these days,” Efe highlighted. López further said that such dialogue must be used to discuss nationals’ issues, yet he added that not for that reason human rights and observance of the Constitution “are subject to negotiation.” In this regard, he voiced support over the stance taken by the anti-government coalition Unified Democratic Panel (MUD).

     Lopez also requested that the international community shows solidarity at the meeting of June 23, at the Organization of American States (OAS). The founder of the people's will Party urged Venezuelans to sign in favor of the recall referendum by be present tomorrow to validate their signatures for "to achieve the change desired by all". The leader made his call just one day before the beginning of a week in which both the OAS and UNASUR will discuss in Washington the situation in Venezuela. Leopoldo López is serving a sentence on charges of public incitement, association to commit crimes, damage and fire to property smf for the violent events that occurred at the end of a March organized on February 12, 2014.


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA---
The hearing for the appeal of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, sentenced to almost 14 years in prison for violence that occurred during a protest march, was suspended Monday, his defense attorney said. Lopez's hearing was postponed after one of the designated judges said he was feeling too ill to attend the session, Lopez's defense attorney Juan Carlos Gutierrez told reporters at the Palace of Justice.

    Suspension of the hearing coincided with the visit of Spain's ex-Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz Gallardon and Spanish lawyer Javier Cremades, who came to Caracas on Sunday to counsel Lopez's defense team. Gutierrez, when asked what connection the Spaniards' arrival in the Venezuelan capital might have with the suspension of the hearing, would only say "there have been wrongful charges, but aside from that there has been a systematic infringement of rights associated with due process." The attorney repeated his complaints about the case brought against Lopez, calling it "a legal process that should never occur in a system that calls itself democratic."

    "The Venezuelan justice system must face up to the world and proceed with absolute independence, autonomy and in an impartial manner," the attorney, who has headed Lopez's defense team for more than two years, said. According to Gutierrez, "with a simple reading of the charges against him, with a simple review of the evidence presented in the case, the Court of Appeals would have to hand down a sentence of not guilty." Lopez is serving a sentence based on charges of public incitement, association to commit crime, property damage and arson related to violent acts that left three dead in a protest march on Feb. 12, 2014. EFE

June  20, 2016


      WASHINGTON, D.C.--
The spokesman for the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Sergio Jellinek, said that the draft resolution submitted by the Venezuelan government against Luis Almagro was rejected due to lack of consensus as it was discussed by the general Committee.

    He added that "the Committee decision was that as a normal procedure, the country, in this case Venezuela, has the right to raise it (the draft resolution) again, in the Permanent Council, if so desire. But, again, there was no any kind of decision made". Jellinek criticized Venezuela head of State, Nicolas Maduro for what he said concerning the request presented against Luis Almagro for his call to activate the Democratic Charter in Venezuela. "The Venezuelan leadership shows signs of weakness and little decency in its inflammatory rhetoric," he said.

     This week, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, Delcy Rodríguez, had assured that a request made by the South American country during the General Assembly of the OAS, to start a process of revision of the "illegal performance against Almagro, was approved with 19 votes in favor…It seems that anyone who opposes the Government of Venezuela is listed as a traitor, which reminds us the old dictatorships in the Southern Cone", he added. Jellinek, also spoke about the recommendations made by Luis Almagro on the situation being actually experienced by the Venezuelan people. "The best thing is return to the people their rights to decide. He emphasized.


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA ---
The Apostolic Nuncio in Venezuela, Monsignor Aldo Giordano, said Saturday that the Church seeks a dialogue for peace in Venezuela to resolve the needs of the population. "The first concern is peace is how to avoid violence; How to serve when there are tensions, how to achieve reconciliation. If you have problems of food and medicines, the Pope wants to contribute to the people and the common good", said Giordano during his visit to the State Portuguese.

     "Then, we as a church, would not address political issues, but we are here to serve the people, and for the Pope, he is sitting down at the table to deal with specific problems." Giordamo also expressed his satisfaction to visit this Sanctuary that belongs to the sacred heart of Jesus parish, which was remodeled and where hundreds of parishioners gather to pray and listen to the words of God.

      "I also have the honor to bring a relic of San Juan Pablo II, a great father of the Church, a great universal pastor of the Church on this visit. My life is meeting with Juan Pablo II; it is an honor the fact that this community, this parish, the diocese can live through this relic and walk in communion with this great Pope who visited Guanare." Finally, the Bishop invited the young parishioners to join the various activities planned for the world youth day.


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA---
One of the facilities of Empresas Polar, Venezuela’s largest food company and the brewer of 80 percent of the country’s beer, was seized by an armed group on Sunday, the company said. “A group with firearms, we don’t know to which organization they belong or who they are, entered the facilities of the Polar Breweries in Catia and continue to remain inside,” a source from Polar, who requested anonymity, told EFE.

    Earlier, the company said on its Twitter account that some 80 people had broken into the company’s site in Catia, located west of Caracas, early Sunday, after the security guards were subdued. In another tweet the company said that its legal representatives have not been able to enter the site since “they are under the control of armed people.” Polar, which has already reported the incident to the Attorney General’s Office, said authorities had not yet reached the site to “restore order.”

     Production in the company’s four breweries has been suspended since April 29 because of a shortage of raw materials, due to a lack of hard currency the conglomerate had requested from the government to acquire materials. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s administration has threatened to take over companies that are not producing enough. On June 1, Polar announced it had acquired a loan to buy the raw materials needed to restart beer production and hoped to start operations during the first week of July.

June  19, 2016


      WASHINGTON, D.C.--
Fifteen Member Countries of the Organization of American States (OAS) reiterated their offer to Venezuela to identify, by common accord, a course of action that will assist the search for solutions to the situation through “open” and “inclusive” dialogue.

     In a communiqué signed in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where the OAS 46th General Assembly ended, the foreign ministers of Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay reaffirmed their commitment to the OAS Charter and the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

     They recalled that the Democratic Charter proclaims that “the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy, and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it,” and their commitment with the respect of the principle of non-interference, universal principles and values of democracy, human rights, and freedom of speech and association. “We encourage respect for the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela that enshrines, inter alia, the separation of powers, respect for the rule of law and democratic institutions, and (we) express our support for the fair and timely implementation of constitutional mechanisms.”


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA ---
Looting and violent protests are threatening President Nicolas Maduro's hold on power. “All it would take would be for the military to react violently to a protest, or just step back and let one go, and an epidemic of protests could emerge and grow out of control,” said David Smilde, senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights group. Maduro blames the looting on his opponents, who are promoting a referendum to recall him.

     Looting was reported throughout the country, including Caracas, where merchants refused to open their shops. A tense peace reigned Wednesday in Cumana — one of Venezuela’s poorest cities — following the arrival of hundreds of National Guardsmen and police. The city’s mayor decreed a three-day ban on all motorcycles, which are often used by looters to flee. More than 170 people were detained. Maduro sent a trusted aide, Freddy Bernal, the former mayor of the Libertador borough of Caracas, to the city to evaluate the situation. “The people, the PSUV (Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela) and the government are united to neutralize the fascists,” Bernal tweeted.

     National newspapers also reported that angry protesters Tuesday night torched the local headquarters of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela in the western city of Lagunillas, while attacking the city hall. The actions took place after promised deliveries of powdered milk never arrived, infuriating residents who had waited all day in line. Protests and looting has soared as Venezuela’s food crisis mounts. The Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, a human rights organization, said more than 10 cases of looting are erupting daily now. “The looting is going to continue because there’s hunger,” Roberto Briceno Leon, director of the organization, told the Associated Press. “The government’s response appears to be insufficient or politicized, so people are resorting to robbery.”


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA---
Another sign of deep trouble in Venezuela: Lufthansa, one of Europe’s largest airlines, said it  stopped flying to the country. The company announced Sunday that beginning June 17, it has suspended flights indefinitely to Venezuela, which is grappling with a daunting economic and humanitarian crisis. Andreas Bartles, a Lufthansa spokesperson, said there’s two reasons for the decision.

     First, there simply isn’t enough demand — particularly among business travelers — to fill flights. Second, the company is having trouble converting Venezuelan currency, which uses complicated multi-tiered exchange rates. Venezuela is heavily reliant on its massive oil reserves, and two years of stubbornly low oil prices have strangled the country’s economy. And fewer flights on Venezuelan runways is far from the country’s only problem.

    The economic crisis has spurred food rationing, medicine shortages, and mass unemployment. The International Monetary Fund expects unemployment to hit a staggering 21% next year. The government has ordered rolling blackouts to conserve power, and employees in the public sector are working only two days a week. The downward spiral has caused concern for many international companies. Last year, multiple air carriers — including U.S.-based Delt and American Airline as well as Air Canada and Europe-based Alitalia — made plans to reduce or suspend Venezuelan flights. Coca-Cola also recently announced that it is temporarily stopping.

June  18, 2016


      WASHINGTON, D.C.--
A group of Latin American ex-presidents comprising the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA) asked the Venezuelan government to set the conditions for a recall referendum in the country. A number of Latin American ex-presidents who initialed the statement of the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA) reiterated their concern “over the disruption of the constitutional and democratic order (in Venezuela) by the Executive Power and the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) when disregarding a National Assembly (AN) that has been legally entrusted with the people’s sovereignty.”

     The former Heads of State urged the Electoral Power to observe the Constitution and set the conditions for a recall vote against the mandate of President Nicolás Maduro this year, a move that may help give peaceful, democratic, constitutional and electoral solutions to the serious institutional, political and humanitarian crises facing the country. In this regard, they requested the government “to release political prisoners, guarantee the people’s right to take part democratically in referendums, and respect the decisions of the National Assembly.” Based on a report on Venezuela released by the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, and upon considering the terms of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the group additionally asked for the immediate meeting of the Permanent Council, with the participation of high representatives from both the Venezuelan government and the Congress.

     The document is signed, in addition to César Gaviria, former Secretary General of the OAS, by Oscar Arias (Costa Rica), José María Aznar (Spain), Nicolás Ardito Barletta (Panamá), Belisario Betancur (Colombia), Armando Calderón Sol (El Salvador), Felipe Calderón (México), Rafael Ángel Calderón (Costa Rica), Fernando H. Cardoso (Brazil), Laura Chinchilla (Costa Rica), Alfredo Cristiani (El Salvador), Eduardo Duhalde (Argentina), Fernando de la Rúa (Argentina), Sixto Durán Ballén (Ecuador), Vicente Fox (Mexico), Eduardo Frei (Chile), Lucio Gutiérrez (Ecuador), Osvaldo Hurtado L. (Ecuador), Luis Alberto Lacalle (Uruguay), Ricardo Lagos (Chile), Jorge Jamil Mahuad (Ecuador), Luis Alberto Monge (Costa Rica), Mireya Moscoso (Panamá), Andrés Pastrana (Colombia), Sebastián Piñera (Chile), Jorge Quiroga (Bolivia), Miguel Ángel Rodríguez (Costa Rica), Alejandro Toledo (Perú), Álvaro Uribe (Colombia) y Juan Carlos Wasmosy (Paraguay)


           BOGOTA, COLOMBIA ---
Argentinean President Mauricio Macri on Thursday said that a recall vote and new elections this year are the way for Venezuela to overcome the crisis it is currently facing. Macri, who arrived in Colombia late Thursday to participate in the World Economic Forum for Latin America, remarked during a press conference that “the situation facing the Venezuelan people may be solved should a vote be held this year so that they may choose again who leads the country. Recall vote and elections, that is the path,” Efe reported.

    The Argentinean leader further voiced deep concern over the country’s situation and availed himself of the opportunity to urge other nations to “express solidarity. Shifting his stance in the wake of international criticism, President Mauricio Macri hosted Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles at the Pink House yesterday, publicly demonstrating his support for an alternative government in Caracas. Capriles, a key leader in the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) opposition coalition and former presidential candidate, formally requested that Argentina support the coalition’s bid to oust embattled President Nicolás Maduro from office in a recall referendum, as the economic crisis continues to bite.

     Speaking after the meeting, Capriles said there had never been a change in Macri’s previously stated aim of invoking the so-called “democratic clause” in the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS), despite claims to the contrary and recent criticism from members of the MUD. The opposition leader asked the president push for “a democratic, peaceful and constitutional solution” to Venezuela’s ongoing crisis. “We ask for support for a recall referendum for this year, because there is no legal or technical reason it shouldn’t be this year,” Capriles said. “We want a constitutional solution in Venezuela, and in this we have asked Argentina for support, as we ask the rest of Latin America, our Latin American brothers, who are planted firmly in international bodies and who respect the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” the governor of Miranda province added.


           WASHINGTON, D.C.--
Prior to advancing the fiscal 2017 spending bill for financial services and general government, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted four separate amendments related to travel and trade with Cuba. Another amendment, also endorsed by voice vote, would allow international flights traveling to or from Cuba to refuel at Bangor Airport in Maine. Flights currently have to refuel in Canada instead of the U.S. because of restrictions mandated by the trade embargo on Cuba.

     “Reopening travel relations with Cuba is about more than just restoring the freedom to travel there for all Americans—it’s about opening Cuba to new ideas, new values, and improved human rights that our 50 year old policy of isolation could not achieve,” Durbin said in a statement. “While we have to be realistic about the prospects of this Congress fully lifting the embargo on Cuba, today’s committee votes were solid steps in the right direction.” The move comes just a week after the Department of Transportation announced it was authorizing six airlines to begin commercial flights to Cuba this fall. The Transportation and State Departments agreed to re-establish scheduled air service between the U.S. and Cuba as part of the administration’s push to normalize relations with the country.

     But tourists are still not eligible to fly to Cuba. Currently, travel is only permitted for family visits, official U.S. government business, foreign governments, journalistic activity, professional research, educational activities, religious activities, public performances, humanitarian projects and certain authorized export transactions. “The federal government shouldn't be in the business of policing Americans' vacation plans," said James Williams, president of Engage Cuba. "The travel ban is inconsistent with our values as a free society and I'm glad the Senate Appropriations Committee made it overwhelmingly clear they want that to change.” It would also allow American farmers to extend private financing for exporting agricultural commodities to Cuba. The panel also approved an amendment by voice vote that would permit consumer communication devices or telecommunications services to be exported to Cuba.

June  17, 2016


      WASHINGTON, D.C.--
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez slammed OAS chief Luis Almagro for the move against the country saying he "doesn't give orders" in Venezuela. The meeting was called after Argentina's mission to the OAS requested an extraordinary session to discuss the current issues facing the South American country—a move Caracas had slammed as “foreign intervention," especially after OAS head Luis Almagro published a 132-page document intended to justify the application of the bloc's Democratic Charter.

    The final declaration, a merger between separate proposals submitted by Argentina and Venezuela, highlighted the need for dialogue and backed mediation by the Union of South American Nations or UNASUR, while also affirming respect for Venezuela's sovereignty. The motion angered Venezuelan opposition, who took to social media to lash out at Argentina's backing of the declaration. "Argentina's position at the OAS session is a shame," opposition leader and National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup tweeted. "At least Cristina was not hypocritical," referring to former Argentine president and Venezuela ally Cristina Fernandez.

     On Tuesday, OAS general secretary Almagro issued a lengthy document which intended to initiate the Democratic Charter against Venezuela. If approved by two-thirds of the group's members, a state could be suspended from the bloc for breaking with democratic norms and rule of law. Almagro is the first head of the OAS to activate the charter against a member state against the will of its government, a step he takes based on Article 20, which authorizes the secretary-general or any member state to call for an immediate Permanent Council meeting. Currently, the Venezuelan government and opposition leaders continue UNASUR-sponsored talks facilitated by former presidents Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic and Martin Torrijos of Panama, along with former prime minister of Spain, Jose Luis Zapatero.


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA ---
Hungry Venezuelans escalated attacks on trucks carrying scarce food to the country’s largest cities Wednesday, a day after hundreds of protesters were arrested by security forces. Photos on social media showed looters attacking trucks on the highway that connects Venezuela’s main port of Puerto Cabello to the industrial city of Valencia. Others said that trucks ferrying food now can’t enter Cumana due to frequent attacks being carried out on the highways entering the city.

     Looting and violent protests are threatening President Nicolas Maduro's hold on power. “All it would take would be for the military to react violently to a protest, or just step back and let one go, and an epidemic of protests could emerge and grow out of control,” said David Smilde, senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights group. Maduro blames the looting on his opponents, who are promoting a referendum to recall him.Looting was reported throughout the country, including Caracas, where merchants refused to open their shops. A tense peace reigned Wednesday in Cumana — one of Venezuela’s poorest cities — following the arrival of hundreds of National Guardsmen and police.

    The city’s mayor decreed a three-day ban on all motorcycles, which are often used by looters to flee. More than 170 people were detained. Maduro sent a trusted aide, Freddy Bernal, the former mayor of the Libertador borough of Caracas, to the city to evaluate the situation. “The people, the PSUV (Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela) and the government are united to neutralize the fascists,” Bernal tweeted. National newspapers also reported that angry protesters Tuesday night torched the local headquarters of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela in the western city of Lagunillas, while attacking the city hall. The actions took place after promised deliveries of powdered milk never arrived, infuriating residents who had waited all day in line.


An Argentine former secretary of Public Works with the Cristina Fernandez administration, Jose Lopez, and currently a member of the Mercosur parliament, was arrested on Tuesday in the Buenos Aires province locality of General Rodríguez while he was trying to hide bags full of money and an automatic gun in the garden of a convent. Lopez was carrying between US$5-8 million and trying to hide them in a patio of the convent that is located in the San Carlos neighborhood. Furthermore, luxury watches and Euros were reportedly also inside the several bags and suitcases, and an automatic gun, he was apparently trying to hide.

    Lopez has been under investigation in reference to alleged illegal enrichment charges dating back to 2008, but he was arrested for possession of a war weapon. Lopez was considered the right hand man of De Vido, ex head of Federal Planning and who has worked with the Kirchners since they rules Santa Cruz province. The ex-Kirchnerite official, considered the right/hand man of ex Federal Planning minister Julio De Vido was caught by the police after neighbors and a nun of the Fatima monastery warned authorities about the presence of a man throwing bags over a dividing line of bushes.

    The Parlasur lawmaker was arrested and taken to a police station of General Rodríguez following orders by Prosecutor Alejandra Rodríguez. Likewise Federal Judge Daniel Rafecas ordered Lopez formal arrest who is under investigation in reference to alleged illegal enrichment charges dating back to 2008. The reason for the formal arrest was possession of a war weapon, a Sig Saguer rifle, loaded with 25 cartridges. “We found 160 bundles of cash, 108 of dollars, and some of them still thermo-sealed with the stamps from China's central bank”, revealed Cristian Ritondo, head of Buenos Aires province security. Ritondo said Lopez tried to bribe the police officers and went into shock when they did not accept, and later suffered a deep depression.

June  16, 2016


United States Secretary of State John Kerry announced high-level talks to ease tensions with Venezuela's populist government on Tuesday, just hours after he backed calls for a referendum that could force President Nicolas Maduro from office. Kerry said the talks would start immediately in Caracas and be led by Thomas Shannon, a veteran of U.S. diplomacy in the region. Attempts last year at dialogue between the ideological foes were stalled by Venezuela's deepening crisis. Kerry said the talks would start immediately in Caracas and be led by Thomas Shannon, a veteran of U.S. diplomacy in the region.

     The two countries have been embroiled in diplomatic hostilities since the administrations of President Hugo Chavez and President George W. Bush. “I've committed to see if this can work so let's see if we can improve the relationship,” Kerry told reporters after meeting with counterpart Delcy Rodriguez. “I've committed to see if this can work so let's see if we can improve the relationship,” he told reporters, after huddling with his Venezuelan counterpart on the sidelines of an Organization of American States (OAS) meeting in the Dominican Republic. The talks would also be aimed at fostering dialogue between Venezuela's government and opposition, Kerry said.

      Maduro welcomed the proposed talks and repeated his suggestion that the two sides restore ambassadors in each other's capitals after an eight-year hiatus that began when Chavez expelled the U.S. envoy to Venezuela. “I propose to John Kerry 'let's designate ambassadors', I am ready. They have ambassadors in Beijing, Vietnam and Havana, and they don't have one in Caracas,” he said in a speech to teachers. Maduro proposed an ambassador in 2014 but U.S. President Barack Obama has not yet accepted his credentials. Earlier in the day, in a speech to OAS delegates, Kerry gave his backing to the referendum push and called on Chavez's political heirs to release political prisoners and respect fundamental rights. His comments to the 34 members of the main diplomatic body of the Americas marked the strongest show of support yet from the United States for the disputed referendum process.


           ASUNCION, PARAGUAY ---
Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles on Monday asked Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes for the support of his administration and regional organizations, such as Mercosur, in resolving the crisis in Venezuela.

     Capriles, who met with Cartes at the presidential residence in Asuncion, warned that social upheaval in Venezuela would have an impact across the region. In a press conference after his meeting with Cartes, Capriles backed Paraguay's proposal for a meeting of foreign ministers from the Mercosur member countries to discuss the situation in Venezuela. Mercosur, the Union of South American Nations, or UNASUR, and countries in the region "should stand firm in demanding respect for the constitution in Venezuela" and not allowing President Nicolas Maduro "to remain out of the constitutional framework," the opposition leader said.

     "May God prevent (social) upheaval in Venezuela, and may God wish that we find a solution. But, if there is social upheaval in my country, if there is a coup in my country, dear brothers in Paraguay, that will have an impact on the whole region," Capriles said. Paraguay is one of the Organization of American States members supporting Secretary-General Luis Almagro's decision to implement the Inter-American Democratic Charter's provisions in dealing with the political conflict in Venezuela. The Paraguayan government called earlier for a meeting of foreign ministers from Mercosur, a trade bloc formed by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, to discuss the Venezuelan crisis under the group's commitment to democracy, known as the Ushuaia Protocol.


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA-- 
supporters of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez -- today took legal action against the opposition, accusing it of submitting more than 600,000 fraudulent signatures to trigger the referendum to oust the current president Nicolas Maduro. The panel appointed by Maduro to verify signatures for the recall filed a complaint before the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ), an institution which the opposition accuses of favoring the ruling party after it was stacked by the government with supporters.

     The head of the Chavista panel, the Mayor of Caracas' Libertador Municipality, Jorge Rodriguez, said he had filed a complaint to prevent "a brutal fraud to authorize (the opposition) to proceed to the next stage." According to the National Electoral Council (CNE), these 600,000 signatures "did not comply with the required criteria," although the opposition, united in the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), claims that there was an indiscriminate annulment of signatures, which even included the one of opposition leader Henrique Capriles, main promoter of the referendum. However, the president of the Electoral National Council (CNE) Tibisay Lucena, announced last Friday that after the purification of the signatures delivered by the MUD, it will go to a new stage for validation 1.352.052 signatures.

      Signatures of other political leaders and dozens of people gathered in Caracas Sunday were also disqualified while others whose signatures were approved will have to have their fingerprints checked for authenticity from June 20 onwards, a step supposedly necessary prior to the next stage for the recall. With this new phase, the process established in the Venezuelan Constitution to formally activate a recall would effectively begin. It states that 20 percent of all Venezuelans registered on the electoral roll, or about four million people, must support this referendum. With the lawsuit filed today and with other actions which it announced that it will take, the Chavismo seeks to paralyze the petition campaign to achieve these 20 percent of the voters. The opposition needs only 200,000 signatures to activate the recall referendum.

June  15, 2016


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday backed calls for a referendum in crisis-hit Venezuela that could force socialist President Nicolas Maduro from office, drawing charges of "international bullying" from the OPEC nation. Venezuela is suffering a protracted economic slowdown, with long lines for food and medicines and soaring prices, leading to protests and opposition calls for a recall referendum to remove Maduro, a measure allowed under the constitution. In his opening speech to a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) in the Dominican Republic, Kerry called for dialogue and said Washington was strongly committed to working to address Venezuela's "deeply troubling" situation.

     In a reference to the referendum push, Kerry called on the political heirs of Venezuela's former President Hugo Chavez to respect people's right to constitutional mechanisms to express their will, throwing Washington's weight behind OAS chief Luis Almagro's unvarnished criticism of Maduro. "The United States joins with Secretary General Almagro and others in the international community in calling on the Venezuelan government to release political prisoners, respect freedom of expression and assembly, alleviate shortages of food and medicine, and honor its own constitutional mechanisms, including a fair and timely recall referendum,” Kerry said.

     His comments to the 34 members of the main diplomatic body of the Americas marked the strongest show of support yet from the United States for the disputed referendum process. Venezuela’s opposition accuses the election council of stalling the recall at the behest of Maduro by arbitrarily changing criteria for requesting a recall vote. Maduro has said any recall against him would be in 2017 at the earliest, pushing back against opposition pressure. Several opposition politicians are in jail, notably hardline leader Leopoldo Lopez, who has a 14-year sentence for inciting 2014 anti-government protests that spiraled into violence killing more than 40 people. The government denies it holds political prisoners.


Venezuelan Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Bernardo Álvarez, on Tuesday denounced that members of the opposition coalition insist on “encouraging a meddling plan against the sovereignty and democratic legitimacy” in the country.

     During an interview with state-owned TV channel Venezolana de Televisión (VTV) from Dominican Republic, where the 46th OAS General Assembly will be held, Álvarez said that even though the meeting was convened to tackle the issue of sustainable development, a document that has been circulated tries to resume the meddling initiative of the body’s Secretary General Luis Almagro.

     In this regard, the ambassador termed “unacceptable” this move that, in his words, has been unanimously “deplored” by all Caribbean nations, state-run news agency AVN reported. Álvarez further added that this move began to brew up one year ago as part of a political and media campaign against Venezuela, with Almagro playing the leading role and whose clear and only goal is the political and foreign intervention in the country. The diplomat rejected the intention of requesting international support to give Venezuela “humanitarian aid,” for in his view such move ultimately aims at intervening in the country.


           WASHINGTON, D.C.--- 
The 34 member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) to discuss the application of the Democratic Charter to Venezuela at an extraordinary session convened Friday to June 23, according to the official communication sent to the missions to which he had access Efe. The session requested last May 31 Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, invoking the Democratic Charter, a legal instrument that can lead to diplomatic or suspension of Venezuela's body and which aims to increase the pressure on Nicolas Maduro's government to release political prisoners and agree to convene a recall referendum this year.

      Almagro wanted this meeting was made "as soon as possible" within a period of between 10 and 20 June, dates overlap with the annual General Assembly of the organization, which will bring together foreign ministers in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) between 13 and 15 June. In his official Twitter account, Almagro wrote on Friday: "Satisfaction with the presidency of the Council fixing date. Our confidence in discussions and decisions emanating from the special session ". The session was convened by the presidency of the Permanent Council, which holds Argentina, and she Almagro present the 132-page report with argued that its invocation of Article 20 of the Charter.

     In that report the Secretary General of the OAS denounced the "continuing violations of the Constitution in Venezuela", "human rights violations" and "the lack of response to the grave humanitarian crisis." They must rule on a question avoided by the OAS for years The 34 Member States should decide on a matter that the OAS has avoided for years and vote on whether, as Almagro, consider that in Venezuela "there is an alteration of the constitutional order that affects the democratic order." If most countries, 18 believe that that is the case, the Council may adopt various measures, including diplomatic efforts to "promote the normalization of democratic institutions."

June  14, 2016


      Wahington, d.c.--
The Islamic State (ISIS) is taking credit for an "Islamic State fighter" lodging Sunday morning's deadly attack at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, according to an ISIS-run news agency, but meanwhile, Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson warned that there is still much investigation ahead. The Amaq news agency reported the alleged ISIS link Sunday afternoon,reports Reuters, claiming that "The armed attack that targeted a gay nightclub in the city of Orlando in the American state of Florida which left 50 people dead and 53 injured was carried out by an “Islamic State fighter.”

     Nelson told reporters that "there are several FBI agents in St. Lucie County now," Nelson told reporters Sunday afternoon, referring to the location where suspected shooter Omar Mateen, the New York-born son of two immigrants from Afghanistan had been living in Port. St. Lucie. The FBI is appealing to people who may have known Mateen to be in contact with them, said Nelson, warning of the dangers of a "lone wolf" attacker. "It's difficult to stop a lone wolf because it's hard to get the information ahead of time," said Nelson, "but in this case, if we're getting those kind of statements from the news agency of the Islamic State, we'll have to see what those connections are once we get the details."

     Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, speaking after Nelson, said that officials are still learning all the facts, but "we know that there's hate in the world. We know that some of it is inspired by a warped ideology. We know we've been in conflict with it for a long time…. In Florida we stand for and with all Americans irrespective of their sexual orientation or their party. We are all Americans," Federal law enforcement officials say the gunman was Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old American citizen living in Port St. Lucie, Fla. He was killed at the scene in a shootout with police. He was reportedly armed with an AR-15-style assault rifle and a handgun. News networks reported Mateen phoned 911 moments before the shooting to pledge allegiance to ISIS. It remains unclear if the planning and execution of the attack were directly linked to foreign terrorist groups. President Obama Sunday called the shooting an "act of terror" but didn't place blame on the terror group.


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA ---
Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles said on Sunday that socialist President Nicolas Maduro would be removed from office this year and insisted that government opponents had gathered the quantity of signatures – 1 percent of the voting population – needed for the first phase of the recall referendum process. Maduro “will be recalled this year, period,” the two-time presidential candidate said at a political rally in Caracas a day after the president used similar language to say no referendum on his tenure would be held in 2016.

     Capriles also slammed the National Electoral Council, or CNE, for declaring more than 600,000 signatures invalid, saying it was clear – based on its big victory in last December’s legislative elections – that the opposition “obviously has the 1 percent of signatures,” roughly 200,000, needed at this stage of the process. The MUD opposition coalition presented more than 1.9 million signatures, or far more than the required amount, on May 2.The CNE struck 605,727 of them off the list for not complying with the “required criteria,” while the remaining 1,352,052 signatories must go to an electoral office to prove their identity via fingerprinting over a five-day period starting June 20. If the required number of signatures are validated, then the process will move to a second stage in which the opposition must collect – over a period of three days – the signatures of at least 20 percent of the electorate. “These are procedures ... to demoralize, to put up obstacles.

     A person who was strong in power would subject himself to a popular vote,” Capriles said, adding that the ruling out of large numbers of signatures, including those of opposition leaders, “shows how afraid Maduro and his government are of the people’s voice.” Maduro’s opponents are seeking to force a recall referendum before Jan. 10, 2017, because in that case, if the president were to be voted out, a snap election would be held that could bring the opposition to power shortly afterward. But if the referendum is held after that date, then even if Maduro loses he would be replaced by his vice president, Aristobulo Isturiz, who would serve out the remaining two years of his term. The drive to recall Maduro comes amid escalating tensions in the South American nation, which is in a severe economic crisis and facing sky-high inflation and food, medicine and electricity shortages.


Venezuela opposition Governor Henrique Capriles traveled to Paraguay Monday on a regional tour to rally support as he pushes for a recall referendum to be held on President Nicolas Maduro this year. “We came here to ask that Mercosur and Unasur demand that Maduro respect the constitution,” Capriles said in an emailed statement. “The solution to the social crisis that we are living in Venezuela has to be electoral, a consultation of the people. Maduro’s government has put up thousands of obstacles to the referendum, and our America has to know that.”

      Capriles who traveled later to Argentina met with President Mauricio Macri in the Casa Rosada before he heads to Brazil, Andrea Baute, a press spokeswoman, said in a telephone interview. In Paraguay, Capriles met with President Horacio Cartes. Venezuela’s opposition has accused the government of trying to delay the referendum into next year, which would allow the vice president to take over if Maduro is recalled instead of holding fresh elections. Maduro said on Saturday that his government would sue the opposition for delivering what it said were 605,000 invalid signatures as part of its petition drive to call for the recall vote and swore that any vote would only be held next year if it happens at all.

     As an additional hurdle confronting the recall drive, the National Electoral Council on Friday said that 1.35 million petition signers whose signatures were verified by the electoral council would have to validate their signatures in person in their respective state capitals between June 20 and 24.
Capriles on Sunday called for Venezuelans to rally on Thursday to protest the excluded signatures. Last week, he criticized the electoral council’s decision to make the database of those who signed available online for anyone to search, saying the publication was a human rights violation and similar to the so-called Tascon List that was published by the government in 2004 and allegedly used to discriminate against millions of Venezuelans who had petitioned for a recall vote on former President Hugo Chavez. “We know who signed and who did not,”  

June  13, 2016


      Wahington, d.c.--
United States President Barack Obama has labeled the deadly shooting attack at a Florida gay nightclub an "act of terror," in his first speech following the massacre Sunday. 50 people were murdered and at least 53 others injured in the shooting spree at the Pulse Club in Orlando.

    The attack was carried out by American-Muslim terrorist Omar Mateen, who according to reports pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group. He was shot dead by police offers who stormed the club after a brief hostage situation. "We know enough to say this was an act of terror and an act of hate," Obama said in a statement from the White House briefing room. "The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terror. We will go wherever the facts lead us ... What is clear is he was a person filled with hatred."

     "This is an especially heartbreaking day for our friends who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender," he added. Vice President Joe Biden also reacted to the attack, and "offered his prayers for all those killed and injured in the shooting and sends his condolences to all the families and loved ones of the victims," according to a statement from his office. World leaders including Israeli PM Netanyahu have also lined up to offer their condolences and condemnation. The attack was the worst gun massacre in American history


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA ---
Venezuela's embattled President Nicolas Maduro vowed no referendum on ending his term would be held until next year, amid mounting pressure as the country teeters on the brink of economic collapse. Maduro's opponents are racing to call a referendum before January 10, as a successful recall vote before that deadline would trigger new elections rather than transfer power to the vice president. If the opposition meets all requirements with their bid to oust him, "the recall referendum will be held next year. Period," the elected leftist populist said. For months now, Maduro has faced increasing hostility, with opponents accusing him of driving oil-rich Venezuela to near economic demise and launching a marathon process to call a vote on ousting him from office.

     Maduro's comments came after the National Electoral Board (CNE) announced it would take fingerprint scans from June 20 to 24 to confirm the identity of 1.3 million people who signed the opposition's referendum petition. The South American country's state-led economy has seen its situation veer from bad to desperate, with long lines for basic items such as rice or corn meal, looting and black marketeering now everyday scenes. Seven in 10 Venezuelans want Maduro to go, according to polls. "We must respect whatever the electoral authorities" decide, Maduro said at a pro-government event in Caracas.

     Opposition members have said that they want the vote to be held in October or November 2016. But the president insisted that they missed their chance. "If they had wanted to seek a referendum this year, they would have to have requested it by January 11 of this year, for them to have had enough time, if all legal requirements were met," Maduro said. The referendum petition was submitted early last month. Maduro said Saturday the government would be suing to have the referendum request itself revoked, filing such a measure at the Supreme Court on Monday. He maintained that fraud was committed, claiming that the rolls of signatures included 11,000 dead people and 2,000 convicts. Once 1.3 million signatures are verified, the opposition would have to gather four million more over the course of three days to trigger a recall vote.


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA--- 
President Nicolás Maduro announced last week the creation of the Local Committees for Supply and Production (CLAP), groups of Socialist Party members who will be in charge of controlling food supplies, preventing black market sales, and door to door distributions of food. Maduro has called these groups the “great instrument of the Revolution to win the economic war,” Argentine news outlet Infobae notes. Venezuelans are currently forced to buy food through a rations system that forces them to stand on supermarket lines up to eight hours long. Often citizens find out — after they have made their way through the lines — that the supermarket in question has run out of basic goods like rice, vegetable oil, and milk.

    Distributing bags of food door to door, the government hopes, will diminish the length of these lines. The bags are meant to last 21 days, according to the government but carry only 3 kilos of rice, a kilo each of sugar and milk, a bag of beans and a liter of oil. In addition to distributing these bags of food, the CLAPs are held responsible for,according to Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional, “knowing how much merchandise exists in each point of sale [market], knowing the distribution routes to identify methods to circulate goods and transport them, keeping a balance of the amount of merchandise and if it was subsidized by state dollars, among others.” Thus, in addition to distributing food as they see fit, the CLAPs are responsible for keeping track of all food in any given area and for ensuring no one the government has not authorized receives food.

     Controlling food supplies has become increasingly important to the Venezuelan government as riots become more and more common. Last week, in the heart of Caracas, hungry patrons of a local market rioted after seeing a shipment of rice enter the market and almost immediately being told the food had been redistributed to the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB), the troops typically responsible for attacking peaceful anti-government protests. Chanting “we want food,” a crowd of hundreds began to march towards the presidential palace, halted only by the GNB using tear gas and violent Chavista gangs known as “colectivos” attacking both protesters and journalists. Chavista socialist leaders have insisted that the riots make the CLAP distribution method necessary, though they have also assured Venezuelans that the groups are “an emergency measure, not intended to be the structural solution to the problem.”

June  12, 2016


In a decision that accentuates the infighting among chavits, the Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro ordered the arrest of major general Cliver Alcalá and former Governor of Merida Florencio Porras, two key men of the military wing that publicly accused the regime of abandoning the legacy of the late Hugo Chávez. The order, which emphasizes the confrontation between the military segment and the Marxist sector, occurs when the Governor of the State of Aragua, Tarek El Aissami, struggles to wrest control of the National Guard from the Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino Lopez, who no longer seems to have the confidence of Maduro.

    El Aissami, one of the principal chiefs of the Marxist wing, who is being investigated in the United States for his alleged involvement in drug trafficking and his ties to Middle East terrorist organizations, currently exercises control over the same paramilitary groups that attacked the members of the National Assembly last Thursday. El Aissami also exercises control of the current repression operations being carried out by the National Guard through the influence he exerts over the General Commander of the military sector, general Néstor Reverol, who also faces charges for narco-trafficking in the United States.

     It seems that the militaries involved in the trafficking of drugs are now in charge of the brutal repression being carried out in Venezuela," said a source who spoke on condition of anonymity. "This is people who are willing to do anything to keep Maduro in power because they cannot afford the luxury that the Government falls, because they fully realize that they would have no tomorrow if that happens." According to a source who maintains fluid contact with the armed forces, El Aissami along with Maduro were those who agreed to order the arrests of Alcalá and Porras, but the execution of the order has been resisted within the army. "The people of the army which received the order refused to comply with it. They said that the only way the arrest order could be executed is if the Minister of Defense, general Vladimir Padrino López assumes the responsibility. However, Padrino doesn’t want to give the order. It seems there are very strong internal problems within the army."


           Wahington, d.c. ---
The United States is deeply disturbed by reports that National Assembly Majority Leader Julio Borges and other opposition deputies were turned away from the National Electoral Council by police, and then subsequently attacked by a group of armed by supporters of the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela party while returning to their offices. The United States condemns acts of violence designed to intimidate citizens exercising their democratic rights. We call on Venezuelan government security forces to maintain order in a manner consistent with international law and international commitments regarding human and civil rights.

     The spokesman for the State Department, John Kirby, said in a statement that the United States is "deeply affected" by those acts "The United Staates condemned those acts of violence aimed at intimidating citizens who are exercising their democratic rights," the spokesman stressed. He added that Washington calls on the Venezuelan Government security forces to maintain order in a manner consistent with international law and the international commitments concerning human and civilian rights."

    Members of the National Assembly, including a top leader of the opposition in the Parliament, Julio Borges, were assaulted during a protest outside the headquarters of the Electoral National Council (CNE) to demand that the Agency begin the process of validation of more than 1.3 million signatures of those who support the call for a referendum to revoke the mandate of President Maduro. Borges finished with a wound in the face after the violent blows he received from the so-called supporters of chavism when he headed the Group of some sixty parliamentarians that went with him to the headquarters of the CNE.


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA--- 
Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski criticized Executive Power’s contradictions and aggressions against the government’s political opponents. “Talks are impossible amid the permanent confrontation encouraged by the (Venezuelan) government; despite that, the (opposition umbrella group) Unified Democratic Panel (MUD) will continue struggling for the holding of the recall vote against (the mandate of President) Nicolás Maduro,”

     “The crisis Venezuela is living won’t be solved with Maduro in office, with this system in place,” the opposition leader and former presidential candidate continuously say. Last week Mr Capriles defied a state of emergency decree from Mr Maduro and joined the latest bout of anti-government demonstrations, which flared in to a violent confrontation with the police and national guard. After he narrowly lost a disputed election to Mr Maduro three years ago, and following deadly protests that rocked the country in 2014, the moderate Mr Capriles lost ground to the fiery opposition leader Leopoldo López, who is now in prison after urging frustrated Venezuelans to take to the streets.A

    As the recall referendum to remove Mr Maduro advocated by Mr Capriles gains ground, analysts say the two opposition leaders are tied in popularity. “He is back in the game, and very much so. His bet is paying off,” said Luis Vicente León, a leading pollster. “Capriles took the more realistic avenue, the best of the options: to make people sign, then vote, and finally press for their rights.” said León. “But with repression here it’s tricky. If the opposition doesn’t apply pressure, there won’t be a recall vote, if it pressures too much and things blow, there won’t be one either.”

June  11, 2016


       LIMA, PERU--
Former World Bank economist Pedro Pablo Kuczynski won the majority of votes in Peru’s closest presidential contest in five decades, election officials announced Thursday, even as his rival Keiko Fujimori has yet to concede defeat. Four days after voting, electoral officials said that all ballots had been processed and Kuczynski had won 50.1 percent compared to 49.9 percent for the daughter of imprisoned ex-President Alberto Fujimori. Supporters immediately celebrated outside Kuczynski’s campaign headquarters while the apparent president-elect made a plea to his opponent and other rival political forces for dialogue.

     “We receive this virtual verdict with great humility because Peru has huge challenges ahead of it,” Kuczynski told reporters in his first remarks after the tally was known. “We shouldn’t confuse dialogue with weakness. We’re going to be decisive but we’re going to work on behalf of all Peru because many Peruvians feel the train has left them behind and we want everyone to get on board.” Even as messages of congratulations poured in from presidents around Latin America, Fujimori’s campaign seemed in no rush to recognize defeat. After electoral authorities presented their results Thursday, she left her campaign headquarters, where she was holed up in meetings all day, and returned to her home without making any remarks to the throngs of journalists waiting outside.

    Aides say she is waiting for the National Electoral Board, the nation’s top electoral authority and which sits above the election officials who made Thursday’s announcement, to proclaim a winner before conceding. Fujimori’s last hope is some 173 handwritten tallies — representing as many as 50,000 votes — that were sent to the board for review. Among the irregularities detected by Fujimori’s campaign were counting more ballots than actual voters at certain polling stations, and allegations that volunteers from Kuczynski’s campaign worked at multiple polling stations in violation of electoral law. Still, experts say it’s almost impossible for Fujimori to make up the roughly 40,000 vote difference to overtake Kuczynski.


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA ---
President of the Electoral National Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena, announced Friday that after the purification of the signatures delivered by the MUD, it will go to a new stage for validation 1.352.052 signatures. At a press Conference from the CNE headquarters, Lucena confirmed that the new phase for this validation process will take place between 20 and 24 June during office hours and that the 26th of this month will end this stage of validation.

    Lucena warned that any aggression or alteration that generates violence, will lead to immediate suspension of the validation process until peace is restored. Therefore, she demanded respect for the integrity of the officials and the regional headquarters of the Electoral power. Also, she said that the process for the review of the signatures was complex and careful, it featured the participation of 573 officials and double sessions to accomplish this phase. The Democratic Unity Roundtable, or MUD, opposition coalition in late April delivered more than 1.8 million signatures to the CNE, with the goal of initiating a recall referendum seeking to remove Maduro from power in 2016. The CNE required less than 200,000 signatures to be delivered.

    501-94 in favor of a resolution calling for the Venezuelan government to respect the "legal mechanisms recognized in the constitution" that seek to recall Maduro. The Parliament expressed "grave concern" over the "deteriorating situation in Venezuela" in relation to human rights, the quality of democracy, and economic and social issues. The European bloc also warned against "blocking" the constitution and the "use of the executive powers of the state to control the [Supreme Tribunal of Justice] and the National Electoral Council" as to prevent "the application of the laws of the initiatives adopted by the National Assembly."


           BRASILIA, BRAZIL--- 
Brazil and Paraguay foreign ministers Jose Serra and Eladio Loizaga expressed “deep concern” with the Venezuela crisis situation, particularly the “economic and human rights continued deterioration”, and reiterated their two countries willingness to cooperate and promote dialogue. Paraguay's Loizaga held his first round of talks with Serra, after having been received by Brazilian interim president Michel Temer. “We reviewed the regional agenda, and shared our concern over the continued economic deterioration and of human rights in Venezuela”, Serra told the media, next to Loizaga, following a meeting in Brasilia, but which did not accept questions.

    Paraguay's Loizaga held his first round of talks with Serra, after having been received by Brazilian interim president Michel Temer. “Both our countries are willing to cooperate in the search for a solution and dialogue between the government of president Nicolas Maduro and the opposition, always in the framework of democratic institutions and practices”, underlined minister Serra. The Brazilian official was particularly concerned about the very serious scarcity of medicines and pharmaceutical products in Venezuela, and ratified Brazil is in a position to donate medicines produced in government laboratories, “as long as this is done and distributed through international humanitarian organizations.”

     “We agree it is necessary to help the Venezuelan people” said Loizaga, and underlined that both Brazil and Paraguay are “fully committed to the rule of the law and respect for human rights”. Both ministers also expressed their confidence that Mercosur will be able to reach a “balanced” trade agreement with the European Union, following the recent exchange of proposals between the two blocks. “We are going to double efforts to reach a balanced accord with the EU”, said Serra, adding that this can only be possible “if there is the correct reciprocity” a necessary condition for any agreement on trade. However nothing was advanced regarding the Mercosur chair, which will be changing hands, from Uruguay to Venezuela next July, supported by Argentina and Uruguay, but strongly questioned y Paraguay and Brazil.

June  10, 2016


Venezuelan opposition lawmakers said they were attacked by pro-government groups during a protest at the electoral board headquarters on Thursday to demand a recall referendum against President Nicolas Maduro. The incident came amid rising tension in Venezuela, where a deep economic crisis is fueling increasing protests over chronic shortages of food and other goods, as well as organized marches to demand Maduro's departure. Lawmakers tweeted photos of National Assembly majority leader Julio Borges with blood dripping from his nose and mouth and spilling down onto his shirt and suit jacket.

      "Several lawmakers were attacked, the National Guard did nothing to defend us," said opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido on Twitter. The group of opposition deputies was trying to get into the elections council headquarters to demand the agency speed up the process of verifying signatures of people seeking the recall referendum. Venezuela's Supreme Court has blocked protests near the council offices, saying it is concerned about security after violence at some recent opposition demonstrations.

         Ruling Socialist Party officials say there is not time this year to organize the referendum, under the complicated procedures for such a vote. They say the opposition should have begun its drive in January rather than April, and say thousands of fraudulent signatures of dead people were included in an initial collection. The opposition says a compliant election board, staffed mainly by Maduro loyalists, is deliberately dragging its feet on verifying signatures. The timing is important: if Maduro lost the vote and left office this year, a new presidential election would be held, but if he departed in 2017, his vice president would take over. That would guarantee continuity for the ruling "Chavismo" movement - named for Maduro's late predecessor Hugo Chavez - for two more years.


           WASHINGTON, D.C. ---
Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) Luis Almagro met Wednesday with four Democrats and Republican US Senators who support his initiative to enforce the Democratic Charter in Venezuela. Senators (Dick) Durbin, Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson and Tom Udall express support for my initiative on Venezuela," Almagro wrote via Twitter. Also, Senator and former candidate for the Republican primaries Marco Rubio informed about the meeting by posting a photograph via Twitter, Efe reported.

     "I was impressed by Almagro’s determination and fair leadership to help the people of Venezuela find a peaceful solution to the deeply alarming and undemocratic events that have pushed this nation to the edge of economic and political collapse," said Durbin in a statement. The meeting of the OAS secretary general with US Senators comes when he is about to travel to Santo Domingo for the Annual General Assembly of the regional body, with the participation of the 34 foreign ministers of all Member States.

    Although not part of the official agenda of the meeting, the debate on the implementation of the Democratic Charter against Venezuela will be the key issue to be discussed, either in public or in private meetings. At the moment, only Paraguay has voiced support for Almagro’s unprecedented step, for this is the first time in OAS history that the Democratic Charter is enforced against a Member State against the will of its government. The Democratic Charter, adopted unanimously in Lima in 2001, is a legal instrument of the OAS to ensure democracy in its Member States.


           WASHINGTON, D.C. --- 
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) expressed their support for Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), who last week called for a special session of the Permanent Council that may lead to the suspension of Venezuela’s Maduro regime from the OAS for violating the organization’s rules making democratic governance a requirement for participation.

     “Eight years have passed since HRF first asked the OAS to activate the democracy clause not only in countries where a coup d’état had occurred, as in Micheletti’s Honduras, but in those where executive branches had torpedoed democratic institutions from within, as in Hugo Ch‎ávez’s Venezuela, Evo Morales’s ‪‎Bolivia, Rafael Correa’s Ecuador, and Daniel Ortega’s ‪‎Nicaragua,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. “We are thankful that the new Secretary General has listened to HRF and to millions of Latin Americans who are tired of the international community turning a blind eye to the abuses of power by authoritarian regimes in the continent,” said Halvorssen.

     Last week, Almagro sent a 132-page report to the OAS Permanent Council, documenting the gradual, sustained, and systematic erosion of the essential elements of democracy in Venezuela. Based on Article 20 of the IADC, Almagro requested “the immediate convocation of the Permanent Council to undertake a collective assessment of the situation” and send a high-level diplomatic mission to the country. Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro responded by asking Almagro to “take your democratic charter . . . put it in a skinny little tube and shove it wherever fits you best.” “By standing for democracy despite the degrading insults and bullying, Mr. Almagro is reviving the OAS's main mission and securing his place among courageous democrats like Rómulo Betancourt in the hemisphere’s history books,” Halvorssen concluded.

June  9, 2016


The information was provided by Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles, who added that Luis Emilio Rondón was the only electoral authority that took part in a meeting on Tuesday with the Venezuelan opposition

     Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles on Tuesday said that the National Electoral Council (CNE) held a meeting with representatives of the opposition umbrella group Unified Democratic Panel (MUD), with the former announcing that over 1,300,000 signatures for a recall vote against the mandate of President Nicolás Maduro were counted. “Despite the fact that we delivered 2,000,000 signatures, the CNE rejected 600,000. However, we still have seven times more signatures than necessary, and that is why they (electoral authorities) had no option but to accept them.

     Tomorrow (Wednesday June 8, 2016), they should elaborate on the validation phase.” The opposition leader further said that only CNE director Luis Emilio Rondón attended the meeting on Tuesday. He added that the likely date for the signatures verification would be from June 15 to 21. Yet, the governor noted that such information must be provided by the Electoral Power on Wednesday. Opposition: Over 1.3 million valid signatures for recall voteCapriles warned that should the announcement not be made, the opposition on Wednesday would reach once again the CNE headquarters, downtown Caracas, as a means of protest.


           BRUSSELS, BELGIUM ---
Venezuela’s government should release all political prisoners immediately and respect the constitution, including the procedures that may lead to the impeachment of the country´s President, urged the European Parliament on Wednesday. In a resolution passed by 501 votes, to 94 against with 73 abstentions, MEPs backed mediation efforts by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) to launch a national dialogue between Venezuela’s government and opposition. MEPSs stress that about 2,000 people Venezuela are in prison, under home arrest or on probation for political reasons, including political leaders such as Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma and Daniel Ceballos and that the rule of law and separation of powers are not duly respected in the country.

    They express “grave concern” at serious deteriorations in democracy, human rights, the economy and society. The text underlines that Venezuela faces a “serious humanitarian crisis” due to shortages of food and medicine, and that the government is preventing the entry of humanitarian aid into the country, and boycotting various international initiatives to assist civil society. It also points to the economic crisis, which it attributes to inefficient governance, and to high crime rates due to complete impunity. “A solution to the crisis can only be found through dialogue with all levels of government, democratic opposition and society”, says Parliament, welcoming the UNASUR mediation efforts led by former Prime Minister of Spain José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, former President of the Dominican Republic Leonel Fernández and former President of Panama Martín Torrijos.

      MEPs call upon President Nicolás Maduro to undertake urgent economic reforms in cooperation with the National Assembly – controlled by the opposition Mesa de la Unidad Democrática – in order to overcome the current crisis, and in particular the food and medicine shortages. They also ask EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to propose an assistance plan and to urge Caracas to allow humanitarian aid into the country. Reducing today’s high levels of impunity should be also an absolute priority, says Parliament, which demands that the Venezuelan authorities investigate the massacre in March this year of 28 miners in Tumeremo, and also the recent murder of journalist Lucía Suárez, events which it suspects may be connected. Finally, MEPs stress their wish to send a European Parliament delegation to Venezuela to hold a dialogue with all sectors involved in the conflict as soon as possible.


           BRUSSELS, BELGIUM ---
Spanish socialist and member of the European Parliament Ramón Jáuregui said the legislative body on Wednesday approve a resolution on Venezuela “agreed by almost all the groups.” “Venezuela is heading for an abyss should a clash between the government and the opposition continue,” Jáuregui strongly stated.

     During an interview with Efe, Jáuregui, who is a Spanish socialist Euro MP, welcomed the efforts made by the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) and the international community seeking a peaceful and negotiated solution to the Venezuelan crisis. The official’s comments came after Unasur actions headed by Spanish ex-President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero crashed against the opposition’s denial to hold talks until a recall vote against the mandate of President Nicolás Maduro is accepted

    “The crisis must be solved in a democratic and political manner, through deals, between two legitimate powers. Ex-President Zapatero has virtually described such agreement as impossible,” the politician warned. In words of Jáuregui, the European Parliament on Wednesday is voting a resolution on Venezuela, an initiative “agreed by almost all the groups” comprising the legislative body. The move recommends “an agreement between the two parties along with international mediators –in reference to Unasur efforts–; the release of political prisoners, a responsibility deal including macroeconomic measures to re-orient the economy and get rid of the crisis; and an aid plan from the international community”, he added.

June  8, 2016


UNASUR called on Venezuelan opposition lawmakers to rejoin political talks in order to restore political peace in the South American country. The regional body Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) issued a press release calling on political opposition groups to reengage in dialogue with the the Venezuelan government, after their representatives failed to show for the scheduled meeting. The opposition members of the Democratic Unity Roundtable, or MUD coalition, sent a message asking for the meeting to be rescheduled only once it had already started, according to the UNASUR statement Monday night.

     The integration bloc is currently leading a dialogue initiative in conjunction with former presidents José Luis Zapatero from Spain, Leonel Fernandez from the Dominican Republic and Martín Torrijos from Panama. “The UNASUR Secretary General and the ex-presidents call on representatives from MUD to rejoin the talks as soon as possible,” UNASUR said in a press release on Monday. The MUD negative comes less than a week after the OAS’s Permanent Council unanimously adopted a resolution opposing intervention and encouraging dialogue between lawmakers in Venezuela after the head of the regional bloc moved to invoke the so-called Democratic Charter against the South American country.

     Leaders from the MUD, which currently holds a super majority in the country's National Assembly of Venezuela, had asked Almagro to impose the invoke the measure against Venezuela, prompting swift rebuke by Nicolas Maduro’s government. Venezuela is currently suffering from one of its worst political and economic crises, fueled largely by a steep decline in oil prices coupled with speculation, hoarding and other actions that Maduro calls an "economic war." Amidst this, the MUD has been adament in its calls for Maduro's ouste


           BRASILIA, BRAZIL ---
The government of interim President Michel Temer (PMDB) offered on Monday, the 6th, to send medicines and other aid to Veneuela to help the neighboring country confront a public health collapse due to the lack of medicines and medical supplies. The offer, contained in a communique from Itamaraty, is in response to a request from the Venezuelan opposition, and therefore, has little chance of being accepted by the Chavist Government

     "As a neighboring country, friend and in solidarity with the Venezuelan Nation, Brazil is ready () to collaborate in meeting the most critical needs that are affecting the population of our neighbor country" said the note, which in an unusual diplomatic twist, was signed by Chancellor José Serra. We are ready to donate basic medicines produced by our national laboratories, delivering them to international humanitarian organizations that can deal with their distribution", affirms the communication, which speaks of the "suffering of the Venezuelan people". +Itamaraty said that it didn't have any information regarding the quantities of medicines that could be offered.

     The request for the medical aid had been articulated by the Venezuelan Congressman Luis Florido, President of the Foreign Relations Commission of the National Assembly, (led by the opposition since January) while on a visit to Brazil in February, still during Di+++++lma Rousseff's Government. The Government of President Nicolás Maduro, the figure accused of being the most responsible for Venezuela's current grave social and economic crisis, has been rejecting international offers of food and medicine, since accepting help from abroad would be equivalent to admitting the failure of the Chavist economic model.


           ASUNCION, PARAGUAY ---
Paraguay's state-run oil firm Petropar said Saturday that Venezuelan state oil producer PDVSA [PDVSA.UL] had set a 10-day deadline for the Paraguayan company to pay off $287 million of long-standing debt.

     The demand comes shortly after Paraguay asked last week to convene a meeting of foreign ministers in the South American Mercosur trade group to examine if Venezuela had failed to comply with democratic norms laid out in the organization's charter. Petropar president Eddie Jara told local media that he received a letter from PDVSA demanding the entire debt payment "in impulsive and unfriendly terms."

     He added that Paraguay was willing to pay the debt eventually, but that its budget did not allow it to comply with Venezuela's demand. This week the head of the Organization of American States, an inter-continental diplomatic bloc, called for an urgent meeting to discuss whether Venezuela is violating democratic principles. The OPEC nation of about 30 million people is reeling from food shortages, the world's highest inflation, long lines for basic goods, and alarming violent crime, among other woes.

June  7, 2016


       Caracas, venezuela- -
Former Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero visited Leopoldo López inside his prison in Venezuela on Saturday. A defiant López published a series of tweets after the two-hour encounter, thanking Zapatero for his visit and consideration but suggesting the Spaniard had been allowed to enter the jail in order to bring news of a deal approved by the government of Nicolás Maduro. "Of the many Presidents who have tried to visit me in more than 2 years", López tweeted: "President Zapatero has been the only one authorised by the government". Dialogue, he continued "cannot be in order to gain time because the people of Venezuela no longer have time".

      López said he had told Zapatero during the meeting of his "worry" about the state of Venezuela and its "deep humanitarian crisis", but rejected whatever the former Spanish Prime Minister had brought to the table. "I expressed to him that no conversation or dialogue can be above the bigger interest: to achieve constitutional change in 2016!" "I reaffirmed the importance of freeing all political prisoners and that before my freedom was that of the whole of Venezuela.""The government must authorise the visit of the Episcopal Conference, of Unity [Democratic Unity Roundtable] and of all the ex Presidents who have asked to do so." He ended with a tweet urging Venezuelans not to give up: "Venezuelans, as I told you the day I appeared before an unjust justice system. Do not tire, I will never do so. He who tires loses. Strength and faith!"

     Zapatero travelled to Venezuela in May on behalf of Unasur, the Union of South American Nations, along with the former Panamanian President, Martín Torrijos. Venezuela's Foreign Minister, Delcy Rodriguez, tweeted hours after the meeting with López that: "The Venezuelan government delegation for dialogue now meeting in the Dominican Republic with former presidents Torrijos and Zapatero". She said her government was "committed and working directly for peace and dialogue in Venezuela, with full support for sovereignty." In May, López's father tweeted: "What can we expect if Maduro invites his friends Samper, Zapatero, Fernández and Torrijos to bake the cake. Smells more like stew to me".


           WASHINGTON, D.C. ---
A row has broken out inside the Organisation of American States over efforts to chastise and possibly suspend Venezuela, with Argentina providing ideologically unlikely support for the embattled government of Nicolás Maduro. In a telephone interview with the Guardian, the OAS secretary general, Luis Almagro, accused Argentina’s ambassador to the body of holding up efforts to call a general assembly so members can discuss Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis, human rights violations and detentions of political prisoners. “This is serious,” Almagro said. “Members are complaining. Games like this should not be played. We are talking about a country facing a grave and urgent situation.”

     His complaint comes amid reports that Argentina’s centre-right president, Mauricio Macri, is trying to cut a deal with the leftwing administration in Caracas over the appointment of the next United Nations secretary general. Macri is believed to be seeking support for the candidacy of Argentina’s foreign minister, Susan Malcorra. If so, this appears to run contrary to Macri’s promise in last November’s presidential election campaign, when he vowed to confront Venezuela over what he described as its democratic failings. Argentina’s ambassador to the OAS, Juan José Arcuri, has used his position of chairman of the regional body’s permanent council to delay and divert moves to invoke Article 20 of the organisation’s Democratic Charter, which can lead to suspension.

     'We are like a bomb': food riots show Venezuela crisis has gone beyond politics. Three years of shortages have left Venezuelans desperate and angry for change, posing the most serious threat yet to President Nicolás Maduro On Tuesday, Almagro sent a request for an immediate meeting of the assembly. The 132-page document spelled out the multiple crises facing Venezuela: inflation of 700%, fiscal deficit at 17% of GDP, more than 80% shortages of medicines and basic food stuffs, as well as worsening poverty and health. It noted that the jailing of political opponents and the criminalisation of protest were contrary to the basic principles of democracy. “In Venezuela, the purpose of politics has been lost. “The institutional To initiate discussions on Article 20 requires a simple majority of the 35 member states. There would still be a long way to go from there to suspension, which would require a two-thirds majority. This is far from certain.


           WASHINGTON, D.C.- ---
Venezuela has ratcheted up efforts to sell off its gold holdings and raise the cash needed to fund imports and pay back debts after the collapse in oil throttled the economy. The country cut its gold reserves by 16 percent in the first quarter, following a 24 percent reduction in 2015, according to data from the International Monetary Fund. The 1.38-million ounce reduction was the largest by any central bank since Switzerland sold 3.2 million ounces in the third quarter of 2007, and coincided with continued increases in gold reserves in mainland China. Venezuela has been thrown into turmoil by the collapse in oil prices, and President Nicolas Maduro faces rising political tensions amid runaway inflation, a contracting economy and shortages of some basic goods.

     Vice President for Economic Policy Miguel Perez Abad said this month that Venezuela will continue to use international reserves to help meet its commitments, while cutting back on imports. Venezuela’s gold holdings fell in the first quarter, prices surged 16 percent, the most in three decades. The country’s hoard, which stood at 8.77 million ounces at the end of 2015, was unchanged in January, dropped to 7.67 million ounces in February and contracted to 7.4 million ounces in March, IMF data show. The World Gold Council this month said Venezuela’s gold holdings made up 66 percent of its total reserves. Spot bullion traded at $1,218.95 an ounce at 10:45 a.m. in New York on Wednesday. Officials have repeatedly said the country will honor its financial obligations in full and without delay. In February, Trade Minister Jesus Faria said every debt payment this year was guaranteed, including those near term, as well as in October and November.

     The same month, central bank President Nelson Merentes said the country will continue to make debt payments. The possibility that the country may be tempted to sell some bullion to raise funds was flagged in August by Citigroup Inc., which listed Venezuela as a potential seller amid concern that it may default. The nation is one country that may be at risk of selling part of its holdings after oil fell, analysts including David Wilson wrote in a report. Venezuela’s gross domestic product will shrink 8 percent this year after contracting 5.7 percent in 2015, according to the IMF, which forecasts that inflation may climb to almost 500 percent. The reduction in imports this year means the country will have enough cash to honor its bond payments in 2016, according to Eurasia Group and EMSO Asset Management. The country shipped almost 60 metric tons of gold to Switzerland, a major refining hub, in the first quarter, Swiss Federal Customs Administration data show. Swiss imports from the South American country totaled about 12 tons last month, the data show.

June  6, 2016


       Caracas, venezuela- -
Spain's former prime minister met with jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez on Saturday, the first meeting of its kind in more than two years. The prison visit was part of a high-risk diplomatic effort to defuse Venezuela's escalating crisis. The meeting between Lopez and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero lasted about 90 minutes, Adriana Lopez, the prisoner's sister, told The Associated Press. She said she didn't know what the two discussed and declined further comment. It's the first time in more than two years an outside visitor besides Lopez's family or lawyers has met with the combative leader in the military prison outside Caracas where he's being held.

     In 2015, he was sentenced to nearly 14 years in jail for inciting violence at anti-government protests in proceedings widely condemned as a politically-motivated show trial by the U.S. and human rights groups. "We don't know who permitted it or why," Leopoldo Lopez, who shares his son's name, said on Twitter. "All we know is that there was a surprise." Venezuela's opposition is demanding the release of Lopez and dozens of other activists it considers political prisoners as part of an international mediation effort led by Zapatero and the former presidents of Panama and the Dominican Republic. Last month, the three presided over two days of informal meetings in the Dominican Republic in which they shuttled messages between representatives of the opposition and the government.

    One of the government's participants at that meeting, Caracas Mayor Jorge Rodriguez, escorted Zapatero to the jail on Saturday but did not partake in the meeting, according to a source close to the family who spoke on condition of anonymity because the conversation was private. Zapatero has kept quiet about his dealings and many observers believe they are doomed to fail so long as Maduro refuses to yield to the opposition's demands that his government allow to go forward this year a proposed recall referendum on whether to cut short his six-year term. But Saturday's meeting is likely to give more oxygen to the mediation effort, which has the support of the Obama administration and regional governments and comes as pressure is mounting on the Organization of American States to suspend Venezuela for violating standards of democracy and the rule of law. Lopez's jailers have in the past turned back attempted visits by the former leaders of Colombia and Chile, as well as legislative delegations for from Brazil and Spain.


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA ---
After receiving the information through the rector of the National Electoral Council (CNE), Luis Emilio Rondon, that the Directory of that body will meet next Monday 6 to agree on the beginning of the process of “face-to-face” validation of the signatures colleted; (and that on Tuesday 7, at last, there would be conducted the five times postponed meeting between the Directory of the CNE and the MUD to discuss the details of the process of validation, the Democratic Unity table want to inform the country of the following:

    1) After repeated violations of their own rules, and after breaking the deadlines they themselves have imposed, the representatives of the socialist party of the CNE do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. For this reason, we reaffirm the call made to the Venezuelan people for the march of Monday 6 and Tuesday 7: while the CNE directory is gathered inside four walls, we want them to know that in Caracas, in all State capitals and in many heads of municipality, the people who signed and who are willing to validate their signatures, to vote and to revoke the president are on the street, active organized and ready to defend their signatures and activate the recall referendum, the only peaceful solutions to solve the tough crisis plaguing the country.

    (2) We also inform that whether there is, or not a meeting CNE-MUD next Tuesday, the 7th of June, representatives of the MUD will march to the headquarters of the National Electoral Council accompanied by the brave Venezuelan people who want a peaceful change. If there is a meeting, the people will accompany their representatives. If there isn't, the people will be there to claim their rights. This will be the popular response to the cynicism of the election agents of the PSUV, their repeated breaches of their promises, the use of the CNE as "guarimba burocrática" to delay elections rather than act as an independent power and make and promote them."


           WASHINGTON, D.C.  ---
Cuba and the United States are discussing possible exchanges of prisoners, including the release of a woman considered one of the most damaging spies in recent history, U.S. officials told NBC News. The discussions, said to be in their early stages, are part of efforts by the two countries toward normalization of diplomatic relations. Among the names floated by Cuban leaders, officials say, is Ana Belen Montes, convicted in 2002 of spying for the Cuban government for nearly two decades while working for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.

    Her espionage compromised many aspects of America's efforts to spy on Cuba, "calling into question the reliability of all U.S. intelligence collected against Cuba," according to Michelle Van Cleave, a former national counterintelligence executive. While at the Defense Intelligence Agency, Montes became the top Cuban analyst. Investigators said she memorized classified information on the job, typed it on a laptop computer in the evenings at her apartment, stored it in coded form on disks, and passed the information to her Cuban handlers. Montes was sentenced to 25 years in prison and is due to be released in 2023.

    For their part, American officials say the U.S. is interested in getting back Americans who sought refuge in Cuba from U.S. prosecution. Among those U.S. officials would like back is Joanne Chesimard, who escaped from a New Jersey prison in 1979 where she was serving a life sentence for killing a state trooper by shooting him with his own gun at a traffic stop. The State Department declined to discuss specifics. But a spokesman said, "The United States continues to seek the return from Cuba of fugitives from U.S. justice. The Department repeatedly raises fugitive cases with the Cuban government and will continue to do so at every appropriate opportunity."

June  5, 2016


       WASHINGTON, D.C.- -
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali died of septic shock after spending five days at an Arizona hospital for what started out as respiratory problems and gradually worsened, succumbing only after his wife and children arrived at his bedside to say goodbye, a family spokesman said Saturday. "It was a solemn moment," Bob Gunnell told reporters in Phoenix. The details came as Ali's family revealed plans for a Friday funeral in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, a daylong affair that will include a procession through the streets where the 74-year-old world champion grew up and learned to box. His body is expected to be returned to the city within two days.

     The service will include eulogies from former President Bill Clinton, journalist Bryant Gumbel and comedian Billy Crystal. He'll be buried in a local cemetery with only family watching. In preparation, Louisville lowered flags in mourning on Saturday as it looked toward Ali's final homecoming. Outside the Muhammad Ali Center, locals created an impromptu memorial, leaving flowers and written tributes. A few blocks away at Louisville Metro Hall, Mayor Greg Fischer marveled at the many outsize roles Ali embodied: sports champion, civil rights icon, humanitarian and "interfaith pioneer."

     His family traveled to his bedside, where they remained for about a day before Ali died at 9:10 p.m. local time on Friday. The official cause of death was "septic shock due to unspecified natural causes," Gunnell said. Septic shock refers to an aggressive, full-body inflammatory response to an infection, and is common among the elderly and those with weak immune systems. The blood pressure plummets, leading to organ failure. One of Ali's daughters, Hana Ali, recalled his final moments with family by his side, hugging and kissing him and holding his hands as they chanted Islamic prayers."We all tried to stay strong and whispered in his ear, 'You can go now. We will be okay,'" Hana Ali wrote on Twitter.Even after many of his organs failed, his heart kept beating for 30 minutes, she wrote.


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA ---
Venezuelan court has ruled to allow jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez to appeal his 14-year sentence for inciting violence at anti-government protests in 2014, his lawyer said Friday. The ruling comes as embattled President Nicolas Maduro faces growing tension over severe shortages of food, medicine and electricity, as well as opposition maneuvers to oust him in a recall referendum. Lopez, who calls himself a political prisoner, will have his first appeal hearing on June 20, said his lawyer, Carlos Gutierrez.

     The US-educated economist turned himself in to the authorities on February 18, 2014, amid a wave of pro- and anti-government protests that swept the country and left 43 people dead. The government accused Lopez, the radically anti-Maduro leader of the Popular Will party, of inciting the violence. He denies the charge, calling his arrest an act of political repression. His sentence, handed down last September, was strongly condemned by the United Nations, the United States and the European Union. Gutierrez said international pressure may have convinced the courts to finally allow his client's appeal, which had been in limbo since he filed it in October.

     He cited the call by the Organization of American States this week for Maduro and the opposition to hold talks as a "fundamental element" in the court's decision. Oil-rich Venezuela has slid into crisis as global crude prices have plunged over the past two years, threatening Maduro and the socialist economic model he inherited from his predecessor and mentor, the late leftist firebrand Hugo Chavez. The center-right opposition, which won control of congress in elections last December, has passed an amnesty for scores of jailed activists it calls political prisoners, including Lopez. But the law was struck down by the Supreme Court, which the opposition condemns as pro-Maduro.


           WASHINGTON, D.C.  ---
Organization of American States head Luis Almagro said on Friday that any useful dialogue in Venezuela must include the referendum to recall President Nicolas Maduro and the freeing of political prisoners. Almagro said Friday that the dialogue promoted by the Union of South American Nations, or Unasur, and three former leaders of Spain, Panama and the Dominican Republic, “lacks the elements that would guarantee mutual trust between the two sides.” “If you don’t free the political prisoners, if you don’t set a date for the recall referendum, what are you going to sit down and talk about?

     What are the bases of mutual confidence that would make any sense of those talks? A dialogue (without those commitments) is like consolidating a status quo with political prisoners,” the 0AS chief said. Almagro, who last week completed a year in office, is one of the international eminences who has most strongly condemned “the alteration of the constitutional order” in Venezuela. Dialogue as an abstract delusion can be very negative. We must assume that dialogue is not an empty concept, it has to be a process with very clear bases of action and execution,” the former Uruguayan foreign minister said.

     “The dialogue must have clear bases and firm commitments. It is very hard to believe in a dialogue when one of the parties is systematically violating the constitution,” Almagro said. For the moment, he has only the explicit support of Paraguay in the process of the Democratic Charter. He is “very calm” about whether the initiative will prosper because “when countries have to take decisions, they’re going to take the right decisions to be on the right side of history.” The OAS chief is waiting for the Permanent Council, whose rotating presidency is held by Argentina, to set a date for the extraordinary session he has requested between June 10-20 to vote on whether or not to apply the Democratic Charter.

June  4, 2016


       WASHINGTON, D.C.- -
NUMEROUS GOVERNMENTS, including the Obama administration, last week called for political negotiations in Venezuela to head off an incipient and potentially catastrophic breakdown of political and economic order. Former Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero traveled to Caracas with other statesmen to urge President Nicolás Maduro and opposition leaders to start talking. But Mr. Maduro was otherwise occupied. At the end of the week, he ordered tanks, aircraft and soldiers to patrol the country, claiming — not for the first time — that he was trying to head off a U.S. invasion.

     By most measures, Venezuela is already a failed state: Amid crippling shortages of food, medicine, power and water, every societal ailment is soaring. Inflation is headed toward 700 percent, and the murder rate is probably the world’s second-highest, after El Salvador’s. An April poll, reported by the Miami Herald, showed that 86 percent of Venezuelans said they bought “less” or “much less” food than they used to, while only 54 percent said they ate three times a day. No wonder there have been numerous reports of mobs sacking food warehouses, as well as dozens of instances of vigilante lynchings of suspected thieves. In one particularly horrific case reported by the Associated Press, a man was burned alive outside a Caracas supermarket for allegedly stealing the equivalent of $5.

      Thanks to Mr. Maduro and the corrupt and incompetent coterie that surrounds him, this chaos is likely to grow steadily worse. Calling for “political dialogue” is one way to respond to this unfolding crisis. Yet Mr. Maduro and other top regime officials, many of them implicated in drug trafficking or other major crimes, have repeatedly failed to respond seriously. It’s time for more pressure to be put on them, such as through sanctions by the Organization of American States under its democracy charter. The United States and Venezuela’s neighbors should demand that Mr. Maduro seek humanitarian aid to address shortages of food and medicine — something it has senselessly refused to do — and allow the recall referendum to take place this year. The alternative is frightful to contemplate.


           RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL ---
The Brazilian government is discussing the possibility of preventing Venezuela from taking over the pro tempore presidency of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) late this month, as part of an initiative to avoid the strengthening of President Nicolás Maduro’s government, an official source told Reuters. The Brazilian government may help block Venezuela from taking the rotating presidency of the Mercosur trade group this month. That move has yet to be decided and has not been discussed with other members of Mercosur, an aide to Brazil's interim President Michel Temer said.

     According to the source, Brazil has not yet made a decision on this question nor has discussed it with other Member States of the trade bloc (Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay). However, the government of Brazilian interim President Michel Temer is “willing” to take actions in this regard. There are two ways to obstruct the transfer of presidency. First, the non-holding of the Mercosur Summit, which would make Uruguay continue leading the bloc. Second, the removal of Venezuela from the group under the Ushuaia Protocol, which includes a clause determining the suspension of a member country in the event of democratic alteration, is among the options to remove the country from the trade bloc

      This last possibility has increased considerably in recent weeks, when Paraguay requested the convening of a meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Mercosur to discuss the Venezuelan situation. Brazilian Government sources confirmed to Reuters that the country will ask to discuss the suspension of Venezuela. The Presidential Palace source affirmed that is too soon "to predict how things will advance, but Brasilia will do nothing to defend the Venezuelan Government. " The Brazilian Government hopes that pressure on Caracas forces the President of the Republic Nicolas Maduro accept a recall referendum that possibly would provide a victory to the opposition.


           RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL ---
Venezuelan anti-government Congress lawmaker William Dávila disclosed the communiqué issued last week following threats against the country’s legislators at the Parliament of the Southern Common Market (Parlasur). Venezuelan opposition lawmaker William Dávila released an official communiqué sent by the head of the Parliament of the Southern Common Market (Parlasur) Jorge Taiana, an Argentinean national. The document, which was addressed to Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez, warned her that “parliament immunity is the guarantee of independence and autonomy of Mercosur’s parliamentarians and a key element to guarantee the effective exercise of democracy.”

    The communication, dated May 23 this year, followed a situation involving Venezuelan anti-government legislators Dávila and Timoteo Zambrano, who received threats of legal actions for “high treason” for taking actions at the Organization of American States (OAS). According to the document, Venezuela signed Parlasur’s Charter, which clearly reads that congressmen “cannot be sued in civil or criminal terms for opinions aired in the performance of their duties.” It highlights that respect for such principle is of the essence. Dávila is the president of Parlasur’s International Affairs Committee. Mercosur alertó a Delcy Rodríguez que debe respetar inmunidad parlamentaria.

     El diputado William Dávila (MUD-Mérida), divulgó la comunicación que la semana pasada fue emitida en reclamo a amenazas contra los parlamentarios venezolanos en el Parlasur. Maduro threatened on Thursday to seek a constitutional amendment to slash the opposition-led legislature's term and vowed to lead a "revolution" should his foes wrest him from the presidency. The socialist leader's strong words deepened the already bitter political standoff in the OPEC member nation since the opposition coalition won control of the National Assembly in a December vote and vowed to seek Maduro's exit this year. During a rally, pro-government constitutional lawyer Hermann Escarra proposed that Maduro seek a constitutional amendment to reduce the assembly's term from five years to 60 days.

June  3, 2016


       MADRID, SPAIN- -
Venezuela is on the brink of chaos, the situation in the country could escalate into violent conflict, said the acting Minister of foreign Affairs of Spain Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo. A humanitarian crisis could escalate into a conflict with violence, if we are not able to stop it.

Margallo, speaking in the House of America in Madrid at the forum “Venezuela: reflections on the present”.  The Minister called for “possible “social explosion”, although he admitted it is now “unlikely.”     “Venezuela has no reserves, and imports shrinking, no food, no medicines,” — said the acting Minister, who admitted that “I do not know the extent to which you can walk without a social explosion that will follow the reaction of the army.”

     According to margallo, the poverty rate in Venezuela is 76%, and shortage of essential goods – 82%. “This is an explosive situation. It is possible social conflict, and in order to avoid the necessary negotiations (between the opposition and the authorities – ed.” — says Margalit. He also offered the assistance of Spain in resolving the crisis, including to provide Venezuela with humanitarian aid, which is urgently needed”.


           WASHINGTON, D.C. ---
The agreement approved by the Venezuelan National Assembly was presented to the Secretary general of the OAS by opposition leader Carlos Vecchio. The National Assembly endorsed the decision of the Secretary general of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, to initiate the process of activation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter to Venezuela, because of the rupture of the constitutional order in the country. The agreement, approved by the Assembly last Tuesday, was presented to Almagro by Carlos Vecchio, leader of the opposition “Popular Will.”

     The document praises the request of Almagro to convene a meeting of the Permanent Council of the OAS to "to analize the situation in the country and avoid an aggravation of the humanitarian crisis, as well as the exponential increase in violence and internal conflicts.” " In addition, Parliament reiterated its readiness to make the President of the National Assembly, Henry Ramos Allup, intervene in the meeting. Vecchio described yesterday’s telephone conversation between Ramos Allup and Luis Almagro as a long-distance, but close in purposes. The call was Washington Caracas, at the request of the political coordinator of Popular will. "Henry ramos and Luis Almagro talked by phone as I requested. The President of the Assembly confirmed to the Secretary-General their commitment and desire to provide a testimony on the Venezuelan crisis at the OAS Permanent Council.

      And Almagro expressed that the support of the Venezuelan Parliament for his work was very important and thanked Ramos for his availability to present a testimony, that he qualifies as of vital importance." Meanwhile, the President of the Foreign Policy Commission of the legislative power, Luis Florido, reiterated that it is essential that actions be taken to protect the people and said that it include four key elements: "To carry out the recall referendum as laid down in the Constitution, release political prisoners, respect the decisions of the National Assembly and the need to open a humanitarian channel managed by international organizations such as the International Red Cross or Caritas, which would be able to ensure that donated medicines reach the pueblo". "


A group of Latin American ex-presidents comprising the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA) asked the Venezuelan government to set the conditions for a recall referendum in the country.

     A number of Latin American ex-presidents who initialed the statement of the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA) reiterated their concern “over the disruption of the constitutional and democratic order (in Venezuela) by the Executive Power and the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) when disregarding a National Assembly (AN) that has been legally entrusted with the people’s sovereignty. The former Heads of State urged the Electoral Power to observe the Constitution and set the conditions for a recall vote against the mandate of President Nicolás Maduro this year, a move that may help give peaceful, democratic, constitutional and electoral solutions to the serious institutional, political and humanitarian crises facing the country.

     In this regard, they requested the government “to release political prisoners, guarantee the people’s right to take part democratically in referendums, and respect the decisions of the National Assembly.” Based on a report on Venezuela released by the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, and upon considering the terms of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the group additionally asked for the immediate meeting of the Permanent Council, with the participation of high representatives from both the Venezuelan government and the Congress.

June  2, 2016


Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday that Organization of American States chief Luis Almagro had called for foreign “intervention” in his country by invoking the body’s Democratic Charter in response to the political crisis in Venezuela. “Today, Mr. Almagro presented a document asking for intervention in Venezuela from abroad and a pipe dream called the Democratic Charter is being applied to us to open the doors to a ‘gringo’ intervention in Venezuela,” Maduro told supporters at the presidential palace. “They can do as follows with the Democratic Charter, put it in a really thin little tube and let Mr. Almagro make better use of it, sticking his Democratic Charter wherever it fits.

     Venezuela will be respected and nobody’s going to apply any charter of any kind – or whatever they want to call it – to Venezuela,” he said. Maduro accused the secretary-general of “usurping his functions” by intending to transform himself “into a supranational power above the OAS Charter and above (Venezuela’s) sacred Constitution.” He said that his domestic and international enemies “have gone beyond the limit” and believe that this move will intimidate the Venezuelan people. “I call for national rebellion in the face of international threats,” he said.

     Alamagro on Tuesday activated the Democratic Charter in the case of Venezuela, an unprecedented step that could lead to the country’s suspension from the OAS, provided that two-thirds of the OAS member states feel that the Caracas government has undermined democracy there. Backed by a 132-page report. Almagro resorted to Article 20 of the Charter to call for a Permanent Council meeting of the member states between June 10-20 to discuss whether the Venezuelan government has subverted democracy there. The report sets forth how the alteration in the constitutional order has occurred and how it “seriously (affects) the democratic order” in the South American country. Almagro is the first OAS chief to activate the Charter against a member state against the will of its government.


           CARACAS, VENEZUELA ---
Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro says he is considering legal action against the Spanish media, accusing them of “waging a psychological war” against his government. Speaking on Venezuelan state television on Tuesday, Maduro said he had contacted the country’s ambassador in Madrid, Mario Isea, to discuss judicial options.

     “Venezuelans have the right for their truth to be known, and Spaniards also have a right to know the truth,” said the president on his television program Contacto con Maduro (Contact Maduro). The opposition is garnering signatures in order to hold a recall referendum on Maduro’s mandate “The war being waged in Spain is terrible… I am preparing a group of Spanish, European and Venezuelan jurists to take a series of judicial measures… to guarantee respect for Venezuela’s honor,” he said. Venezuela’s worsening economic situation has been widely covered in the international media

     President Maduro has declared a state of emergency following riots over shortages of essential goods and power cuts. Spain has sent former Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero as part of an international delegation to help mediate between the government and the opposition, which is garnering signatures in order to hold a recall referendum on Maduro’s mandate. Last week, Maduro accused the Spanish government of being part of a campaign to back an international invasion of Venezuela. “What is happening in Madrid against Venezuela is a war campaign, a campaign to prepare, which will never happen, but that is in the macabre minds of those planning an invasion, a military intervention,” he said on Friday.


The president of the Venezuelan National Assembly (AN) Henry Ramos Allup announced that “out of the horse’s mouth” he learned that the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) will issue an opinion to obstruct the implementation this year of a recall referendum against President Nicolás Maduro. “A judgment from the (TSJ) Constitutional Chamber is imminent to legitimate or validate the National Electoral Council (CNE) not to hold a recall referendum this year,” he reported. Ramos Allup lamented that the CNE board has adjourned four times a meeting with representatives of the Unified Democratic Panel (MUD) to set the rules and schedule for the constitutional mechanism.

    He commented that the CNE four directors “do not know what else to do” in order to put off forever the activation of the recall referendum. He regretted that while validation of signatures of 1% of the register of voters was slated for Thursday, they were advised that the action was deferred, thus confirming the slowdown strategy. In any case, the Congress Speaker maintained that the opposition will exhaust all peaceful, legal, democratic and constitutional means to accomplish the recall referendum this year. “It is the constitutional right of million Venezuelans who demand it.”

    Henry Ramos Allup related that Luis Almagro, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), in exercising his powers, will bring forward a report at the OAS Permanent Council to analyze the Venezuelan case. This, he noted, does not mean that the Inter-American Democratic Charter will be enforced right away. He added that he hopes to take the floor at the OAS to provide his analysis and file the complaint. “The entire world, the Vatican, G-7, the European Community, everybody is following up the Venezuelan case, for it is terrible; beginning with the humanitarian crisis we are going through and the government is the only one that stubbornly denies it.”

June 1st., 2016


Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Monday rejected "foreign intervention" and called the Organization of American States (OAS) to leave Venezuela and the Americas. "I have advocated the creation of a powerful movement in defense of peace, independence and against foreign intervention. No to the OAS! OAS get out of Venezuela and the Americas," he said in a speech before a group of soldiers at the headquarters of the Defense Ministry.

    Maduro opened the Congress of the Fatherland, where he lambasted the OAS, whose secretary general Luis Almagro is activating the Inter-American Democratic Charter in Venezuela. Maduro said that Venezuela is the target of intervention attempts because it is a country rich in resources: it holds the largest oil reserves in the world and is awaiting certification of its reserves of gold, diamonds and gas. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has described OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro as “Mr. Trash” for condemning the controversial death of an opponent a couple of weeks ago.

    The name calling follows Almagro’s publically expressed concern about the murder of Venezuelan opposition member Luis Manuel Diaz . Almagro asserted that “there should be no more death, there should be no further threat. It is time to end the fear”. However, Maduro claims that the assassination was the result of settling scores between rival gangs, not rival political party supporters. For his part, the OAS head and former Uruguayan Foreign Minister has continued to issue statements condemning such political violence in Venezuela. “The violent death of any person is an execrable fact that our consciousness cannot admit,” he expressed, “The murder of a political activist also leaves us all more vulnerable – it shows that we are all not only current, but also potentially future victims”.


           THE PENTAGON---
NATO's parliamentary assembly on Monday called on members of the Western military alliance to be ready to respond to the "potential threat" of Russian aggression against them. The assembly issued a unanimous declaration of proposals after a three-day meeting in Tirana, ahead of a landmark NATO summit in Warsaw in July. "The challenge from Russia is real and serious," said Michael Turner, the US president of the assembly, which gathered around 250 lawmakers from the 28 member states. The declaration expressed regret over "Russia's use of force against its neighbours and attempted intimidation of (NATO) Allies".

     It said this had "left NATO no choice but to consider the prospect of aggressive Russian action against an Alliance member as a potential threat, and to adopt measured, proportionate responses". The assembly's declaration also urged NATO allies to "provide reassurance" to members who feel their security is under threat, especially on NATO's eastern and southern flanks. At the Warsaw summit, NATO leaders will formally endorse an alliance revamp putting more troops into eastern European member states as part of a "deter and dialogue" strategy. Russia fiercly opposes the move, meant to reassure eastern allies spooked by its 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine and the pro-Moscow revolt that followed in the country's east.

     NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg echoed the parliamentary assembly's stance during a Monday visit to alliance member Poland. Speaking in Warsaw, he said NATO was sending a "clear signal to any potential adversary that an attack on Poland will be considered an attack on the whole alliance." Along with Romania, Poland became a target for Russian ire after it agreed to host a US and NATO anti-missile system that Moscow regards as a security threat. NATO, however, insists the shield is not directed against Russia, but is instead designed to counter threats from so-called "rogue states" in the Middle East. "It is directed against threats coming from outside the Euro-Atlantic area," Stoltenberg insisted.


The largest airline in Latin America, Latam, says it is suspending its flights to Venezuela because of the worsening economic situation. The suspension came a day after Germany's Lufthansa said it would suspend its services to the country. The German company said Venezuela owed it millions in ticket revenues. Oil-rich Venezuela has been hit hard by the global drop in oil prices and suffers from high inflation and a chronic shortage of basic goods. Several airline companies have said that currency controls in Venezuela made it impossible for airlines to convert their earnings into dollars and send the money abroad.

    In a statement, Latam airlines said it would suspend its operations to Caracas airport "temporarily and for an unspecified time". It said flights on its Sao Paulo to Caracas route would end first, within days, and the other routes it runs to Caracas from Lima and Santiago would be halted by the end of July. Strict currency controls were first imposed in Venezuela in 2003 by late President Hugo Chavez. The restrictions were further tightened two years ago, forcing several airlines to reduce their operations in the country as they struggled to repatriate billions of dollars in revenue held in the local currency - the bolivar. Some airlines are now requiring passengers to pay their fares in dollars. Venezuela's government says it is using its foreign reserves - which are now scarce - to pay for essential items such as medicines and industrial machinery.

    The largest airline in Latin America, Latam, says it is suspending its flights to Venezuela because of the worsening economic situation. The suspension came a day after Germany's Lufthansa said it would suspend its services to the country. The German company said Venezuela owed it millions in ticket revenues. Several airline companies have said that currency controls in Venezuela made it impossible for airlines to convert their earnings into dollars and send the money abroad.In a statement, Latam airlines said it would suspend its operations to Caracas airport "temporarily and for an unspecified time". It said flights on its Sao Paulo to Caracas route would end first, within days, and the other routes it runs to Caracas from Lima and Santiago would be halted by the end of July.


MAY 2016