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October 31, 2017

JULIO BORGES REFUSES TO PARTICIPATE IN MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS  

     CARACAS, VENEZUELA -- The president of the Venezuelan Parliament, the opposition leader Julio Borges, today refused to participate in the municipal votes set by the ruling National Constituent Assembly (ANC) for December). "If we can not fight to change these electoral conditions (...) we can not go to a process that is going to be marked, as was that of the governors, because of the advantages, fraud, and all the destruction of the opinion of all Venezuelans, "said Borges in an interview with the private radio station Union Radio.

     The deputy reiterated that the regional elections on October 15 - in which Chavismo won 18 of the 23 governorates according to the CNE's bulletin - was a fraudulent process, the results are not recognized by the opposition coalition Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD). and a good part of the international community. "At this moment, what we have to do is to prepare for a fight to assure that there are impartial electoral conditions because we understand that the government is closing the electoral process. That is the clear dilemma that we have to see coherently, "he continued.

    The opposition assured that the political actors who oppose in Venezuela the so-called Bolivarian revolution and its leader, President Nicolás Maduro, count "all international support unanimously" and with the "majority" of Venezuelans. "(We need) that support from the world is directed to what is a change of the electoral system, so that we can have confidence in the system, in the vote and achieve a change in the country," he added. The ruling Chavism exceeded by almost 900,000 votes - seven percentage points - the opposition in the last call to the polls for the elections to governors, despite the fact that the losers have denounced several irregularities that would have affected the result, and have even presented minutes that would have proved the fraud in the state of Bolívar (south).

RAMOS ALLUP: "ACCION DEMOCRATICA" WILL NOT PARTICIPATE IN THE MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS

        CARACAS, VENEZUELA  --   The general secretary of Democratic Action (AD), Deputy Henry Ramos Allup said that his party has always participated in all elections despite disqualifications and adverse situations, "We have always defended the vote." "Our route is electoral, whoever proposes another road is not necessary," he said. For this reason, I now informed that it is not viable to participate in this elections. "After meeting with the other political parties, we have reached to the decision that it is not viable to participate".

     "In these elections we will not participate," he reiterated at a press conference. He also said that there are some people who are going to seek a political office without the authorization of our party in which they are active. "Let each organization make the decision they want". "However, those members of Acción Democrática who participate will have the same treatment as the four governors who were sworn before the ANC, they will be separated from the party," he said.

     On a possible departure of Acción Democrática from the MUD, he said that no party has asked them to leave, "we have talked with all the parties, that is a sign that they do not want us to leave," including Primero Justicia, a party for which Henrique Capriles, spokesman who asked for the departure of AD from the Democratic Unity Table. On the other hand, he stressed that AD "is not launching candidates anywhere", referring to the repetition of elections to the governorship of Zulia state that will also take place on December 10.

FREDDY GUEVARA, VICE PRESIDENT OF VOLUNTAD POPULAR, ASKS THE MUD NOT TO PARTICIPATE IN MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS

       CARACAS, VENEZUELA  --      The vice president of the National Assembly (AN), Freddy Guevara, indicated that the political organization Voluntad Popular (VP) will not participate in the municipal elections "as a mechanism of denunciation against the dictatorship." He urged the VP militants not to run for office in the municipal elections the government is scheduling for December, otherwise, he says, they will be excluded from the political organization.

     "No militant of our party can apply for this process," he said. This Monday, during a press conference of the Federal Team of Activists (EFA) of Voluntad Popular, formed by the National Directorate and the coordinators of all the states of the country, made a call to the different parties of the Democratic Unity Table (MUD), so that nobody registers their cards before "fraudulent elections, clear rules of struggle, the incorporation of new social sectors".

     Also, Guevara informed that they will not participate in the elections to elect a new governor of Zulia, after the Legislative Council declared "vacant" Juan Pablo Guanipa for not swearing before the National Constituent Assembly (ANC). He affirmed that VP joins the proposal to make primaries as soon as possible in the Coalition of the Democratic Unity Table to renew the representation of the Venezuelan opposition they have during recent years.

October 30, 2017

SECRETARY MATTIS SAYS THREAT OF NUCLEAR ATTACK BY NORT KOREA ACCELERATING  

     SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA  -- U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday the threat of nuclear missile attack by North Korea is accelerating. In remarks in Seoul with South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo at his side, Mattis accused the North of illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear programs — and vowed to defeat any attack. Mattis said North Korea engages in “outlaw” behavior and that the U.S. will never accept a nuclear North.

      He added that regardless of what the North might try, it is overmatched by the firepower and cohesiveness of the decades-old U.S.-South Korean alliance. “North Korea has accelerated the threat that it poses to its neighbors and the world through its illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear weapons programs,” he said, adding that U.S.-South Korean military and diplomatic collaboration thus has taken on “a new urgency.”

     “I cannot imagine a condition under which the United States would accept North Korea as a nuclear power,” he said. As he emphasized throughout his weeklong Asia trip, which included stops in Thailand and the Philippines, Mattis said diplomacy remains the preferred way to deal with the North. “With that said,” he added, “make no mistake — any attack on the United States or our allies will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons by the North will be met with a massive military response that is effective and overwhelming.” Mattis’ comments did not go beyond his recent statements of concern about North Korea, although he appeared to inject a stronger note about the urgency of resolving the crisis.

CHILEAN MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: CHILE WILL NOT TO TAKE PART IN "MOCK DIALOGUE" WITH VENEZUELA

        SANTIAGO, CHILE --   “Any political and negotiated solution ought to be in good faith, trustworthy, real” Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs Heraldo Muñoz said on Thursday in Toronto, Canada, where the third meeting of the Group of Lima took place to discuss the Venezuelan case, claimed that Chile  “will not take part in a mock dialogue” with Venezuela.

      During a break in the ministerial meeting of the Group of Lima, composed of 12 countries of the Americas, Muñoz affirmed: “We, the foreign ministers of the Group of Lima remain steadfast in our determination to continue doing our best for Venezuela to get back a constitutional democratic order.” Nevertheless, Muñoz added that, in default of a number of conditions to hold elections in Venezuela with democratic assurances, “Chile will not take part in a mock dialogue.” ++“A lot has been said about a political solution. This is what all of us want (…) Any political and negotiated solution ought to be in good faith, trustworthy, real,” he said.

    "One concern we have is that this meeting could not have been carried out as it was proposed, but we understand that it is based on a concrete dialogue with minimum conditions that will ensure a good result," said the Chilean minister. "We understand that the opposition wants assurances regarding some aspects of the dialogue agenda that for them are fundamental, therefore we will participate as long as both parties are sitting on a specific agenda and we hope that this can occur," he explained. However, he stressed that "this does not depend anymore" on the countries that have been invited as chaperones of the process, "but on the Government and the opposition.

BARCELONA HOLDING UNITED SPAIN RALLY

       BARCELONA, SPAIN--      Hundreds of thousands of supporters of a united Spain are attending a rally in Barcelona Sunday, according to police. Demonstrators marched in Catalonia's capital to show they are in favor of the Spanish government's dismissal of Catalonia's Cabinet and squashing of the region's secession push. Meanwhile, ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has called for peaceful "democratic opposition" to Spain's takeover of the region that once enjoyed a considerable amount of autonomy. In a pre-recorded statement, Puigdemont said he would continue working to build a free country and that only the regional parliament has the authority to dismiss the Catalan government.

     Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dissolved Catalonia's parliament, just hours after the regional body voted Friday in favor of independence from Spain. In addition to dismissing the regional parliament, Rajoy has called for snap Catalan elections on December 21 and has stripped Catalonia's most senior police officials of their powers. Inigo Méndez de Vigo, a spokesman for the Spanish government, said Puigdemont and all other Catalonian leaders will be eligible to run in the December election. “We are giving the voice to the Catalans in a legal and free elections, not so-called referendum which is outside the law,” he said. “So, this is the way of telling the Catalans, if you want to vote, you have the right to vote, do it under the conditions of the law and freely.”

     The resolution to secede from Spain was drafted and presented by the more radical separatist factions of the regional coalition headed by Puigdemont, and it passed with 70 votes in favor, 10 against and 2 blank votes. Friday's resolution by the Catalan regional parliament ends a period of uncertainty over Catalan independence that has prevailed since an October 1 referendum on independence that won 90 percent of the vote in a 50 percent voter turnout. Puigdemont could face a 25-year prison sentence for sedition. The central government already has jailed two separatist leaders and is prosecuting other officials accused of using public resources to support the independence bid.

October 29, 2017

SPANISH JUDGE SENDS TO PRISON VENEZUELAN FORMER VICE-MINISTER OF ENERGY, NERVOS VILLALOBOS, FOR ALLEGED INVOLVEMENT IN A BRIBERY SCHEME  

     MADRID, SPAIN  -- Spanish police arrested a former deputy Venezuelan energy minister Thursday on a U.S. warrant for alleged involvement in $1 billion bribery scheme involving Venezuela's state-run oil company PDVSA. Nervis Villalobos was arrested in Madrid by a police unit specialized in money laundering crimes on an indictment from federal prosecutors in Houston, a spokesman for Spain's Civil Guard told The Associated Press.

     The spokesman, who wasn't authorized to be named and spoke on condition of anonymity, said that as part of the ongoing sting Luis Carlos de Leon, a former official at a state-run electric company in Caracas, was also taken into custody along with a third, unnamed person who was an executive at PDVSA's procurement unit, Bariven. Villalobos would be the first senior ex-official detained as part of a wide-ranging U.S. probe into corruption at PDVSA that has already led 10 businessmen to plead guilty for their roles in kickbacks to Venezuelan officials. In 2015, the U.S. Treasury Department accused a bank in
     Andorra of laundering some $2 billion stolen from PDVSA.

Much of the evidence stems from a case in Houston against two Venezuelan businessmen residing in the U.S., Roberto Rincon and Abraham Shiera, who in 2015 were charged with violating the foreign corrupt practices act by conspiring to pay bribes in exchange for contracts to build power generators for PDVSA. U.S. prosecutors in their indictment accused the two men of paying everything from a PDVSA official's $165,000 mortgage in Texas to picking up a $15,000 reservation for several company officials at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach in order to win business.

SPAIN DISSOLVES CATALAN GOVERNMENT, CALLS EARLY REGIONAL ELECTIONS

          MADRID, SPAIN --
 Spain’s Council of Ministers has ordered the dissolution of the government and parliament of Catalonia and convened new elections in the northeastern region for Dec. 21, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Friday. The Cabinet acted in accord with the plan adopted by the central government – and approved earlier Friday by the Senate – to re-establish constitutional legality following the Catalan parliament’s unilateral declaration of independence.

     Responding to the secessionist challenge, the Spanish government ordered the dismissal of Catalonia’s regional president, Carles Puigdemont, and vice president, Oriol Junqueras, and of all of their colleagues, whose functions are to be assumed by the appropriate national ministries. The Cabinet likewise dismissed the top officials of the Catalan regional interior department and ordered the closure of all of Catalonia’s missions abroad, with the exception of the office in Brussels. Catalonia has delegations in Germany, France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Ireland, Austria and Italy, along with the Brussels mission, which deals with European Union matters.

     The Catalan parliament approved the declaration by a vote of 70-10 with two ballots left blank. A few minutes later, Spain’s Senate voted to withdraw Catalonia’s autonomy by a vote of 214-47 with one abstention. The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, said nothing would change for the EU, who would continue considering Spain as a united Europe’s only interlocutor in the issue. The United States Department of State also voiced its backing for Spain, insisting that the two countries were close allies with a great friendship. “Catalonia is an integral part of Spain, and the United States supports the Spanish government’s constitutional measures to keep Spain strong and united.” read a statement.

US WELCOMES LIMA GROUP'S DECLARATION ON VENEZUELA CRISIS

        WASHINGTON, D.C. --      Washington, Oct 28 (UNI) The United States has welcomed the Lima Group's leadership in addressing the deteriorating situation in Venezuela even as it urged the international community to join the Lima Group -- Venezuelan solidarity groups in Toronto -- and the United States in opposing the Maduro regime's "authoritarian actions, responsible for the worsening political, economic, and social situation in the country."

    The Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement on Friday that the Lima Group's recent declaration in Toronto -- including its support for the provision of humanitarian assistance for the Venezuelan people, condemnation of electoral abuses and call for electoral reform including a new National Electoral Council, call for the release of political prisoners, and support for the democratically-elected National Assembly -- reflected the same principles and concerns underpinning the unwavering position of the United States.
"We welcome all efforts in support of the Venezuelan people as they struggle to secure a more democratic, peaceful, and prosperous future," the statement added.

    However, the US communiqué doesn’t mention of the agreement reached by the Lima Group to try to involve the secretary general of the UN, António Guterres, in the search for solutions to the Venezuelan crisis. As agreed, those in charge of foreign affairs in Canada, Chrystia Freeland, and Peru, Ricardo Luna, plan to meet with Guterres next Monday to convey the request for his involvement with the Lima Group. "We urge others in the international community to join the Lima Group and the United States in opposing the authoritarian actions of the regime of (Venezuelan President Nicolás) Maduro, who is responsible for the worsening political, economic and social crises." The Lima Group is composed of twelve American countries: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Peru. EFE

October 28, 2017

PRESIDENT TRUMP RELEASES THOUSANDS OF KENNEDY FILES, KEEPS OTHERS SECRET

     WASHINGTON, D.C.   -- President Donald Trump allowed on Wednesday the publication of 2,800 documents on the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy that had been classified to date, but he ordered others kept secret after pressure from the FBI and the CIA. Trump ordered his team to review the retained or censured documents over the coming six months and decide by April 26, 2018, whether or not to release them, and it is possible that more could be released after that point, top US officials said. “Executive departments and agencies have proposed to me that certain information should continue to be redacted because of national security, law enforcement, and foreign affairs concerns,” the president said in a memo.

    “I have no choice – today – but to accept those redactions rather than allow potentially irreversible harm to our nation’s security,” Trump added. “To further address these concerns, I am also ordering agencies to re-review each and every one of those redactions over the next 180 days,” he went on to say, noting that “At the end of that period, I will order the public disclosure of any information that the agencies cannot demonstrate meets the statutory standard for continued postponement of disclosure.” Trump said that the US public expects and deserves the greatest access possible to the archives on that historical event, but that, of the 3,100 documents held in the National Archives, some information must remain classified for the time being due to national security concerns if it were to be released.

     One of the officials who spoke with reporters confirmed that the “great majority” of the requests to keep certain documents secret came from the FBI and CIA.  Those agencies have expressed concern that the documents in question might expose the identity of certain still-living individuals and their role as informants in a security or intelligence investigation. Some 88 percent of the records linked to the Nov. 22, 1963, Kennedy assassination have been publicly available since the late 1990s, and an additional 11 percent of the documents have been released with redactions since then. The documents released on Thursday include some of the remaining files and some redacted portions of documents released earlier.

THE LIMA GROUP:  FURTHER ISOLATION OF VENEZUELA MAY BE NEEDED

          TORONTO, CANADA --
 A regional Latin American group on Thursday agreed more steps may be needed to further isolate Venezuela, where President Nicolas Maduro has been accused of stamping on rights and democracy, said Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland. She spoke to reporters after a Toronto meeting of the Lima Group, which also includes Canada. The group has already condemned what it calls recent anti-democratic acts by Venezuela's government.

     "If necessary we must put added pressure on the Maduro regime by taking concrete steps to further isolate it from the international community," she said. Freeland added that Canada was mulling a second round of sanctions against Venezuelan officials. "Other countries should consider doing so as well," she said. Last month Ottawa said it would impose targeted sanctions against 40 Venezuelan senior officials to punish them for "anti-democratic behavior". The Lima Group has around 15 members, including Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Mexico. It is next due to meet in Chile in January 2018.

     Last week the group criticized a nationwide election held in Venezuela, when the ruling Socialist Party took 18 of 23 governorships in a nationwide vote despite widespread anger over economic hardship, that has left millions suffering food shortages, a currency collapse and soaring inflation. Opposition protests this year have led to 125 deaths, thousands of arrests and injuries, and widespread damage to property and infrastructure. The opposition is starting to fragment and the Lima Group meeting on Thursday called on groups to work together. "It's a very important point. The people of Venezuela, in their struggle to reestablish democracy in their country ... deserve an opposition which is united and can represent them effectively," said Freeland.

FLORIDA STATE REP. CARLOS TRUJILLO TAPPED BY PRESIDENT TRUMP TO BE OAS AMBASSADOR

        WASHINGTON, D.C. --      President Donald Trump nominated Florida state Rep. Carlos Trujillo of Miami Thursday to be the permanent representative of the United States to the Organization of American States, with the rank of ambassador. The bilingual Trujillo, the Florida House’s budget chairman, was first elected to his legislative seat in 2010 and has also been serving in a temporary role as a representative to the United Nation’s General Assembly for the past two months.

    Trujillo, an early Trump supporter, said he was unsure if he’ll resign his legislative office before the state lawmaking session begins in January, and that his plans will hinge on the Senate’s confirmation schedule. Trujillo can count on the support of his fellow Miami-area Republican, Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. “I am humbled by the opportunity to serve my country,” Trujillo said. “I look forward to me Senate confirmation hearing and my new responsibilities.” The bilingual Trujillo has built a reputation in the Florida Legislature for his serious, no-nonsense approach to policy.

     Though a conservative, he’s also known for working well with Democrats, who are in the minority in the Florida House. Friends of Trujillo’s said earlier this week that his upbringing, work ethic and support for Trump made him a perfect fit for the Spanish-language legislative OAS body. “Miami is a gateway to Latin America and Carlos is bilingual, and he understands the intricacies of the politics in the region — that Argentina policy is completely different than, say, Cuba,” said Trujillo’s friend. “As budget chair [in the Florida House], Carlos already has negotiated at the highest level in the state. He has already transitioned to diplomacy at the U.N. OAS is the next logical step.”

October 27, 2017

VENEZUELA OPPOSITION RECEIVES EUROPEAN UNION'S SAKHAROV PRIZE

     BRUSSELS, BELGIUM   --   The European Parliament awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, Europe’s most prestigious human rights award, to the democratic opposition in Venezuela on Thursday. The announcement, made by Antonio Tajani, the Parliament’s president, before a plenary session in Strasbourg, France, was repeatedly interrupted by applause. “Today we are supporting a nation’s freedom to struggle,” Mr. Tajani said. “We hereby express our full support for the National Assembly of Venezuela, the only democratically elected Parliament.”

     For several years, Venezuela, an oil-producing nation, has been going through a harsh economic crisis as energy prices have dropped. President Nicolas Maduro’s government has also led a crackdown on opposition parties, their leaders and their supporters as part of a plan to consolidate power. He has tried to close the country’s National Assembly to limit its power and influence, and has created a superseding, all-powerful constitutional assembly. “The ruling party has steadily limited the rule of law of and the constitutional order, and in March 2017, the Supreme Court stripped the democratically elected National Assembly of legislative power,” a statement by the European Parliament said.

     Hundreds of Venezuelans have been arbitrarily arrested and dozens been killed over the past year alone, European officials said. Scores of protesters were killed this year during months of street demonstrationsagainst the Maduro government. The official laureate is the “democratic opposition in Venezuela,” as represented by the country’s National Assembly and its president, Julio Borges, and the political prisoners listed by Foro Penal, a human rights organization, Mr. Tajani said. Mr. Tajani pledged to protect rights and freedom of opinion within and outside Europe. He noted that on the same day, two activists had been freed by Turkey — in part because of pressure from the European Union. “We want people who are fighting for human rights or freedom of opinion anywhere in the world to know that they can count on this parliament,” Mr. Tajani said

THE LIMA GROUP MEETS IN CANADA. PERU ASKS THE GROUP TO INCLUDE THE UN TO FACE THE VENEZUELAN CRISIS

          TORONTO, CANADA --
 Peruvian Foreign Minister Ricardo Luna, co-chair of the Lima Group, said on Thursday he wanted to involve the UN and its Secretary General António Guterres in seeking a solution to the Venezuelan crisis. At the start of the third ministerial meeting of the Lima Group in Toronto, Canada, Luna stated that he believed that "it is time" to try to involve "the United Nations and in particular its Secretary General, António Guterres" in the solution of the crisis. Luna added that the objective of the meeting of the Group "is to create a favorable situation" so that "regime" of Nicolás Maduro "feels obliged to negotiate" not only an exit to the crisis, "but also an exit to his own regime".

     Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, host of the meeting and co-chair of the Lima Group, said that "we can not keep our arms crossed" and that it is necessary to expand the coalition of countries opposed to the Maduro regime, that "has chosen the way of the dictatorship". "Here we must coordinate our actions to put enough pressure on the Maduro regime so that Venezuela can return to democracy." The alternative is more violence, despair and more suffering for Venezuelans. Freeland said.

     Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz declared that his country "will not be part of a mock dialogue" with Venezuela. "The chancellors of the Lima Group maintain our unwavering decision to continue making the efforts that are within our reach for Venezuela to regain a constitutional democratic order," Muñoz said at a break from the group's ministerial meeting of twelve American countries . But he added that, if a series of conditions are not fulfilled for the holding of elections with democratic guarantees, "Chile will not be part of a mock dialogue. The Foreign Ministers of Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Saint Lucia, as well as representatives of Brazil, are attending the Toronto meeting.

DEEP CRACKS APPEAR IN VENEZUELA'S WEAKENED  OPPOSITION

        CARACAS, VENEZUELA     One of Venezuela’s most prominent opposition leaders threatened to break from the broad alliance of opposition parties on Tuesday, pushing the coalition to the brink of fracture and further deepening the nation’s political crisis. Henrique Capriles, a two-time presidential candidate who narrowly lost to President Nicolás Maduro in 2013, coupled his threat with a full-throated demand for an overhaul of the alliance. “This is like when you go to the doctor and they detect a tumor,” Mr. Capriles said in a broadcast on the Periscope live-streaming application. “It’s time to remove the tumor and cure the patient, Venezuela.”

    Capriles’s announcement highlighted the deepest public rift in the alliance since its founding about a decade ago. It came a day after the governors-elect from one of the coalition’s most influential parties took the oath of office before the Constituent Assembly, an all-powerful body engineered by Mr. Maduro, infuriating many in the opposition. Though always torn by competing interests, the alliance for years had largely been able to maintain a united public front, bound by the shared goal of ousting Mr. Maduro and, before him, President Hugo Chávez.

    But the internal divisions became more apparent this year, especially during the run-up to regional elections on Oct. 15, as some elements of the opposition called for abstention to protest what they considered an undemocratic system heavily rigged in favor of candidates from Mr. Maduro’s party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. Pre-election polling forecast a near-sweep by opposition candidates, but the results were reversed, with the United Socialist Party winning 18 of the 23 races. Opposition leaders charged that there had been widespread fraud, including cheating in the heavily contested state of Bolivar that tipped the results in favor of a United Socialist Party candidate. The bruising outcome left the opposition reeling, its future uncertain. With municipal elections on the horizon, the opposition had in recent days been deeply divided about whether to participate or boycott.

October 26, 2017

THE LIMA GROUP MEETS TODAY TO EXPLORE SOLUTIONS TO THE POLITICAL CRISIS IN VENEZUELA

     OTTAWA, CANADA   --   TODAYy, the third meeting of the Lima group in Toronto will be held, as announced by the Canadian Government, to "explore ways" for a "solution to the Venezuelan crisis." In a statement from Panama, the country's vice president and chancellor, Isabel De Saint Malo, stressed that the 12 Latin American countries that make up the group will seek a solution to the crisis "based on the restoration of democracy and respect for human rights of the Venezuelans, "said the statement, in light of the" irregularities denounced in the regional elections of October 15, which have generated new questions, increased tensions and conflicts "in the country.

     The Lima group, made up of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Peru, emerged in August when its members signed the so-called Lima Declaration, that Venezuela "is no longer a democracy" and that "the acts emanating" from its Constituent Assembly, promoted by the Government of Nicolás Maduro, "are illegitimate." Last week, the 12 countries called for an "independent audit" of the Venezuelan regional elections last 15 to clarify "the controversy generated over the results" issued by the National Electoral Council (CNE), which gave a wide victory to the ruling party. However, the opposition does not recognize and alleged fraud.

     Panama's vice president and chancellor, Isabel De Saint Malo, confirmed her attendance at the third meeting of the Lima Group, to be held today in Canada, in order to assess the situation in Venezuela. In a statement, the Panamanian Foreign Ministry said that the meeting will "review scenarios towards the search for a peaceful solution to the crisis, based on the restoration of democracy and respect for the human rights of Venezuelans." The agenda will include a point referring to the regional elections of October 15, a process that has been denounced for allegedly being vitiated and that "have generated new questions, increased tensions and conflicts," the statement said.

FORMER BOLIVIAN PRESIDENT JORGE QUIROGA RECOMMENDS TO FREEZE THE BANK ACCOUNTS OF ALL "CHAVISTS" IN SPAIN AND LATIN AMERICA

     LA PAZ, BOLIVIA   --
Former Bolivian President Jorge Quiroga today called on Spain and the member states of Mercosur and Unasur to freeze the accounts of the narconarcissistic leaders of Venezuela have in their countries. Speaking to reporters before the start of a meeting of Latin American former presidents in Miami, Quiroga said that "sanctions must be applied" so that chavist leaders cease to have "mansions and bank accounts in Spain" and Latin America . He questioned the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) and its president, the Argentine president Mauricio Macri, the reasons why the "narcodictadura" directed by the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, is still allowed to be a full member and " without consequence ".

     "It is time to separate (Venezuela), not only from Mercosur, but also from Unasur," said the Bolivian ex-president from 2001 to 2002. "It is time to make operational progress in this kind of actions by the international community." Quiroga also asked the leader of the Venezuelan opposition party Acción Democrática (AD), Henry Ramos Allup, why he accepted the ruling National Constituent Assembly (ANC). He said that the decision of the four governors of the opposition coalition Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD) to appear before the ANC will serve to "purge" people who "were not really in the opposition."

     At the same time, Quiroga praised the governor-elect of the Zulia state, the opponent Juan Pablo Guanipa, for not having accepted to subordinate himself to an ANC that he does not recognize, therefore, he considered,” it is better to lose everything than to live on his knees.” The former president said that Maduro will blackmail the metropolitan mayor of Caracas, the opposition Antonio Ledezma, and Leopoldo López, both under house arrest, to return to jail if they do not recognize the ANC. The former president believes that as long as the Venezuelan people resist and do not recognize the ANC there is a possibility to recover democracy and freedom in Venezuela, although it will cost a lot. And he also predicted that if the economic deterioration continues and the country's "scarcity" is accentuated, there will be an "explosion, a popular rebellion".

LUIS VICENTE LEON: THIS IS THE WORST CRISIS EXPERIENCED BY THE VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION

        CARACAS, VENEZUELA     The president of Datanálisis, Luis Vicente Leon, warned about the magnitude of the crisis that has experienced the Democratic Unity Table (MUD), which in his opinion is the worst "in 19 years and is just beginning."

     Through his Twitter account, León said that "there is no chance of future opponent success without going through the construction of common rules to settle their differences." The statistician recommended that the opposition leadership build "a leadership that will rescue the confidence" and then apply any political strategy that deems necessary. "The triumph of the government fracturing the opposition is much more bizarre than the result of the regional ones," emphasized Luis Vicente Leon.

     The instability within the leadership of the MUD came after four governors, all of the Democratic Action party, were sworn in before the directive of the National Constituent Assembly, contradicting the statements issued by the secretary general of the white awning. Henry Ramos Allup, and other opposition leaders. This fact generated a wave of statements against the measure, among which are the ex-governor Miranda state, Henrique Capriles Radonski, and Henry Ramos Allup.

October 25, 2017

PRESIDENT SANTOS: WHAT HAPPENED IN VENEZUELA TO GOVERNORS IS ABUSE OF AUTHORITY

     BOGOTA, COLOMBIA   --   Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Monday that in Venezuela “the maximum abuse of authority” took place after the government of President Nicolás Maduro forced four opposition state governors to be sworn in by the National Constituent Assembly (ANC). “I was thinking about our neighbors because today (Monday, October 23), they (the Venezuelan government) forced the state governors elected by the opposition to take office before the National Constituent Assembly (ANC), which was illegally elected.

      That is the maximum abuse of authority,” President Santos said. According to President Santos, if what happened in Venezuela had occurred in Colombia, the State Council would have taken action to prevent it, Efe quoted. “Power should have limits and limitation of such power is what ensures the liberties of citizens in general and prevents the government from being tempted out of its authority,” the Colombian president reasoned. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro reported on Monday that he acknowledged the four state governments elected for the opposition. However, as a precondition to take office, they should be sworn in by the ANC.

      The four governors are members of opposition Acción Democrática (AD) party, the leader of which is former Congress Speaker and Deputy of the National Assembly (AN), Henry Ramos Allup. AD is one of the major parties to the opposition coalition Unified Democratic Panel (MUD). Santos recalled that Colombia did not recognize the Constituent Assembly of Venezuela, which, according to the opposition and various foreign governments, was illegally elected. Relations between Colombia and Venezuela, which share 2,219 kilometers of common border, are at their lowest point due to the opposite statements published by the two governments in the midst of the crisis faced by Venezuelans.

FOUR OPPOSITION GOVERNORS IN VENEZUELA BREAK WITH COALITION'S STANCE, WERE SWORN IN BY THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY AS ORDERED BY DICTATOR MADURO

     CARACAS, VENEZUELA    --
In another setback for Venezuela's dispirited opposition, four of its five state governors broke with their coalition's official stance on Monday to swear themselves in before a pro-government legislative superbody. The Democratic Unity coalition went into the Oct. 15 gubernatorial polls as favourites for a big win against President Nicolas Maduro's candidates because of voter anger at a brutal economic crisis in the OPEC member. Initially alleging fraud, the opposition later acknowledged that abstentionism in its ranks played a big part in the defeat, which shed doubt on its ability to beat the ruling socialists in next year's presidential vote.

     After the regional ballot, the coalition said none of its winning candidates would "kneel" before the pro-Maduro Constituent Assembly body, which it has refused to recognize since its establishment in an election in July. But the newly elected governors for Tachira, Merida, Nuevo Esparta and Anzoategui – all from the Democratic Action party, one of Venezuela's biggest and oldest – swore themselves in before assembly directors as a prerequisite to taking office. After presiding over the ceremony, Constituent Assembly head Delcy Rodriguez chided the one winning opposition candidate, Juan Pablo Guanipa of oil-rich Zulia state, who held out. "These actions will have consequences," she said.

     The four governors were "self-excluded" from their party, as announced on Tuesday by Henry Ramos Allup, general secretary of the Acción Democrática (AD) party to which they all belong. Allup explained that the AD leadership instructed the four governors not to sworn in before the ANC, but the officials did not comply with the party’s instructions and accepted to be sworn in by the ANC as demanded by Maduro, to be able to assume their positions. Allup said that there is an automatic "self-exclusion" rule that must be applied in case like this. He further explained that governors Laidy Gomez, of the state Táchira; Juan Barreto Sira, of Anzoátegui; Alfredo Diaz, Nueva Esparta and Ramón Guevara, from Mérida, have been expelled in accordance with the provisions of the party’s internal regulations.

US SENDING BACK DIPLOMATS PULLED FROM VENEZUELA AMID UNREST

        CARACASS, VENEZUELA     The Trump administration has approved the return to Venezuela of several U.S. government employees pulled from the country in July at the height of anti-government protests.

      The guidance Monday came in the State Department's latest travel warning in which it once again urged U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Venezuela over concerns about rampant crime, continued unrest and medicine shortages.

     More than 100 people were killed and hundreds injured in daily demonstrations ahead of a July 30 referendum on rewriting Venezuela's constitution that was boycotted by the opposition. But since then the streets have calmed as the pro-government constitutional assembly has started its work and President Nicolas Maduro has consolidated his power by cracking down on opponents and helping allies pull off a surprise win in this month's gubernatorial elections.

October 24, 2017

LUIS ALMAGRO, OAS SECRETARY GENERAL: WE CANNOT RECOGNIZE THE RESULTS OF VENEZUELA'S REGIONAL ELECTIONS

     WASHINGTON, D.C.   --   We are not going to comment on the irregularities in the process, given that they repeat the same variables of illegality, uncertainty and fraud that we have been denouncing since our first communication to the president of the National Electoral Council, Tibisay Lucena, in November 2015. We reiterate these same complaints regarding the election process for the National Constituent Assembly or the annulment of the recall referendum. We would have liked to greet the winners and welcome the completion of a civic celebration. However, we have to express skepticism and denounce the lack of guarantees that take place over and over in elections held by dictatorships.

    The General Secretariat of the OAS rejects all of these illegitimate acts carried out by illegitimate governments, and condemns in particular, once more, the abuses of the civil and political rights of the Venezuelan people by the regime. The results of an election in a country with no guarantees for the effective exercise of democracy cannot be recognized. It is clear that any political force that agrees to go to an election without guarantees becomes an essential tool of the eventual fraud, and shows that it has no democratic reflexes to protect the rights of the people, in this case, the right to the vote. This is an important lesson for everyone, for the political leadership of Venezuela and for the international community.

    These are the only kind of results we can expect – fraud and human rights violations – if the political strategy and acts distance themselves from democratic principles and values in favor of easy and circumstantial agreements. No election in Venezuela will provide guarantees to voters unless it is carried out with qualified electoral observation – in particular by this Organization – that ensures a transparent and legal process. We consider that it is no longer the time for resolutions or declarations, although we appreciate that the last ones made have been conclusive and reflect more accurately the agenda we proposed on May 30, 2015: general elections, freedom for all political prisoners, the separation of powers and respect for institutions, and the opening of a humanitarian channel.

MORE THAN 1,600,000 VENEZUELANS VOTED WITHOUT FINGERPRINTS ON OCTOBER 15H

     CARACAS, VENEZUELA    --
More than 1.6 million Venezuelans managed to vote in the contested October 15th regional elections without registering their fingerprints digitally, the key safeguard against fraud and multiple voting in the system, the opposition denounced Monday, as claims of vast and widespread fraud and irregularities kept mounting. “There are more votes without an associated fingerprint than the CNE first reported,” the President of the National Assembly, opposition lawmaker Julio Borges, said Monday at a press conference.

     Every voter needs to have their fingerprints scanned when voting in Venezuela since 2004. That activates another machine, where the actual voting takes place. No matching fingerprint, no vote: the machine blocks itself, preventing cheaters from casting someone else's vote or more than one vote. When that happens (say, a man missing a thumb wants to vote) the CNE electoral board official present has to manually unblock the machine, allow the man to vote and leave some sort of record of that happening.

     However, the company that took care of voting hardware and software from 2004 on, London-based Smartmatic, parted ways acrimoniously with the CNE weeks ago, after reporting Venezuela Regime fraud in the election of the Constituent Assembly on July 30. On Monday, Borges insisted on a full audit of the October 15th vote, including instances of people voting without an associated fingerprint. “We have the right to know those instances," Borges insisted. Other allegations of fraud concern “erased” votes in Bolivar state, where Maduro’s candidate won with an advantage of just 1,480 votes, and many votes were entered mysteriously after the tallies were printed. The losing Opposition candidate Andres Velasquez, a former governor of Bolivar, went before the CNE on Monday to denounce the fraud in Bolivar.
 

VENEZUELA OPPOSITION GOVERNORS REFUSE TO BE SWORN IN  BY THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY

        CARACASS, VENEZUELA    --  Venezuela's opposition said its newly-elected governors would refuse to participate Wednesday in a swearing in ceremony before the pro-government Constituent Assembly, which it does not recognize. The Democratic Union Roundtable (MUD) said it would not allow its five governors to be subjected to "the blackmail of the fraudulent Constituent Assembly" after President Nicolas Maduro threatened to remove them from office if they refused. "We will only be sworn in before God and the respective legislative councils and not before the fraudulent Constituent Assembly," the MUD said in a statement shortly before a special swearing-in session convened at the legislative palace.

      The opposition had previously said it would not participate but doubts remained until shortly before the ceremony because of internal divisions. It was unclear whether the refusal would mean the governors are dismissed as Maduro has threatened, and if so, who would replace them. However, constitutional specialist Jose Vincent Haro said there was no obligation to go before the assembly. "According to the constitution of each state they must be sworn in before the legislative council of their state." The results of Sunday's closely-watched regional elections were a crushing blow for the opposition coaliton, which had characterized the elections as a referendum on Maduro after months of deadly street protests earlier this year failed to unseat him.

     Maduro created the Constituent Assembly in July to bypass the opposition-dominated parliament, packing it with his allies. International powers have condemned the creation of the assembly, and accuse Maduro of dismantling democracy by taking over state institutions in the wake of an economic collapse caused by the fall in the price of oil, its main source of revenue. The government took 18 states in Sunday's elections and the MUD only five, despite opinion polls putting it ahead in as many as 18 states. The oppostion coalition, which accuses the National Electoral Council of being a vehicle of the government, rejected the result and called for a full audit of the electoral process, saying it was riddled with "irregularities."

October 23, 2017

MONSIGNOR PADRON: THE ELECTORAL PROCESS DEEPENED THE DIVISION IN THE COUNTRY

     CARACAS, VENEZUELA   --   The president of the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference (CEV), Monsignor Diego Padrón, said that the regional elections to governors last Sunday October 15, "did not bring integration or greater search for the common good, but deepened the division" in the country.

      This Friday, in an interview with Union Radio, Moseñor Padrón said that for Venezuela the elections have not brought the peace and tranquility that was expected. "You look for improvements, hope and this time the people came out divided. The same act did not bring what we all expected. "He explained that the Church decided to pronounce because it has to call attention to the National Electoral Council (CNE), institution that causes" this situation that divides us and brings us dissatisfaction. "

     "Previously there was a large series of irregularities that took away from the people their capacity to decide. We do not have an arbitrator who guarantees justice, equity and respect for the popular will, "he said. He called on the Venezuelan people to realize that an election does not mean a debacle, "but ratifies once again that the only valid way to overcome the crisis will be a democratic electoral path."

JULIO BORGES ANNOUNCES NA INTERNATIONAL TOUR TO DENOUNCE ELECTORAL FRAUD

     CARACAS, VENEZUELA    --
Venezuelan Parliament President Julio Borges and other opposition MPs will begin an international tour in which they will denounce to national officials such as the UN, the Organization of American States (OAS) or the European Union (EU) the "electoral fraud" perpetrated in last Sunday regional election. The announcement was made today by President of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly (AN, Parliament), Deputy Luis Florido, who also will hold meetings of the selected delegation with international governments and reported that the tour will begin "within hours, in the next few hours ".

     In the trip agenda is also included a meeting with the so-called Lima Group, made up of 12 American countries that have repeatedly reported on the supposed totalitarian drift of the Government of Nicolás Maduro. Julio Borges has denounced that Venezuelan authorities prevented him from leaving the country this week when he was about to travel to Russia to attend a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). The same thing happened to the wife of Leopoldo López, Lilian Tintori, who was banned from leaving the country when she was to fly to Europe to meet with the leaders of France, Spain, Germany and England to denounce before them the present crisis in Venezuela.

     The Chavist governed won the regional governors election of October 15 in 18 of the country's 23 states, in an electoral process in which the opposition has denounced serious irregularities and claims that the results were manipulated in at least one state. In his statement, Florido stressed "the need to find mechanisms for our country to restore the electoral rights of our citizens," and cited among the problems of the nation "the grave humanitarian crisis" that Venezuela lives because of "the deepening of the crisis, the hyperinflation and the shortage of products ". Florido has appealed to the Government of Maduro "to stop the impediment that it has been imposed on the parliamentarians to leave the country." In addition to Tintori and Borges, other opposition politicians have reported that they have been prevented from traveling abroad without any reason to do so.

TALCUAL: HEY SAAB, GIORDANI IS WAITING FOR YOU

        CARACASS, VENEZUELA    --  The new jailer of Venezuela and former human rights defender, Tarek William Saab, says to be in a crusade against corruption. He is seen calling a press conference every now and then to inform of a detention, commonly related to an official of state-run oil company Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) or any of its contracting companies, but as time goes by the one person he takes to prison is the first common criminal that gets in his way in any part of Venezuela.

    From TalCual we remind you that one of the most loyal men to the late "eternal" Commander Hugo Chávez, Jorge Giordani, said that when he was fired by his beloved "son" Nicolás Maduro some $20 billion had disappeared from former foreign exchange authority Cadivi through shell companies. That kind of money couldn’t have been stolen by the small-time crooks Saab is putting behind bars. If you really want to make the country believe that your fight against corruption is serious, this case may help you out. Stealing that amount of greenbacks can only be done by people with good connections with the now defunct Cadivi.

     The new Attorney General has been on the Government’s side for quite a few years, so we are sure he handled very sensitive information. We believe he is wrong, at least in the economic sphere, but still we think of him as a serious man. It is for this reason that we urge Saab to at least ask Giordani, Venezuela’s former planning minister, for all the information he’s got available regarding the case so he can look into it. We don’t think he is going to do so because suddenly it crossed our mind that when Giordani reported these acts of corruption back in 2014, Cadivi was led by a high-ranking military officer and, when it comes to kiss military ass, Saab does it well.

October 22, 2017

SPAIN WILL REMOVE CATALONIA LEADER, ESCALATING SECESSION CRISIS

     BARCELONA, SPAIN   --  The escalating confrontation over Catalonia’s independence drive took its most serious turn on Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced that he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid. It was the first time that Spain’s government had moved to strip the autonomy of one of its 17 regions, and the first time that a leader had invoked Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution — a broad tool intended to protect the “general interests” of the nation.

     The unexpectedly forceful moves by Mr. Rajoy, made after an emergency cabinet meeting, thrust Spain into uncharted waters as he tried to put down one of the gravest constitutional crises his country has faced since embracing democracy after the death of its dictator Gen. Francisco Franco in 1975. The steps were immediately condemned by Catalan leaders and risked further inflaming an already volatile atmosphere in the prosperous northeastern region, where thousands braved national police wielding truncheons to vote in a contentious independence referendum on Oct. 1, even after it was declared illegal by the Spanish government and courts.

     “There’s nothing soft or limited about what he announced today,” Josep Ramoneda, a political columnist and philosopher, said of Mr. Rajoy. “We’re entering a very delicate phase, in which an independence movement that appeared to be running out of options might now draw instead on a collective sense of humiliation at seeing Catalonia being forced under Madrid’s control.”  Fueled by economic grievances and a distinct language and culture, aspirations for an independent state in Catalonia have ebbed and flowed for generations. But the current confrontation has presented a vexing quandary not only for Spain but the entire European Union, pitting democratic rights and demands for self-determination against the desire to preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of an important member state.

EL DICTADOR MADURO THREATENS TO REPEAT REGIONAL ELECTION, IN THE STATES WON BY THE OPPOSITION

     CARACAS, VENEZUELA    --
Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro threatened Friday to repeat regional elections in states where the ruling National Constituent Assembly (ANC) is not recognized, referring to the five elected governors-elect who have refused to swear before this power. “Anyone who wants to be governor will have to recognize the National Constituent Assembly but elections will be repeated in states where the Constituent Assembly is not recognized,” Maduro insisted on a mandatory radio and television channel.

      The Venezuelan head of state also said that if the elections are repeated, “the candidates who won even though they did not want to respect the law and the Constitution will be disqualified.” From the act of taking power of the governor-elect Lara (west), Chavista Carmen Meléndez, the president said that the rules of the game must be respected. Last Sunday, Chavistas won in 18 states and the opposition in five, in the regional elections to choose the governors. The Venezuelan opposition has said that its five governors will not be sworn in to the Constituent Assembly.

     The Venezuelan law establishes that the new governors of the 23 states of the country must be sworn in in the respective Legislative Council of each region, of which 22 of the 23 that exist are in the hands of the ruling party. However, a decree published in the Official Gazette circulating Friday in the media states that “Legislative Councils will not be able to swear to those proclaimed governors and proclaimed governors who have not previously sworn before this National Constituent Assembly,” composed of Chavistas.

VENEZUELA'S PDVSA PUT ON NEGATIVE WATCH FOR DEFAULT BY S&P

        WASHINGTON, D.C.    --  S&P Global Ratings placed its ratings on Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) on CreditWatch with negative implications, including its 'CCC-' corporate credit ratings. On August 25, 2017, the U.S government banned the trade in any new bonds or stocks of the Venezuelan government and PDVSA, as well as dividend payments or other distributions of profits to the Government of Venezuela from any entity owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by them. Banks also cannot engage in new lending with the government or PDVSA.

     In September, the Venezuelan government had difficulty making a coupon payment on their sovereign bonds, driven by these sanctions. The coupon was paid a week after it was scheduled. Given PDVSA's current sanctions and its already pressured liquidity position, we are uncertain about the company's ability to pay its upcoming debt maturities at the end of the month and beginning of November. The CreditWatch placement reflects the uncertainty about the company's ability to pay its upcoming debt maturity on its 2020 senior unsecured notes scheduled to be covered on Oct. 27, 2017 for about $1.0 billion and the maturity of its 2017 senior unsecured notes scheduled to be covered on Nov. 2, 2017 for about $1.2 billion, given PDVSA's current sanctions and its already pressured liquidity position.

     The CreditWatch negative listing means the ratings could be lowered or affirmed in the next week. We expect to resolve the CreditWatch listing once the company either fails to pay its upcoming debt maturities on the scheduled date ,or if it pays them down. If the company is unable to pay its maturities, the corporate rating will be lowered to 'SD', the rating on the 2017 and 2020 notes will be lowered to 'D', and the remaining current outstanding debt will be affirmed at 'CCC-'. If the company announces a general default all of the ratings will be lowered to 'D'.

October 21, 2017

THE VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION GOVERNORS CAN ONLY ASSUME THE POSITION IF THEY ARE SWORN IN BEFORE THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY (ANC)

     CARACAS, VENEZUELA   --  The governors-elect of the opposition in Venezuela will only be able to assume the position if they swear before the Constituent Assembly that governs the country with absolute powers, as it has been decided by a decree of the official organ. Until now, the assumption of power by the regional leaders was carried out before the Legislative Councils, but the Constituent Assembly determined that before they must appear before that instance. "The Legislative Councils will not be able to swear in those proclaimed governors and proclaimed governors who have not sworn before this National Constituent Assembly," the decree issued on Thursday said.

      The decree also considered the 18 chavistas governors elected last Sunday to have been already sworn in. The opposition, which won five governorships, ruled out being subordinated to the Constituent Assembly. The warning to the opposition governors-elect had been advanced by dictator Nicolas Maduro. "Whoever is not sworn in and subordinated to the National Constituent Assembly cannot take his place, whatever his name may be. It is a decision of the Plenipotentiary Constituent Assembly. They must respect to be respected, "the dictator reiterated at a public event. Composed exclusively by assembly members of the ruling party, it is recognized by the opposition and several countries of America and Europe, reason why the adversaries of Maduro discard to be subordinate to that assembly.

     "If they decide not to assume their positions, the corresponding bodies will function but there will be no vacuum (of power), I assure you," said Maduro. The opposition coalition Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD) won five governorships in Sunday's election, compared to 18 in Chavez, in a process it considers "fraudulent." The ruling governors swore on Wednesday before the Constituent Assembly, prior to its traditional possession in the legislative council. The elections were questioned by the European Union, the United States, Canada and a dozen Latin American countries that supported the MUD's call for an independent audit, accusing the National Electoral Council (CNE) of serving the Maduro government. On Thursday, the US State Department condemned the "undemocratic action" of Maduro's governent to demand that governors-elect submit themselves to the "illegitimate Constituent Assembly."

JULIO BORGES: DICTATOR MADURO'S GOVERNMENT HAS DESTROYED CONFIDENCE IN THE VOTE

     CARACAS, VENEZUELA    --
The president of the National Assembly of Venezuela (AN, Parliament), Julio Borges, accused the government of Nicolás Maduro of destroying confidence in the vote, days after the elections in the country were widely questioned. " What the government has done with this election is to destroy the confidence in the vote," said the deputy, a finalist along with other leaders of the Venezuelan opposition in the European Parliament's freedom of conscience award, Sakharov 2017, whose winner will be announced next Thursday.

     Borges, the only Venezuelan joint candidate to be released, accused the so-called Bolivarian revolution of having affected the outcome of Sunday's regional elections, in which chavismo swept 18 of the 23 governorates in dispute, according to the bulletin of the National Electoral Council (CNE). He asserted that the ruling party controlled the vote "through hunger, (...) of mandatory cards that makes people present to vote, through all that means the coercion of public employees, and through what means the political and armed control at polling stations."

     However, despite the fact that the chamber - which has a strong anti-Chávez majority - declared fraudulent the recent elections and agreed to request an international audit of the election, they also said that they will continue working to "assert the vote" and "that people should feel confident" in this system as a formula for political change. Borges said that the Venezuelan opposition and the Parliament - the only power that controls - will persist in denouncing the irregularities of the electoral system "inside and outside" the country, to get governments to apply more pressure against the administration of Nicolás Maduro. The head of the legislature considered that his country "is fighting the battle for the most important freedom of the 21st century" and this is something, he remarked, that is understood by "all the democracies of the world."

CANADA TO HOST REGIONAL MEETING TO REVIEW  THE CRISIS IN VENEZUELA

        OTTAWA, CANADA    --  Foreign ministers from a dozen American countries will meet in Toronto next Thursday, Canadian Chancellor Chrystia Freeland said days after Maduro launched virulent criticisms of Ottawa. The next Thursday meeting of the countries of the "Lima Group" aims to accentuate "pressure on the Maduro regime" Canada wants to "increase pressure" on the government of President Nicolás Maduro, said Friday Chancellor Freeland, announcing that she will host a meeting of American countries in search of a solution to the crisis in Venezuela.

      "Canada is very concerned about the deterioration of the political and economic situation in Venezuela," the Canadian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Foreign ministers from a dozen American countries will meet in Toronto next Thursday, Freeland said days after Maduro launched virulent criticisms of Ottawa. The meeting of the countries of the "Lima Group" aims to accentuate "the pressure on the regime of Maduro," he said, according to AFP. "Our goal is clear: we want to implement a peaceful solution to the crisis and the restoration of democracy and respect for human rights for all Venezuelans," said the minister.

     This will be the third meeting of the group, which was formed in August in Lima, and includes Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Peru. Last Tuesday, Canada criticized the "many irregularities" in Sunday's regional elections in Venezuela, saying they "raise significant and legitimate concerns about the validity of the results." Maduro, whose party took 18 of the 23 governorates at stake, said he was not interested in the "stupid Canadian government" questioning the validity of the results. A month ago, Canada did the same thing as the United States (US) in imposing sanctions against Maduro and 39 other people in his inner circle.

October 20, 2017

AN DECLARED FRAUDULENT THE ELECTORAL PROCESS OF THE REGIONAL ELECTIONS

     CARACAS, VENEZUELA   --  The National Assembly (AN) on Thursday approved an agreement in which the electoral process of last October 15 was declared "fraudulent." In the agreement that was unanimously approved during the session, it is also required to carry out a comprehensive qualitative and quantitative audit carried out by international organizations, the creation of a special commission charged with documenting exhaustively the violations of the electoral process perpetrated by the National Government and the National Electoral Council (CNE), denounce them internationally and refer this agreement to the agencies responsible for defending human rights.

      The special commission is made up of representatives Jorge Millán, Olivia Lozano, Carlos Valero, Franklin Duarte and Americo de Grazia, who will preside over it. Also approved was the proposal made by the deputy of the state Anzoátegui, Omar González, to start the regulatory procedure to appoint the new rectors and alternates of the CNE immediately. He indicated that they will go to all international instances to denounce the violations committed during the process. For her part, deputy Larissa Gonzalez, reported that in the state Delta Amacuro, Plan Republic allowed fraud in the state. "CNE certified another candidate as a winner, it is another proof of the violation of the laws," he said. The governor candidate for the Portuguese state, Maria Beatriz Martínez, explained that in that state, the process slowed down in some polling centers, even causing that it was not possible to vote.

     In addition, she pointed out that in other centers, the voters of the ruling party voted with several ballots because the captahuellas machines were handled by PSUV technicians. Faced with this situation, Martinez stressed that only with a free and transparent audit can be answered the questions that have about the "electoral fraud" committed. Finally, the deputy and deputy president of the AN, Freddy Guevara, said that the CNE should be changed immediately, and that in the audit required in the approved agreement, not only are requesting the ballots to verify them with the minutes , but the footprints and the electoral notebooks. In addition, he urged members of political parties and deputies to assume responsibility for unifying criteria within the Unit before publicly disclosing political positions.

PRESIDENTS TRUMP AND MACRI AGREE TO COOPERATE TO RESTORE DEMOCRACY IN VENEZUELA

      WASHINGTON, D.C.      --
US President Donald Trump spoke on the telephone with his Argentine counterpart Mauricio Macri on the situation in Venezuela and the economic and trade relationship between their two countries, the White House said in a statement. Trump and Macri "talked about the persistent crisis in Venezuela and agreed to continue working together to help the people of Venezuela to restore democracy in their country," said the official note from Washington.

      The presidents also spoke about the relationship between the United States and Argentina and agreed on their "commitment to increase bilateral trade and investment". "President Trump praised Macri's efforts to reform the economy," the White House said in a brief statement. The phone call arrives at a time of tension in Venezuela, where the opposition has rejected the results of last Sunday's regional elections, in which chavismo won an overwhelming victory, considering that the process was "fraudulent." The US State Department, through its spokesman Heather Nauert, said on Monday that those elections were not "free" or "fair", and warned that it will continue to pressure the Nicolas Maduro government.

     "As long as the Maduro regime continues to behave like an authoritarian dictatorship, we will work with the members of the international community and impose the full weight of US economic and diplomatic power on behalf of the Venezuelan people in their attempt to restore democracy," Nauert said. Argentina and 11 other American countries that are part of the so-called Lima Group also questioned the results of the elections on Tuesday, and went beyond the United States to ask for an independent audit of the results, accompanied by international observers. Asked if the United States shares that request of the Lima Group, a State Department spokeswoman told Efe on Monday that she had "nothing more to add" to the position expressed Monday by Nauert.

VENEZUELA OPPOSITION GOVERNORS BOYCOTT SWEARING IN CEREMONY

        CARACAS, VENEZUELA    -- Venezuela's opposition boycotted a swearing-in ceremony Wednesday for governors held by the all-powerful, pro-government constitutional assembly following disputed elections largely won by ruling party candidates. Eighteen new socialist governors stood, lifted one hand and pledged to uphold Venezuela's constitution in the ceremony at the assembly's chamber. A painting of the late President Hugo Chavez stood nearby. Notably absent were the five opposition candidates who won seats in Sunday's regional elections. The opposition's alliance said earlier in the day that it would boycott the session before a body they consider unconstitutional.

      "They will only pledge before God and their respective legislative councils," the opposition said in a statement. President Nicolas Maduro warned before the vote that any new governors would have to take an oath and "submit" to the constitutional assembly — an act opposition candidates said they would never do. The assembly, which is supposed to rewrite the constitution, was elected in July following an internationally condemned vote the opposition refused to participate in, and officials have given it virtually unlimited powers.

      The official announcement that socialist party candidates won 18 of 23 governor races shocked an opposition that had expected to win handily during a time of economic crisis and when polls indicate most Venezuelans disapprove of the government. Guevara and other opposition figures have conceded that actual voting records wouldn't likely show fraud, saying the manipulation largely occurred before most voters reached the ballot boxes. Instead, they claim the pro-government National Electoral Council used a series of maneuvers to suppress the opposition vote. According to Guevara, more than 1 million Venezuelans couldn't vote because their polling sites opened late, closed early or had nonworking voting machines. Thousands more, he said, couldn't reach their voting place because of violence.

October 19, 2017

IDEA SUPPORTS THE 'CLEAR VISION' OF LUIS ALMAGRO ON VENEZUELA CRISIS

     WASHINGTON, D.C.   --  The former heads of state and government of the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA) backed the "clear vision" of the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, on Venezuela and called for the international community to sanction the government of Nicolás Maduro. In a dated statement, the ex-governors stressed, as did the secretary general of that regional bloc, that the results of the regional elections held on Sunday, October 15, can not be recognized, because in that country "there are no guarantees for the exercise of effective democracy ".

      Also agree with Almagro that the opposition political parties that participated in those elections without obtaining guarantees of democracy, "become an essential instrument of possible fraud and shows that they do not have democratic reflexes." The 17 former heads of state and government that signed the declaration are in solidarity with the Venezuelan people "in their aspirations for democracy and freedom", and especially they do "with those who have no voice: the deadly victims of state repression and hunger, political prisoners, exiles, thousands of migrants who in search of freedom have fled the dictatorial government of Nicolás Maduro Moros and his de facto National Constituent Assembly."

     They also call on the international community to advance in "the provision of sanctions against members of the Maduro regime, in order to ensure the restoration in Venezuela of the constitutional and democratic order that has been fractured." Finally, they declare that they share with the Secretary General of the OAS "his clear vision that political strategy and action aimed at facilitating the return of Venezuela to the channel of democracies can only be achieved within the framework of consistent initiatives with democratic principles and values." An objective that cannot be achieved – they say - with "circumstantial arrangements". Signing the statement Oscar Arias, Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, Rafael Ángel Calderón and Laura Chinchilla (Costa Rica), José María Aznar (Spain), Nicolás Ardito Barletta and Mireya Moscoso (Panama), Alfredo Cristiani (El Salvador), Vicente Fox (Mexico), César Gaviria, Andrés Pastrana and Álvaro Uribe (Colombia), Osvaldo Hurtado and Jamil Mahuad (Ecuador), Luis Alberto Lacalle (Uruguay) and Jorge Tuto Quiroga (Bolivia).

DICTATOR NICOLAS MADURO: VENEZUELA  ELECTION RESULTS SEND BRUTAL MESSAGE TO TRUMP

      CARACAS, VENEZUELA      --
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday that the results of the gubernatorial elections held last Sunday in his country, and in which Chavismo scored a runaway victory, send a brutal message to his US counterpart, Donald Trump. “Our people have sent a brutal message to the imperialist government of Donald Trump, his regional allies and the local right,” the president said during a press conference with international media at the presidential palace of Miraflores.

     The ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won the elections in 17 of the 23 states in the country, according to the official report by the National Electoral Council (CNE), while the MUD opposition coalition, which won in five states, refuses to accept the results. Maduro said Tuesday that the result is “the product of the Venezuelan people voting according to their conscience,” and added that despite the deep economic crisis the country has been going through over the past three years, “today there are new values” at the command of the Bolivarian Revolution.

     “No economic war nor inflation inflicted on us will ever make this country surrender,” he said. The Chavista leader said the MUD “went in for violence” this year by inciting protests between April and July, protests that left 120 people dead, because “right-wing extremists are back in power in Washington,” a reference to the Republican administration of magnate Donald Trump. As a result, he said his government is facing “destabilization, international aggression and a coup d’etat organized by the United States and its “allies.” which plan to “bring a coalition of countries to intervene militarily in Venezuela.”

VENEZUELA OPPOSITION CLAIMS ITS CANDIDATE WON REGIONAL ELECTION IN THE STATE OF BOLIVAR

        CARACAS, VENEZUELA    -- The Venezuelan opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) called on Tuesday on the National Electoral Council (CNE) to proclaim its candidate as the winner in the gubernatorial elections in the southern state of Bolivar, claiming that the counted votes indicated so.

     The MUD said in a statement that it “demands that the CNE respect the will of the people of the Bolivar State as well as the 100 percent of the counted votes that indicate, without any doubt, that the winning candidate for governorship is Andres Velasquez,” from The Cause R party. The coalition said that it has 100 percent of the votes counted in that state, which serves as the basis to urge that the CNE “comply with what is established in the law, and proclaim Velasquez as the new governor” of Bolivar.

     Two days have passed after Sunday’s regional elections, but the official results of Bolivar state have not been revealed, and dozens of opposition members have been protesting since Monday at the CNE regional headquarters to demand the vote audit as well as the proclamation of its candidates as the new governor. The ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and the opposition on Sunday vied for the country’s 23 governorates, 17 of which went to the hand of the PSUV and five to the opposition. However, the MUD does not recognize this result and demanded that the entire process be audited.

October 18, 2017

PRESIDENT TRUMP: CUBA 'IS RESPONSIBLE' FOR ATTACKS ON US EMBASSY PERSONNEL

     WASHINGTON, D.C.   --  President Donald Trump said Monday that he believes Cuba is responsible for unexplained, invisible attacks in Cuba that have harmed American government workers. Though Trump's comments appeared to be a new allegation, it wasn't clear whether he meant Cuba was behind the attacks or merely shared the onus because it failed to keep Americans safe on its soil. The United States has avoided casting blame on Cuban President Raul Castro's government for the attacks that began last year and have eluded an FBI investigation.

     "I do believe Cuba's responsible. I do believe that," Trump said in a Rose Garden news conference. "And it's a very unusual attack, as you know. But I do believe Cuba is responsible." The president did not elaborate. But in a cable sent Monday to all overseas U.S. diplomatic posts, the State Department said it has "not assigned blame to the Government of Cuba." "We are still investigating these attacks and do not know who or what is behind them. We continue to exchange information with Cuban investigators," said the diplomatic cable. Marked "sensitive," the cable laid out the rationale for the steps the U.S. has taken in response to the attacks, including pulling more than half its diplomats from Cuba and kicking out 15 Cuban diplomats in the United States.

     There was no reaction from the Cuban Embassy in Washington to Trump's remark. Castro's government has repeatedly denied both involvement in and knowledge of the attacks. Trump offered no new details about what type of weapon might have caused damage ranging from permanent hearing loss to mild traumatic brain injury, or concussion. The State Department has said that despite the lengthy investigation and FBI visits to the island, the U.S. still can't identify either a culprit or a device.

NORTH KOREA WARNS THAT NUCLEAR WAR COULD 'BREAK OUT ANY MOMENT'

      PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA      --
Kim In Ryong, North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, said on Monday that his nation had become a “full-fledged nuclear power which possesses the delivery means of various ranges” and warned that “the entire U.S. mainland is within our firing range.” He also called North Korea “a responsible nuclear state.” “As long as one does not take part in the U.S. military actions against the DPRK, we have no intention to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any other country,” Kim said, referring to his country’s formal name.

      The comments are similar to other warnings North Korea has made over the past few months as tensions have increased with President Donald Trump’s administration. Kim Jong Un’s regime has repeatedly said it needs the capability to strike the U.S. with a nuclear weapon in order to deter an American attack. “They just bluff to the extreme because they think that if enough people worry about what they’re saying, that would deter U.S.-South Korean action,” Bruce Bennett, senior defense analyst at Rand Corp., said in a Bloomberg TV interview. “The problem is North Korea is used to using very extreme words to deter by bluff and by bluster, and now they’re shocked that the Americans are using a similar approach.”

      Trump has said military force is an option to stop Kim and has ruled out talks with Pyongyang. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday the president wants him to push forward on diplomacy with North Korea “until the first bomb drops.” A war of words has escalated between the two leaders in recent weeks, with Trump labeling Kim “Rocket Man” and telling the UN that the U.S. would “totally destroy” North Korea if it attacks. Kim responded by calling Trump a “dotard” and warning of the "highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.” South Korean military officials are preparing for another possible missile launch from North Korea this week to counter the U.S.-South Korea drills, which include an American aircraft carrier and a nuclear submarine. China’s Communist Party will also start its most important political meeting in five years on Wednesday.

VENEZUELA ELECTIONS: OPPOSITION CALLS FOR PROTESTS AFTER DICTATOR MADURO CLAIMS WIN

        CARACAS, VENEZUELA    -- Venezuela’s opposition has called for street protests after President Nicolas Maduro’s government won a majority of governorships in a surprise result from Sunday’s regional elections. The Democratic Unity’s election campaign chief, Gerardo Blyde, demanded a complete audit of the 23 governor races and called on its candidates to lead “street activities” on Monday in protest over the results the party said it would not recognise. The ruling Socialist party took 17 governorships, while the Democratic Unity coalition took five, with results irreversible in all but one of the 23 states, said Tibisay Lucena, the electoral board president.

     “Chavismo is alive, in the street, and triumphant,” a beaming Maduro said in a speech to the nation, referring to the ruling movement’s name for former president Hugo Chavez. Minutes earlier, opposition leaders had said the pro-government election board was about to announce dubious results. “We have serious suspicions and doubts,” said Blyde, after opposition leaders had said they were sure of a “gigantic” victory based on their observers at vote centers. The opposition took five governorships, including the restive Andean states of Merida and Tachira, plus the oil-producing western region of Zulia.

    The ruling Socialist party had previously controlled 20 of 23 state governorships. But opinion polls had shown the opposition coalition set to upend that, given voter anger at hunger and shortages stemming from an economic meltdown. Sunday’s surprise results raised the prospect of more unrest in Venezuela, where four months of opposition-led protests earlier this year led to 125 deaths, thousands of arrests, and widespread destruction of property. Maduro has said all governors, including the five opposition ones, must swear allegiance to a controversial new legislative superbody elected in July. But the opposition does not recognize the entirely pro-government Constituent Assembly, which supersedes all other institutions, including the opposition-controlled congress.

October 17, 2017

VENEZUELA OPPOSITION REJECTS GUBERNATORIAL ELECTION RESULTS

     CARACAS, VENEZUELA     --  Venezuela's opposition coalition refused to recognise the results of Sunday's gubernatorial elections where the ruling socialists won a surprise majority, raising the spectre of more political turmoil in the oil-rich nation. The Democratic Unity's (MUD) election campaign chief, Gerardo Blyde, demanded a complete audit of the 23 governor races and called on its candidates to lead "street activities" on Monday in protest over the results. "We do not recognise any of the results at this time. We are facing a very serious moment for the country," Blyde said.

    President Nicolas Maduro said his government had scored an "emphatic victory" over its rivals by leaving the opposition with only five states, with his socialists still in line to take one further state where the results were still in dispute early Monday. The results amounted to a crushing blow to the opposition which had characterised the elections as a referendum on Maduro, after months of deadly street protests earlier this year had failed to unseat him. International powers accuse Maduro of dismantling democracy by taking over state institutions in the wake of an economic collapse caused by a fall in the price of oil, its main source of revenue. An ebullient Maduro told supporters that "Chavismo" - the brand of socialism he inherited from late President Hugo Chavez 2013 - had won the popular vote across the country.

    "We have 17 governorships, 54 percent of the votes, 61 percent participation, 75 percent of the governorates, and the country has strengthened," he said. "I ask that we celebrate with joy, music, dance, but in peace, with respect to the adversary." Public opinion surveys had predicted that the opposition would win between 11 and 18 state governorships despite alleged government dirty tricks, which included relocating hundreds of polling stations away from areas where it had high support. "All the pre-trial opinion studies, all our counts, are very different from the results that are going to be announced. We have already alerted the international community and we are alerting the country," Blyde had warned earlier.

PRESIDENT TRUMP TOUGHENS IRAN STRATEGY, DECERTIFIES TEHRAN'S COMPLIANCE WITH ACCORD

      WASHINGTON, D.C.      --
Saying Iran is not living up to the spirit of a two-year-old nuclear agreement it signed with Western powers, President Donald Trump Friday unveiled a tough new strategy toward Tehran, including additional sanctions aimed at blocking the regime’s path to develop nuclear weapons. “Today, I am announcing our strategy along with several major steps we are taking to confront the Iranian regime’s hostile actions and to ensure that Iran never — and I mean never — acquires a nuclear weapon,” Trump said in a nationally televised address at the White House.

     He stopped short of pulling the United States out of the 2015 deal involving Iran, the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany and the European Union. But he said he would no longer certify Iran’s compliance with its terms, effectively giving Congress 60 days to consider whether further action is necessary. “We cannot and will not make this certification,” Trump said. “We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran's nuclear breakout.” He said he had directed his administration to “work closely with Congress and our allies to address the deal's many serious flaws, so that the Iranian regime can never threaten the world with nuclear weapons.”

    “In the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated,” Trump said. “It is under continuous review and our participation can be canceled by me, as president, at any time.” The president also announced additional sanctions against Iranian individuals and leaders, including members of the brutal Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. “The Revolutionary Guard is the Iranian supreme leader’s corrupt personal terror force and militia,” Trump told the nation. “I am authorizing the Treasury Department to further sanction the entire Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for its support for terrorism and to apply sanctions to its officials, agents and affiliates.”

OAS MOVES TO TAKE VENEZUELA TO INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

         WASHINGTON, D.C.    -- OAS Secretary Luis Almagro, said the panel of professionals will assess "if there is proof of alleged crimes against humanity." The government of Nicaragua rejected the OAS for holding hearings on so-called “crimes against humanity” by Venezuela. Organization of American States, OAS, Secretary General Luis Almagro has announced that he will appoint three people to evaluate ways in which he can take Venezuela to the International Criminal Court, or ICC. Almagro said the panel of professionals will assess “if there is proof of alleged crimes against humanity.”

    The three professionals include Manuel Ventura Robles from Costa Rica, Santiago Canton from Argentina and Irwin Cotler from Canada. Meanwhile, the head of the OAS continues to hold hearings to determine if there’s evidence to use against Venezuela. The government of Nicaragua rejected the OAS for holding such hearings, which were promoted by Almagro and not the member states. “This action is in violation of the nature and purposes for which this organization was conceived,” Managua said in a statement. “To insist in this direction is to pervert the essence and functioning of this organization.”

    The Nicaraguan government said the OAS "has no powers other than those expressly conferred on it by the present charter, none of which authorizes it to intervene in matters within the domestic jurisdiction of the member states." If the commission determines that there is a basis for denouncing Venezuela at the ICC, Almagro could bring the case forward. Venezuela has repeatedly accused the OAS and Almagro of promoting intervention and destabilization in Venezuela, with tensions hitting a boiling point in April when Venezuela began the process of leaving the organization.

October 16, 2017

SPAIN TO TAKE CONTROL OF CATALONIA IF GETS AMBIGUOUS REPLY ON INDEPENDENCE

     MADRID, SPAIN   -- The Spanish government will take control of Catalonia if regional leader Carles Puigdemont replies ambiguously to Madrid's question about whether he has declared independence from Spain, the interior minister said on Saturday. Puigdemont made a symbolic declaration of independence on Tuesday night, only to suspend it seconds later and call for negotiations with Madrid on the region's future. Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has given him until Monday to clarify his position - and then until Thursday to change his mind if he insists on a split - threatening to suspend Catalonia's autonomy if he chooses independence.

     "The answer must be without any ambiguity. He must say 'yes' or 'no'," Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido told Cope radio. "If he answers ambiguously, it means he doesn't want dialogue and thus the Spanish government will have to take action," he also said. Puigdemont, who is holding consultations with local parties to prepare his answer, faces a tough dilemma. If he says he did proclaim independence, the central government will step in. If he says he did not declare it, then the far-left Catalan party CUP would probably withdraw its support for his minority government. CUP on Friday called on Puigdemont to make an unequivocal declaration of independence in defiance of the Madrid government's deadlines.

    Such a hardline position has also been backed by influential pro-independence civic group Asamblea Nacional Catalana (Catalan National Assembly). They were joined on Saturday by another key member of Puigdemont's coalition, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, whose leader Oriol Junqueras said they should press ahead with splitting from Spain following an independence vote. Under Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, the central government in Madrid can suspend the political autonomy of a region if it breaks the law. This article, which enables Rajoy to sack the Catalan government and call a regional election, has never been activated since the constitution.

PDVSA IS BEHIND A PAYMENT WITH AN INTEREST OF 121 MILLION DOLLARS

      CARACAS, VENEZUELA      --
A payment of $ 121 million in debt interest from state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), which was scheduled for Thursday, has been delayed, four investors said on Friday. The delay comes just as the oil company is expected to face heavier payments for servicing its foreign debt, totaling $ 2.9 billion between October and November, amid financial hardship over sanctions imposed by the government. U.S. "They have not yet entered the resources," said one executive of a fund that handles Venezuelan debt.

     "(PDVSA) has told us that they have the money, but there are problems to concentrate the silver in the paying account because the sanctions are affecting them," said another local operator that invests in securities of the firm. The Venezuelan oil company did not immediately respond to a request for information. Although PDVSA has 30 days to comply, fears about its maneuverability to transfer about 985 million dollars at the end of the month increase, a bond whose contract specifies that the payment of the maturity and interest must be made without delay, since there is no grace period.

     In the first week of November, the main state company of the South American country must also pay another $ 1.1 billion. The Venezuelan government last month delayed one of its payments because of difficulties in transferring resources in the international financial market due to US sanctions. Two traders said another $ 27 million, which the government had to pay on Tuesday for bonds from a state-owned power company, have also not reached investors and are about to cancel another $ 430 million for the month. The government did not immediately respond to a query on this case.

DIOSDADO CABELLO, A KEY DICTATOR MADURO ALLY, LINKED TO ILLEGAL CAMPAIGN GIFTS

         CARACAS, VENEZUELA   -- Venezuelan law forbids foreign companies from contributing to Venezuelan political campaigns. However, Odebrecht Euzenando Prazeres de Azevedo, CEO of Odebrecht said: “We were always looking to contribute to these campaigns, and we contributed to many of them, specifically in those states and the municipalities where we had projects,” he said. Local and regional governments, he said, could ease red tape for the firm in ways big and small, including issuing environmental permits or closing streets.

     Azevedo said the company contributed to Mr. Diosdado Cabello Cabello’s unsuccessful campaign for governor of Miranda State in 2008. Mr. Cabello is now a top official of the nation’s governing party and is among Mr. Maduro’s closest allies. According to Mr. Azevedo, other leading politicians who received Odebrecht contributions during gubernatorial campaigns included: Gian Carlo Di Martino Tarquinio, currently the Venezuelan consul general in Milan, who made an unsuccessful run in Zulia State in 2008; and Elías Jaua, a former vice president and former head of the Agriculture and Lands Ministry, who lost a bid in Miranda Mr. Azevedo did not detail Odebrecht’s total contributions to local and state candidates in Venezuela.

     Mr. Cabello and the other politicians named in the video issued no immediate comment on Saturday regarding the video, which was made last year by Brazilian authorities investigating the Odebrecht scandal. A senior Brazilian law enforcement official confirmed the authenticity of the video. In April, a federal judge in Brooklyn ordered Odebrecht to pay $2.6 billion in fines as part of a plea agreement between the company and the governments of the United States, Brazil and Switzerland in connection with a bribery scheme involving $800 million in payoffs. The allegations made in the video on Saturday were not as explicit as those made in Thursday’s excerpt. In the earlier video, Mr. Azevedo said he was “asked for a large sum” in 2013 by a representative of Mr. Maduro, who at the time was running for the presidency. “He asked for 50, and I accepted to pay him 35 million,” Mr. Azevedo said.

October 15, 2017

VENEZUELA SUPREME COURT TO OPERATE IN WASHINGTON D.C. AND COLOMBIA

     WASHINGTON, D.C.    -- Thirty-three magistrates from Venezuela’s top court were sworn in at a ceremony in the U.S. on Friday to begin operating in exile. The Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ), designated by the National Assembly in which the opposition holds the majority, took the oath of office at the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS) regional bloc in Washington. The justices began work Oct. 13 and the TSJ is called the Supreme Court in Exile. “We have managed to integrate a tribunal thanks to the international support and above it all, thanks to Venezuelan people,” Miguel Angel Martin, who was named chairman of the TSJ by the National Assembly, said at the ceremony that was attended by OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro.

      “We will perform legal acts based on the public international law. We will protect Venezuelan people from humanitarian harassment, money laundering and the ongoing corruption inside the Venezuelan government. We will put a face and a name to those governors who have sank Venezuela into a political crisis,” he added. Almagro said “sanctions are the path to bring the Venezuelan regime to its knees”. The U.S. has imposed sanctions and threatened military action against the government of President Nicolas Maduro. Venezuelan lawmaker Sonia Medina attended the ceremony to certify the high court’s actions and said it sets a precedent.

     “The TSJ’s installation and operation is a crucial event, because it’s the first time that this situation is happening in America and is even allowed by the OAS reginal bloc. The magistrates who are not located in Washington will hold sessions from Bogota or different embassies,” Medina said. The magistrates designated by the Parliament have been holed up for more than two months in embassies in Caracas or exiled in other countries. One is under home detention in Venezuela. The exiled magistrates will be recognized by the OAS and the 12 regional countries that in August signed the Lima Declaration that found actions by the Maduro government unconstitutional. Maduro has threatened the magistrates elected by the National Assembly with jail time, prompting Colombia, Chile, Mexico and the U.S. to offer political asylum to the magistrates.

SECRETARY TILLERSON HOSTED SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES LUIS ALMAGRO

      WASHINGTON, D.C.     --
Secretary Tillerson hosted Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) Luis Almagro today at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC. The two leaders underscored the important role and leadership of the organization in addressing the situation in Venezuela in collaboration with the broader international community, and reiterated the need for Venezuelan authorities to conduct fully free and fair gubernatorial elections ‎on October 15.

     They also discussed the importance of pressing ahead with OAS reform so as to build a stronger and more vibrant institution capable of responding effectively to regional challenges. They discussed the vital role of the OAS as the premier multilateral forum for the promotion and defense of democracy, human rights, development and regional security cooperation in the Western Hemisphere. On Thursday, the State Department spokeswoman read an official statement expressing concern about "a series of actions" by the Venezuelan National Electoral Council, which is considered "to question the legitimacy of Sunday's electoral process."

     In a later statement, lists actions such as the closure of polling stations in areas dominated by the opposition, the handling of ballots, the lack of independent observers and the arbitrary disqualifications of opposition candidates. Venezuelan mayors dismissed by Maduro who attended the installation at the headquarters of the OAS of the democratically elected Supreme Electoral Tribunal of Venezuela, also dismissed and persecuted by the government of Nicolas Maduro, told the Voice of America that they filed complaints with Secretary General Almagro on the most recent maneuvers of the government to manipulate the vote.

PROSECUTOR OF VENEZUELA IN EXILE WILL DENOUNCE DICTATOR MADURO TO THE HAGUE FOR EXTRAJUDICIAL EXECUTIONS

         BOGOTA, COLOMBIA   -- Luisa Ortega said that the file is ready, with "a set of expertise" (expert evidence) where evidence of the execution of people. Venezuelan ex-prosecutor-in-exile Luisa Ortega Díaz reported that with a large file she will report to the International Criminal Court (ICC) Nicolás Maduro. The document outlined extrajudicial executions and violations of human rights by the regime. Ortega said that the file is ready, a court document that is accompanied by "a set of expertise" (evidence) where evidence of the execution of people.

     "A set of experiments whose number I will not reveal now, but that go through protocols of autopsy, where the execution of the people is evidenced, firing from top to bottom, which means that they were probably on their knees," he said. This revelation was announced at the end of a meeting in Geneva with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, during which they spoke about the general situation in Venezuela and the holding of regional elections that will be held this Sunday. The fact is that despite being in exile after the persecution carried out by the regime of Nicolás Maduro, the prosecutor general of Venezuela continues to exercise functions from other frontiers.

    The prosecutor has indicated that in his office has evidence highlighting videos and photographs that blame "Venezuelan hierarchs who have built a whole network of corruption, money laundering and organized crime, whose difficulties are lived by the people of Venezuela." Ortega called for protection of the Colombian government after opposing the measures of the Supreme Court of Justice and the creation of a National Constituent Assembly, and recently accused Maduro of having received bribes from the Brazilian multinational Odebrecht.

October 14, 2017

UNIDAD DENOUNCES THAT RELOCATION OF VOTERS IS A NEW VIOLATION BY MADURO'S CNE

     CARACAS, VENEZUELA    -- The Bureau of Democratic Unity held a press conference on Friday, where they denounced that, just two days before the regional elections, a new violation by the rectoras of the electoral power in conspiracy with Maduro. Gerardo Blyde, campaign chief of the Unit, stressed the excessive irregularities present in this electoral process. Therefore, he called a new government scheme the relocation of polling stations. "We have had to overcome the immense problem of substitutions and all the problems of an adulterated electoral timetable," he added.

     At their discretion, this new maneuver is because they know they are going to lose, and they do it "to try that you Venezuelan do not vote". He indicated that this is going to be overcome, "all united, each one of the Venezuelans, we have a new challenge before the illegality, the trap and the abuse". The mayor of Baruta also said that "this new violation is added to the thick fraudulent file of the rectors. We will move people from one center to another, with the patience we have to have for those votes to be expressed on Sunday. "

     Similarly, reported that the most affected state in the relocation of polling centers was Miranda. "They are so sure of our victory that they can not beat us with votes." For his part, the governor of Miranda state, Henrique Capriles, said that "we are going to an electoral process in the worst conditions, but we will not leave it to the Government." "We should all be in today, normally setting up the tables, but that is not happening: at this time there are plenty of problems, irregularities, obstacles," said the Mirandine governor. Likewise, revealed that the state most affected, for obvious reasons, by the sickly obsession is Miranda. "Miranda has always been a bastion of struggle and progress."

VENEZUELA'S DICTATOR MADURO REGIME RELOCATES POLING PLACES FOR 700,000 JUST 48 HOURS BEFORE VOTE

      CARACAS, VENEZUELA     --
DICTATOR MADURO'S CNE electoral board has relocated more than 700,000 voters to different voting stations, without previous notification, 72 hours before the October 15th regional elections -- which the government had been expected to lose. The Maduro-controlled CNE has been engaging in the practice since last week, but it has accelerated in the last few hours: between Wednesday and Thursday 400,000 more voters were relocated. The anti-democratic moves by the Maduro regime prompted the U.S. State Department to warn Maduro to knock it off.

      “The United States and the international community are paying close attention to this vote”, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Thursday during a regular press conference in Washington DC. “The United States calls on the regime to hold free and fair elections” adding later that the U.S. “is concerned that a series of actions by the CNE call into question the fairness of the electoral process.” She proceeded to describe how Maduro was not allowing independent international election monitoring, called on “the regime” to allow at least domestic observers during the vote and tabulation process and added: “We continue to support the Venezuelan people.”

     Opposition leaders were busy announcing countermeasures (voters will be bused to their new centers) and putting on a brave face. “We have vanquished them before and we will vanquish them again. Your vote is your voice and your strongest tool so that we change this reality”, opposition lawmaker Miguel Pizarro tweeted Thursday night. In Miranda state, more than 200,000 voters who usually vote in 51 centers have been relocated. That’s almost 9% of Miranda’s 2.4 million-plus voters relocated between Tuesday and Thursday.

UNANIMITY IN THE EUROPEAN UNION TO PREPARE SELECTIVE SANCTIONS AGAINST VENEZUELAN OFFICIALS

         WASHINGTON, D.C.   -- The European Union (EU) countries have reached a unanimous political agreement to prepare selective sanctions against Venezuelan personalities considered responsible for "repression" in that country, diplomatic sources said today. "Everyone has agreed to start the preparatory work" for selective restrictive measures, they said. The decision was taken by the EU Council's Political and Security Committee (COPS), in which ambassadors from all 28 Member States are represented.
 

     Following this political agreement, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Policy, Federica Mogherini, will mention the situation with Venezuela in her opening address to the meeting next Monday at the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Union. A political debate is also expected among ministers who want to intervene "in the light" of regional governor elections in Venezuela on Sunday, the sources said. Restrictive measures can be shaped in different ways: either precise names are agreed upon to apply individual (non-sectoral) sanctions or there may be no concrete references but a legal act on a sanctions regime "where we can add names at all times" , they pointed out.
 

      In any case, they said that there is still no agreement between Member States on exact names. Yes they will be "people who have a direct role in the repression" in the country, said the sources, who did not want to specify if they are political leaders of the Government of Nicolás Maduro or military. "Given the degradation of the situation, there is a need for the international community to express its concern," diplomatic sources said. In his view, the EU "must equip itself with all the instruments and means necessary for a negotiation" between the Government and the opposition in Venezuela. "We are ready, there is unanimity so that we can examine diplomatic means to work on restrictive measures," they said.

October 13, 2017

LUISA ORTEGA DIAZ BROADCASTS A VIDEO IN WHICH ODEBRECHT CEO REVEALS HE GAVE $50 MILLION TO DICTATOR MADURO'S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN

     BOGOTA, COLOMBIA     -- The VENEZUELAN attorney general dismissed by the Cuban Constituent Luisa Ortega Diaz published a video Thursday in which the president of the construction company Odebrecht in Venezuela, Euzenando Prazeres de Acevedo, affirms that his company gave $ 35 million for the campaign of Nicolas Maduro . In the recording that was made on December 15, 2016 before the Office of the Attorney General of Brazil details are given on these monetary contributions requested by a senior official of the then Government of Hugo Chávez.

     This was stated by Euzenando through a video published by the former fiscal Ortega Díaz: "I was approached by a representative of Mr. Nicolás Maduro, a man named Américo Mata, who was the president of the Venezuelan Rural Development Institute (Inder), I already knew that Mata was an insider in the Government and when President Chavez was sick, the then Vice President Maduro went around to visit our works, he was always accompanied by Mr. Americo Mata. He continued explaining that "then this Mr. Americo Mata sought me and agreed to meet with me. We met several times in delicacies places of Venezuelan.

    ne day he asked me for a contribution, he knew about our business and the size of our operations in the country and asked me for help for President Maduro's campaign. He asked me for a large sum for the time. " Mata gave me assurance that the works would continue to be a priority for the government of Nicolás Maduro, who won with a margin less than 1%, "he said. Prazeres de Acevedo said that the official had asked for 50 million dollars, but he agreed to provide 35 million, in exchange for the government to keep the works that the Brazilian company had as a priority.

OAS TO SWEAR IN "PARALLEL" VENEZUELAN SUPREME COURT IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

      Washington, d.c.    --
The Organization of American States (OAS) is preparing to swear in a “parallel” Venezuelan Supreme Court on October 13, members of the de facto judicial body have reported. “We will be able to issue pronouncements addressed to government and authorities so they open investigations against (Venezuelan) officials who may have committed crimes against humanity, drug trafficking, or money laundering,” declared prospective judge Pedro Troconis, who will be sworn in as part of the de facto court’s penal appeal tribunal.

      The move comes months after the opposition-held National Assembly (AN) swore in 33 new Supreme Court justices on July 21, claiming that the sitting judges are “illegitimate”. The Supreme Court and the AN have been locked in a tense standoff since July 2016 when the latter defied a court order and swore in three legislators under investigation for voter fraud. The parliament has refused to heed the high court ruling and has consequently had all its actions declared “null and void” since that date. The AN has repeatedly attempted to unseat the justices on the grounds that they were allegedly appointed illegally in December 2015 by the outgoing Chavista-controlled parliament. However, the motions were blocked by the then ombudsman and current attorney general, Tarek William Saab, who found no legal justification for the judges’ dismissal.

    The institutional crisis escalated in the context of violent anti-government protests demanding early presidential elections, which erupted following a controversial Supreme Court ruling authorizing the judiciary to exercise certain legislative functions. In the midst of nearly four months of street mobilizations that led to the deaths of at least 126 people, the AN went ahead and unilaterally swore in its own Supreme Court justices as part of a bid to form an internationally recognized “parallel government” in opposition to the elected Maduro administration. The de facto justices were declared “usurpers” by the national government and were immediately subject to arrest, while others fled the country.

US  AND ISRAEL WITHDRAW FROM UNESCO

         WASHINGTON, D.C.   -- The US has announced it will withdraw from the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), accusing the body of "anti-Israel bias". Heather Nauert, US state department spokesperson, said on Thursday the US would establish an "observer mission" to replace its representation at the Paris-based agency. In a statement announcing its withdrawal, Israel called the US administration's decision "courageous and moral", and accused UNESCO of becoming a "theatre of the absurd".. "The prime minister instructed the foreign ministry to prepare Israel's withdrawal from the organisation alongside the United States," Benjamin Netayanu's office said in a statement.

    Irina Bokova, the outgoing UNESCO head, called the US withdrawal a "loss to multilateralism", saying she is convinced that "UNESCO has never been so important for the US, or the US for UNESCO". At a time when "conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under attack," she said. The decision demonstrates the US administration's "complete and total bias" towards Israel, says Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, a political party comprising mostly secular intellectuals.

     "This behaviour is counterproductive and shameful," he told Al Jazeera by phone. "Sooner or later they will see Palestine in every UN agency. Will the US respond to that by withdrawing from the WHO or the World Intellectual Property Organization? They will be hurting only themselves." The US was angered in 2011 when UNESCO members granted Palestine full membership of the body, despite opposition from its ally Israel. That year the US stopped paying into the 195-member organisation but did not officially withdraw. The US opposes any move by UN bodies to recognise the Palestinians as a state, believing that this must await a negotiated Middle East peace deal.

October 12, 2017

EUROPEAN UNION TO CONSIDER SCOPE OF SANCTIONS AGAINST DICTATOR MADURO REGIME

      MADRID, SPAIN     --  The 28 EU member states have reached a "principled agreement" to study possible sanctions against the Venezuelan regime for their repression against the opposition, European sources. "There is an agreement of principle about the fact that we have to move forward," a European source told anonymous sources. "There are no more blocks," the source added. Spain is the main driver of the sanctions project "against those responsible for the current situation" in Venezuela, in the words of Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis last August. But other countries were reluctant to this idea.

     Another European source confirmed that the sanctions were now part of "options on the table". European Parliament President Antonio Tajani also called for sanctions against "members of the Venezuelan government, including its president Nicolas Maduro and his circle" by blocking rheir assets and banning travel to the EU. A working group of representatives from the 28 EU member states will detail the "scope" of the sanctions regime at a meeting on 17 October, to be drafted by lawyers before they are formally approved.

     But the EU wants at the same time to wait and see how the regional elections in Venezuela take place on October 15. At the moment the EU only wants to add political figures or senior security officials to its "blacklist." Initially the sanctions program could begin with a "first warning", by adopting the legal framework, without mentioning any name, according to a European source. The United States imposed legal and financial sanctions at the end of July against Maduro, described as "dictator", in the form of a blockade of his assets and those of other high level officials including the vicepresident and the president of the illegal National Constituent Assembly.

MADRID PREPARES TO IMPOSE DIRECT RULE ON CATALONIA

       MADRID, SPAIN    -- 
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy Wednesday appeared poised to suspend the semi-autonomy of the country’s restive northeast region of Catalonia and close its parliament in a move that risks triggering civil unrest, deepening Spain’s worst political crisis since a failed coup four decades ago. The Spanish leader, who heads a center-right national government, asked Catalan secessionists for clarification on their announcement Tuesday that they had earned the right to declare a breakaway state, but were suspending implementing independence, pending negotiations with Madrid.

     In televised remarks, Rajoy formally demanded that Catalan’s leader, Carles Puigdemont, clarify whether he has declared independence, saying that is needed before the Spanish government can decide what steps to take. And in what is being seen as a thinly veiled threat, Rajoy said clarity was required for him to be able to invoke the power to suspend Catalonia’s semi-autonomy and move to rule the region directly from Madrid under Article 155 of Spain’s constitution. “This call - ahead of any of the measures that the government may adopt under Article 155 of our constitution - seeks to offer citizens the clarity and security that a question of such importance requires,” Rajoy said.

     Rajoy gave no indication that Madrid was prepared to negotiate anything with the secessionists in the Catalan capital. “We have to put a halt to this slippage,” he said, adding, his “ultimate objective is to recover stability.” Article 155 allows the central government to take control of an autonomous region, if it fails to “fulfill the obligations imposed upon it by the constitution or other laws, or acts in a way that is seriously prejudicial to the general interest of Spain.” It has never been invoked before and is seen as a "nuclear option," or extreme response. The Spanish Senate has started preparations to trigger Article 155, but the legal process will not begin until the Catalan leadership has responded, say Spanish officials.

SOUTH KOREA'S NEW "BLACKOUT BOMB" CAN PARALYZE THE NORTH'S POWER GRID

         SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA  -- US and South Korean officials are nervously watching to see if North Korea follows through with its threats to carry out another nuclear test – or to fire a rumored long-range missile capable of accurately striking the west coast of the US into the Pacific – in celebration of the Oct. 10 anniversary of the Communist Party’s creation. Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports that South Korea has developed a new weapon to hobble the North’s infrastructure should an armed conflict erupt on the peninsula.

     Given that it's almost daybreak in North Korea, such a test could happen as soon as Monday night, Eastern Time. The weapon is a graphite bomb – otherwise known as a “blackout bomb” - which South Korean officials say will be capable of shutting down North Korea’s entire power grid. Blackout bombs were first used by the US in Iraq in the 1990 Gulf War and work by releasing a cloud of extremely fine, chemically treated carbon filaments over electrical components. The filaments are so fine that they act like a cloud, but cause short circuits in electrical equipment.

     The Telegraph reports that the South developed the bomb to minimize civilian casualties in the North should a conflict erupt. In a statement to Yonhap, a military official said the South Korean army could assemble a blackout bomb at any time. The weapon was reportedly developed by South Korea's Agency for Defense Development. “All technologies for the development of a graphite bomb led by the ADD have been secured. It is in the stage where we can build the bombs anytime,” a military official told Yonhap. The bomb is often referred to as a “soft bomb” because it only affects targeted electrical power systems. As the Telegraph explains, the blackout bomb was developed as part of South Korea’s “three pillars” plan for retaliating against the North if it believes a nuclear strike is imminent.
 

October 11, 2017

PRESIDENT TRUMP: U.S. POLICY IN NORTH KOREA HAS FAILED FOR 25  YEARS

      WASHINGTON,  D.C.     --  President Donald Trump said Monday that U.S. attempts to deal with North Korea have failed for more than two decades. "Our country has been unsuccessfully dealing with North Korea for 25 years, giving billions of dollars & getting nothing. Policy didn't work!" Trump said in a Twitter comment. Trump's new remarks were his latest hint that he could upend long-standing U.S. policy aimed at containing North Korea's nuclear weapons development, short of confrontation.

     Trump wrote Saturday that past U.S. presidents talked to North Korea with "agreements made and massive amounts of money paid ... hasn't worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, making fools of U.S. negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work!" It was not clear exactly what Trump meant by "one thing." However, the comments may suggest that he was referring to military action as he said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is "wasting his time" trying to talk to the North.

     Trump has engaged in weeks of taunts with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying the United States would "totally destroy" North Korea if necessary to protect itself and its allies if Pyongyang attacks. North Korea has conducted numerous missile and nuclear tests, including launching rockets over Japan. Pyongyang's state media quoted Kim as telling the powerful Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party over the weekend that North Korea's nuclear weapons program is a "treasured sword" to protect it against aggression. Kim said the nuclear warheads were a "powerful deterrent" guaranteeing the country's sovereignty against what he described as "protracted nuclear threats of the U.S. imperialists."

SECRETARY MATTIS WARNED THE MILITARY TO 'BE READY' FOR WHAT PRESIDENT TRUMP DECIDES TO DO ABOUT NORTH KOREA

       WASHINGTON, D.C.     -- 
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told the annual convention of the Association of the US Army on Monday that they should "be ready" with military options should diplomacy fail with North Korea. When asked what the US military could do to make war with North Korea less likely, Mattis didn't sugarcoat it or offer false hope. "There's one thing the US Army can do, and that is, you have got to be ready to ensure that we have military options that our president can employ, if needed," said Mattis. Mattis said the US is currently pursuing a "diplomatically led effort" that has seen the UN Security Council twice vote unanimously to sanction North Korea, but that military backing is still needed.

     "The international community has spoken, but that means the US Army must stand ready," Mattis said.While Mattis told the troops to stand ready, President Donald Trump tweeted that "policy didn't work" with North Korea, reiterating his assertions that diplomacy has failed time and time again under various presidents. But US Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley put the threat of war in perspective during a press conference on the sidelines of the US Army convention, saying there are "no risk-free options" in dealing with North Korea. "It would be horrible, there's no question about it," Milley said of a war with North Korea. "But so would an intercontinental ballistic missile striking Los Angeles or New York City. That would be equally horrible," Milley said, according to CNN.

     "There is a timeline on this" Milley said, acknowledging that North Korea's missile threat has rapidly progressed and will likely soon progress to the point where even Washington DC is within range. "It's not an indefinite amount of time. And there will be decisions made, there's no question about it." Milley made it clear that although the military stands ready to fight even a horrific fight, it's up to the commander in chief to decide when and if they fight. Though Trump often threatens force, he has remained vague about what he'll actually do. On Thursday evening, during an impromptu dinner with senior military officials at the White House, Trump suggested the meeting may represent "the calm before the storm."

DEPUTY LUIS FLORIDO DENIES DICTATOR MADURO AGAIN: IT IS FALSE THAT THE EXPLORATORY PROCESS OF DIALOGUE HAS BEEN RESUMED

         CARACAS, VENEZUELA  -- Deputy Luis Florido, today denied the Venezuelan head of state in assuring that it is false that the negotiations present a 95% of progress and affirmed that, on the contrary, it has regressed. "Again we deny the Government. The political negotiation has not advanced, every day recedes, "said the parliamentarian through a message to the press. Florido said that the statements made by Maduro and the ambassador of Caracas to the Dominican Republic, Jesús Uzcátegui, are false, and that because the conditions demanded by the opposition were not met, the dialogue continues without progress.
 

      "From the Unit we reiterate (that) ... instead of advancing the exploratory process, has regressed, because they took away the electoral guarantees to us by not allowing the substitution of candidates and they try to make an electoral fraud," he added. Last Sunday, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro estimated that the political dialogue between his government and the opposition will be resumed this week after the completion of a document that he said presents "a 95% advance". "I hope that next week, as we have agreed with the opposition, the table of dialogue for peace and sovereignty will be reinstalled again," the president said at the time.

     However, anti-Chavez maintains that these statements of the president are an attempt to use the negotiation process to "demobilize and demoralize the Venezuelans" and to "generate the feeling that there is a hidden agenda." "The only 95% that is real today is that of the Venezuelans who reject Maduro and his candidates because they are going hungry, need and that will go to vote this October 15," added Florido, referring to the elections of governors that will becelebrated next Sunday in the Caribbean country.

October 10, 2017

CARDINAL UROSA SAVINO: IF PEOPLE STAY AT HOME ON OCTOBER 15, THEIR ACTIONS "WILL FREE THE ROAD TO FRAUD"

      CARACAS, VENEZUELA    -- The Catholic Church believes that the only option for October 15 is to exercise the constitutional right to vote and decide on the destinies of each region that directly affect the citizens. The clergy consider that the elections are a pristine opportunity to continue the fight towards the changes that the country demands. "If people stay at home, it will lead to fraud in regional elections. You have to go to vote. The others are very respectable considerations, but leave the door open for the government to implant its red planer and there is room for abuses, "said Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, archbishop of Caracas.

     He added that the more people attending the 13,559 polling stations set up by the National Electoral Council for the upcoming elections will be difficult to fraud. He indicated that this was evidenced in the parliamentary elections of December 6, 2015, when the ruling party could not hide the opposition victory. "These elections will show the people's rejection of this government. The best poll is the election. There, the voters can say they don’t agree with the repression, with the inflation that the government has allowed, neither with the crime that has allowed to grow, nor with the imposition of a fraudulent constituent national assembly, indicated the cardinal.

     Urosa Savino said that those who have consistently declared on the streets against abuse of government in recent months have reasons to participate in the electoral process. "It should be clear that participation in the gubernatorial elections is not to legitimize the CNE or the government, but to exercise a right given by the constitution. We are called to vote in spite of the conditions that the CNE places and misuses. These elections are a clear way of expressing the rejection of the government. This opportunity cannot be left out, "he said. The cardinal said that the international community has realized that the government acts are illegally and against the Constitution. He added that this situation is one more reason to go to vote on Sunday. "International public opinion is absolutely against Nicolás Maduro and there are a lot of countries that do not recognize the ANC.

RUSSIA REASUMES OIL SHIPMENTS TO CUBA, HELPS FILL VENEZUELAN BREACH

       MOSCOW, RUSSIA     -- 
Russia has begun shipping large quantities of oil to Cuba for the first time this century, sources said, as supplies to the island from crisis-wracked Venezuela have dwindled. A Russian oil tanker with 249,000 barrels of refined products is due to arrive in Cuba on May 10, according to Reuters shipping sources and others, bringing back memories of when the Soviet Union supplied all of the Communist-run Caribbean islands energy needs. Rosneft, Russias state oil company, announced on Wednesday it had signed an agreement with Cubas state-run Cubametals to supply 250,000 tonnes of oil and diesel fuel, without providing further details.

     The news is sure to raise eyebrows in Washington as its tense relations with Moscow continue, despite President Donald Trumps campaign pledge to improve them. The Russian company has already become a concern for the United States. Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA last year used 49.9 percent of its shares in its U.S. subsidiary, Citgo, as collateral for loan financing by Rosneft. According to Jorge Pinon, an oil expert at the University of Texas at Austin, the Cuba deal is equivalent to around 1,865,000 barrels and valued at $105 million at current prices. In comparison, Russia reported it shipped oil products to Cuba from 2010 through 2015 valued at $11.3 million.

     Cuba consumes 22,000 barrel per day of diesel and 140,000 barrels per day of oil products. "It is very clear that Cuba is diversifying its long-term supply contracts in the event that its October 2000 subsidized oil agreement with Venezuela is terminated," Pinon said. Cash-strapped Cuba struggled with long blackouts and fuel shortages after the fall the Soviet Union, but the rise of the late Venezuela leftist President Hugo Chavez quickly solved the crisis at the turn of the century. Since then Cuba has relied on Venezuela, an OPEC member, for about 70 percent of its fuel needs, including oil for refining and re-exports. But socialist Venezuelas subsidized shipments have fallen by as much as 40 percent since 2014. Potential new suppliers usually want cash because of Cuba's poor credit rating.

IRAN WARNS WASHINGTON UNILATERAL SANCTIONS COULD ENDANGER US BASES

         TEHRAN, IRAN   -- Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps warned the United States on Sunday that the latter’s bases and troops deployed in the Middle East would be in danger if Washington were to impose sanctions against Tehran. Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the IRGC’s commander, explained that Tehran would take advantage of the current US administration’s approach to the nuclear deal to leapfrog Iran’s defensive, missile, and regional goals. “As mentioned in the past, in case of implementing the new sanctions law, the US will have to find a new place for its military bases, 2,000 km further away, so as not to fall within the range of Iranian missiles,” Jafari said, according to the official news agency IRNA.

    He stressed that if Washington finally includes the IRGC on its list of terror groups, the body will treat the US military around the world, especially in the Middle East, “in the same way” it deals with the militants of the Islamic State terror organization. In August, US President Donald Trump enacted a law providing for sanctions against Iran’s weapons program, mainly involving ballistic missiles, as well as against Russia and North Korea. Trump has to decide before Oct. 15 whether he certifies that Iran is currently complying with the nuclear agreement signed in 2015 between Iran and six major powers, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

    +Trump’s decision does not mean the US’ withdrawal from the agreement, but it does launch a process that could lead to the resumption of sanctions on Tehran for its nuclear program, a step that could mean the end of the pact. Jafari said the US would choose a wrong path if it decided to increase its pressure on Iran to return to the negotiation table. He added that the new US sanctions will forever eliminate the possibility of any kind of interaction with Iran. Trump’s government is the only one that has expressed opposition to the nuclear agreement, which is backed by both the European Union and the other signatories of the pact, known as the P5+1: Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom, plus Germany.

October 9, 2017

SOME U.S. TOURISTS TO CUBA COMPLAIN OF SYMPTOMS SIMILAR TO EMBASSY ATTACKS

      WASHINGTON, D.C.   --  We are all saddened by the news of the passing of Dr. Darsi Ferret, a courageous Cuban dissident and tireless human rights advocate. For many years, he collaborated with CAMCOCUBA sending his excellent articles and inside information of what was happening inside the island. Dr. Ferret was found dead yesterday in West Palm Beach. The cause of death for the 47-year-old activist is still unknown, but family members have said he was struggling with high blood pressure.

 

     Dr. Ferret’s name became known years ago when he defiantly challenged the apartheid Castro dictatorship while a doctor in Cuba. He was arrested and jailed numerous times and on several occasions, viciously beaten by Cuban State Security. Despite the harassment and oppression, Dr. Ferret was very active in helping debunk Castro propaganda and expose the atrocious fourth-world health care in Cuba. His photographs and videos of the heinous and scandalous conditions of the clinics and hospitals on the island offered a vivid and shocking contrast to the propaganda disseminated by the Castro regime and parroted by its sycophants such as filmmaker Michael Moore.

    Ferret left Cuba and arrived in the United States as a political refugee in 2012. The activist founded the Juan Bruno Zayas Human Rights Center in Havana and since 2006 had organized peaceful marches against the regime of the island. The dissident was separated from the exercise of medicine in 2006 for his political position and after that created the center for human rights. His work as an opponent was widely recognized, especially for leading every December 10 a peaceful demonstration in front of the Unesco headquarters in Cuba. These were marches that were severely repressed by the Castros’ political police.

US PUBLISHES 'HOTEL RESTRICTIONS' ON CITIZENS TRAVELING TO CUBA

        WASHINGTON, D.C.      -- 
 The US State Department published this Friday "hotel restrictions" for its citizens who travel to Cuba in which included the National Hotel and the Capri, both in Havana. According to a brief note, Washington explains that "during the last few months, numerous employees of the US Embassy in Havana have been targeted by specific attacks ... that have occurred in US diplomatic residences, as well as in two hotels : Hotel Nacional and Hotel Capri ". "The US Government has imposed limitations on accommodation in affected hotels," concludes the note that also warns tourists that if they believe they have suffered any symptoms "consult a medical professional."

    This Friday, according to CBS, US tourists who traveled to the island and were linked to intelligence officials at the US Embassy in Havana said they experienced symptoms similar to those suffered by at least 22 US diplomats after the mysterious "acoustic attacks" . "Since we issued the September 29 Travel Warning, we have received reports from a handful of US citizens reporting that they experienced similar symptoms after staying in Cuba," a State Department official told CBS News.

    Until this Friday, Washington had only officially reported attacks on the Capri Hotel, although John Kavulich, president of the US-Cuba Trade Council, had earlier sued the Trump Administration to make public the names of the sites where the attacks occurred . The US State Department reported in early August that its mission at the Havana embassy had experienced physical symptoms caused by unspecified "incidents" that began in late 2016. And in early September it reported more "incidents" of this style that took place in August. These attacks have led to the US decision to cut consular missions in Havana and Washington.

THOUSANDS DEMAND PUTIN QUIT AS BIRTHDAY PROTESTS TURN VIOLENT

         MOSCOW, RUSSIA  -- Russian police violently broke up a rally in Saint Petersburg as thousands took to the streets across Russia Saturday on President Vladimir Putin's 65th birthday, urging him to quit power. Heeding the call of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny to demand competitive elections, around 3,000 people rallied in Russia's second city and Putin's hometown while more than a thousand demonstrated in the centre of Moscow, AFP reporters said. Protests were held in around 80 cities throughout the country.

     More than 270 people were detained nationwide, more than 60 of them in Saint Petersburg, according to OVD-Info, a group that monitors politically motivated arrests. But while police in rainy Moscow showed restraint, allowing the crowd of mostly young protesters to march in the city centre in an apparent effort to avoid clashes on Putin's birthday, the rally in Saint Petersburg ended in violence. Activists chanted "Shame" as helmeted police threw some protesters into police vans, injuring several demonstrators and forcing some to run for cover, an AFP reporter and witnesses said. Amnesty International called on Russian authorities to immediately release the protesters and investigate instances of violence.

    "The Kremlin’s intent is clear – to choke the life out of the protest movement," said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty's deputy director for Europe and Central Asia. "Peaceful protest is a right, and many people in Russia want to exercise that right. The Russian authorities must immediately begin to respect and protect the rights of these protesters, pure and simple," he said. The protests -- called by Navalny after he was sent to jail for 20 days this week -- were markedly smaller than the rallies he mustered in March and June when tens of thousands took to the streets against corruption. In Moscow on Saturday, the crowd chanted "Happy birthday" and "Russia without Putin" and many held copies of the constitution and waved flags amid honks of support from passing cars.

October 8, 2017

SOME U.S. TOURISTS TO CUBA COMPLAIN OF SYMPTOMS SIMILAR TO EMBASSY ATTACKS

      WASHINGTON, D.C.   --  A "handful" of private U.S. citizens who traveled to Cuba say they have experienced symptoms similar to those suffered by American diplomats in mysterious health "attacks" in Havana, the U.S. State Department said on Friday. A State Department spokesperson, who declined to be named, said the agency could not verify the claims but said travelers should heed its travel warning issued last Friday. The warning urged Americans to stay away from Cuba because of unexplained health "attacks" it says have caused hearing loss, dizziness, fatigue and cognitive issues among at least 22 diplomatic personnel.

     The Trump administration on Tuesday expelled 15 Cuban diplomats to protest Cuba's failure to protect staff at the U.S. embassy in the communist country, just days after Washington recalled more than half the U.S. diplomatic personnel from Havana. Cuba has denied involvement, and Washington has not directly blamed the government in Havana. So far, no probes have yielded any answers about how the alleged attacks were carried out or who was responsible. The warning said the attacks had occurred in "diplomatic residences and hotels frequented by U.S. citizens." CBS News first reported that some private citizens had complained of symptoms after visiting Cuba.

    On Friday, the U.S. embassy in Havana identified the Hotel Nacional and Hotel Capri as the two places where it said embassy personnel had been targeted over the past few months, and said the U.S. government had "imposed limitations on lodging" there. U.S. intelligence operatives working undercover were among the embassy personnel affected by the attacks, but it was unclear if they were specifically targeted since the symptoms hit staff across a range of job categories, U.S. officials have told Reuters. diplomats as “unjustified,” accused the United States of insufficient cooperation with Cuba’s investigation and urged Washington to stop politicizing the matter.

VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION DENOUNCES #15OCT BALLOT FRAUDULENT

        CARACAS, VENEZUELA     -- 
 The Venezuelan opposition denounced on Friday that the electoral arbitrator is trying to manipulate the regional elections on Sunday in favor of dictator Nicolas Maduro's allies by including in the ballot names of candidates who are not in the race, Reuters reports. After a wave of anti-government protests killed at least 125 people and failed to achieve its goal, the opposition shifted its focus to the October 15 election to elect governors in 23 states. The socialist government currently controls 20 states, but the economic crisis and the shortage of medicines and food have affected its popularity and the opposition now has a majority support, according to polls.

     The opposition coalition Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD) hopes to win 18 governorships, but fears that the ballot will confuse voters. Although the opposition organized primaries to select a single candidate per state among several dozen parties that make up the coalition, the National Electoral Council (CNE) - perceived as a pro-government body - kept all the names of the original candidates, even if they do not participate in the voting. So, instead of seeing an opposition candidate against a PSUV candidate, voters will see several faces of opposition candidates, potentially causing confusion and diluting the vote.

     "There is the trap, there is the fraud that this government wants to commit," said MUD campaign chief Tomás Guanipa at a press conference on the CNE decision, which was upheld by the Supreme Court on Thursday (TSJ). "The invitation we make to all Venezuelans who today see how the government tries to mock everyone and the obstacles it poses, is to go out and vote massively for the face of the unitary candidate in the states, the government trap is going to become buhran, "he added. The CNE did not respond to accusations of bias, but said the cards would not be changed. Government officials have said that the rules are fair and that the opposition is simply trying to justify possible violent actions after the vote.

ALBA COUNTRIES NEXT TO RECEIVE US SANCTIONS

         Washington, d.c.  -- The economic sanctions that the United States imposed to the regime of Nicholas Maduro as well as Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), which is in the process of approving to apply to the administration of Daniel Ortega, could be extended to other member countries of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), according to Jason Poblete, ex- Representatives. According to Poblete, the scourge of corruption must be eliminated and in order to achieve this it is necessary to know where the Venezuelan regime is "hiding money, so the next round is the ALBA countries," he said.

      The former advisor also said that the issue of Alba de Nicaragua SA (Albanisa), which according to official figures by oil bill has received more than USD $ 3,670 million between 2007 and 2016, is a subject that is latent in the legislative agenda of Washington in the last weeks since there are serious allegations that the state's resources have been handled at will by the presidential family of the Central American country. "To succeed, the administration of President Donald Trump has to expand the menu of sanctions to Alba countries. That has to change because fraud, the corruption is like when you turn on a light in a dark room and the cockroaches run off to hide.

      Therefore, the logic is to know where they are hiding the money, there the next round are the rest of the Alba countries, "said Poblete. According to the lawyer, the case of Albanisa is very critical, since when it started the legislative process of the Nica Act in the House of Representatives in August of the 2016, nobody expected that it was unchained of that state and PDVSA. On Tuesday, the House of Representatives unanimously approved the Nica Act that consists in conditioning the vote of the United States for the approval of loans from financial organizations for Nicaragua until the regime of Daniel Ortega restore the constitutional order, convene free elections and ensure respect for human rights.

October 7, 2017

PRESIDENT TRUMP REITERATES FRIDAY THAT HE WILL NOT LIFT SANCTIONS ON CUBA

      WASHINGTON, D.C.   -- President Donald Trump said Friday that the United States will maintain sanctions imposed on Cuba during its first White House reception on Hispanic Heritage Month. At the ceremony, attended by more than 200 business, community and religious leaders from the Hispanic community in the US, Trump recalled that his government has taken different measures to defend the "good people" of Cuba and Venezuela.

      The president reiterated the promise made on June 16 in Little Havana, Miami, not to lift sanctions on the Cuban regime until it guarantees full political freedom on the island. "As I have already announced in Small Havana (Miami), we will not lift sanctions against the Cuban regime until there is complete political freedom for the Cuban people," he said. "The same failed ideology of communism that brought oppression to Cuba, has brought nothing but misery and suffering in all those places where it has been established around the world, "he emphasized.

      "Communism represents the past, freedom is the future," Trump said. On Venezuela, Trump reaffirmed his rejection of the "oppression" being carried out by the "socialist" regime of President Nicolas Maduro. Trump, who was escorted by First Lady Melania Trump and Cuban-American Alex Acosta, Secretary of Labor and first Latino to join the cabinet, praised the contribution of the Hispanic community in US history. The president introduced Acosta as a "very special person" who is doing a great job. "Since the early days Hispanic Americans have enriched this country," the president said.

U.S. EXPULSION OF CUBAN DIPLOMATS INCLUDES ALL BUSINESS OFFICERS

        WASHINGTON, D.C.    -- 
 The Cuban diplomats expelled from the United States this week included all those dealing with U.S. businesses, Cuba's embassy in Washington told Reuters on Thursday, dealing another blow to bilateral commercial ties. In an escalating crisis between the Cold War foes, the Trump administration on Tuesday expelled 15 diplomats to protest Communist-run Cuba's failure to protect U.S. embassy staff in Havana from a mysterious spate of alleged health attacks.

      "Due to this decision, the activities developed by the Economic and Trade Office of the Embassy of Cuba to the United States ... will be seriously affected," one Cuban diplomat said in a farewell message to a U.S. group that takes investors to the Caribbean's largest island. The Cuban embassy is often the first step in the process for U.S. companies to explore opportunities and make a pitch. Officials help them submit a trip proposal, seek out counterparts at state-owned enterprises in the centralized economy, and receive a business visa to travel to Havana. Whether the embassy will still be issuing such visas remains unclear, given one diplomat will remain in the consular section.

     On the American side, the downgrade of the U.S. embassy - Washington last Friday ordered the departure of all non-emergency staff - will likely make it harder for U.S. companies to find their way in Cuba. "It's the chilling effect of a diplomatic crisis," said Pedro Freyre, a Cuban-born attorney who heads the international practice at law firm Akerman. Some U.S. companies may choose to stay on the sidelines until relations improve, he said, adding that his clients already pursuing opportunities in Cuba were staying the course as they saw it as a long-term play. U.S. companies flocked to Cuba in the wake of the detente former Democratic President Barack Obama agreed in 2014.

PRESIDENT TRUMP MEETS WITH MILITARY, TALKS OF 'CALM BEFORE THE STORM'

         Washington, d.c.  --  U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a briefing with senior military leaders at the White House in Washington, Oct. 5, 2017. After discussing Iran and North Korea with U.S. military leaders Thursday, President Donald Trump posed for a photo with them before dinner and declared the moment “the calm before the storm.” “You guys know what this represents?” Trump said after journalists gathered in the White House state dining room to photograph him and first lady Melania Trump with the uniformed military leaders and their spouses.

     “Maybe it’s the calm before the storm,” he said. What storm? “You’ll find out,” Trump told questioning reporters. The White House did not immediately reply to a request to clarify Trump’s remark. Earlier in the evening, while seated with the top defense officials in the cabinet room, Trump talked about the threat from North Korea and preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. “In North Korea, our goal is denuclearization,” he said. “We cannot allow this dictatorship to threaten our nation or our allies with unimaginable loss of life. We will do what we must do to prevent that from happening. And it will be done, if necessary, believe me.”

    During his speech to the United Nations General Assembly last month, Trump said the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea if needed to defend itself or U.S. allies. The president on Thursday also had tough words for Iran, saying the country had not lived up to the spirit of an agreement forged with world powers to curb its nuclear program. A senior administration official said Thursday that Trump was expected to announce soon he would decertify the landmark agreement. Without being specific, Trump pressed the leaders to be faster at providing him with “military options” when needed. “Moving forward, I also expect you to provide me with a broad range of military options, when needed, at a much faster pace. I know that government bureaucracy is slow, but I am depending on you to overcome the obstacles of bureaucracy,” he said during their cabinet room meeting.

October 6, 2017

RUSSIAN PATIENCE IS WEARING THIN WITH VENEZUELA'S LOAN DEFAULTS

      MOSCOW, RUSSIA   -- DICTATOR Nicolás Maduro met with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to address the issue of the restructuring of Venezuela‘s considerable Russian debt.  “Debt, like any financial commitment, is likely to be restructured,” Maduro told an international energy forum, ahead of the meeting. “Any restructuring or refinancing will surely be the subject of agreements between the two governments,” he added. Recently, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluánov admitted that Russia is negotiating the restructuring of Venezuela’s debt both in bilateral talks and in the framework of the Paris Club.

     Russia granted a loan to Venezuela of USD $4 billion in December 2011, and until 2015 the South American country paid the loan installments promptly. Beginning in March of 2016, as the Venezuelan economy dove into a deep recession, the Maduro regime found itself unable to maintain its payment schedule. In August of this year, Russian state oil giant Rosneft transferred to Venezuela a USD $6 billion advance for Venezuelan oil shipments up until 2019. But in June 2017, Russia confirmed that Venezuela was in default to the tune of USD $955 million.

     The Venezuelan Chamber of Audit issued a statement saying that the Venezuelan government stopped paying its debt in September 2016. According to the protocol, Venezuela owed Russia USD $2.8 billion as of September 2016, including past due debt and interest. On April 18 Russia confiscated an oil tanker to the state-owned PDVSA because the Maduro regime owed USD $ 30 million. According to the Reuters news agency, in October, Venezuela sent an oil tanker to the Caribbean with the expectation that its cargo would raise some $ 20 million; however, the owners of the vessel Aframax NS Columbus (part of the fleet of Russian state conglomerate Sovcomflot) seized the oil.

U.S. SEEKS AT LEAST 30 YEARS FOR NEPHEW OF VENEZUELA'S FIRST LADY

        NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK   -- 
 Two nephews of Venezuela's first lady should serve at least 30 years in prison for their convictions in the United States on drug trafficking charges, U.S. prosecutors said on Monday. They said in a filing in federal court in Manhattan that the two men, Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas and Efrain Antonio Campo Flores, tried to make $20 million through drug trafficking so as to keep their family in power and to "enrich themselves while their countrymen starved in the streets." The men are nephews of Cilia Flores, the wife of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

     Under Maduro, oil-producing Venezuela has fallen into an economic and political crisis in which more than 120 people have died in four months of protests. The United States announced new sanctions against Maduro’s government in July. The prosecutors also said Flores de Freitas and Campo Flores lied in an effort to suppress evidence in the case. The prosecutors said that federal guidelines called for sentences of life imprisonment, though they asked only for "substantial terms of not less than 30 years." In their own filing last month, they argued for a sentence "far beneath" the guidelines recommendation of life, saying prosecutors had proved only that the two men engaged in "bungling discussions of a drug plot that could never actually have been executed."

     Flores de Freitas and Campo Flores were convicted in November by a jury of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States. Days later, Maduro blasted the conviction in a speech as an instance of "U.S. imperialism." Maduro has frequently cast U.S. accusations of drug trafficking as a pretext for meddling in Venezuela and trying to topple him. Flores de Freitas and Campo Flores were arrested in Haiti in November 2015 and flown to the United States following a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sting operation. Prosecutors said the two men plotted to use a Venezuelan airport’s presidential hangar to send 800 kgs of cocaine to Honduras for shipment into the United States.

US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES PASSES BILL  TO HALT AID TO NICARAGUA

         Washington, d.c.  --  The United States House of Representatives approved on Tuesday the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act 2017 (Nica), a bill designed to limit financial aid from international institutions to the Central American country until it holds free, fair and transparent elections. Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democrat Albio Sires said that the US Congress unanimously endorsed the bill.

     The bill will be passed to the US Senate for further debate and evaluation. The main opposition party was prevented from participating in the election last year in which President Daniel Ortega won his third consecutive term in office and his fourth in total. The objective of the “Nica Act” is to instruct the US Administration to oppose the granting of loans to the government of Daniel Ortega, worth from $250 million to $300 million annually, except for humanitarian reasons or to promote democracy.

     “We consider this bill a violation of Nicaragua’s sovereignty, and a denial of all political, social, cultural and economic processes in our homeland,” said Rosario Murillo, vice president and first lady of Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan government reiterated its “commitment to democracy,” while calling the “Nica Act” an “irrational, offensive and damaging action against the human rights of Nicaraguans,” in a statement read by Murillo. The United States is the main destination for Nicaragua’s exports and is the main source of its remittances, which reach up to 6 percent of gross domestic product, while US investments generate about 300,000 jobs in the Central American country.

October 5, 2017

DICTATOR NICOLAS MADURO: FIRST AGREEMENT WITH THE OPPOSITION HAS A 95% ADVANCE

      MOSCOW, RUSSIA   --  The President of the Republic, Nicolás Maduro, said that the dialogue between the government and the opposition is about to have a "first agreement". During a tour in Russia, Maduro said that the negotiations "are going very well" because "we are 95% of having an agreement with the opposition and hopefully the table of dialogue allows to restore peace," he said. As part of his participation in the 6th World Energy Summit held this week in Moscow, Russia, he highlighted the support of the President of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina and the ex-President of Spain, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, at the dialogue table which the opposition did not attend the second time, considering that the Executive did not comply with the requested exploratory agreements to install this instance.

     "(The conversations) allow to restore the levels of understanding and political tolerance with the political right (opposition)," said the President. He declared to the media that for the "next year are pending" the elections of mayors and the president. "In the months and years to come, Venezuela will give a lesson of dignity, democracy and freedom to the world." Venezuela is the country with the highest equality rate in the continent, according to the GINI index (coefficient that measures income inequality), and maintains one of the highest human development indexes, said the President of the Republic.

    He stressed that the years 2015 and 2016 reflect stable indicators, despite the crisis caused by the fall in oil prices, the economic war caused by business sectors seeking to overthrow the government and the international financial blockade, AVN said. In his speech, the President indicated that the Venezuelan State allocates 70% of public investment to social development, guaranteeing free and quality public education to 75% of students, reflecting 90% schooling. At the university level, the schooling rate "is only exceeded by Cuba" at the regional level, "being the fifth rate of education of university education in the world," he said.

LUIS FLORIDO DENIED DICTATOR NICOLAS MADURO'S ASSURANCE THAT THE DIALOGUE IN VENEZUELA HAS REACHED A 95% COMPLETION

        CARACAS, VENEZUELA   -- 
The opposition leader, Luis Florido, denied Wednesday the announcement made by the dictator of the Republic, Nicolás Maduro, in which he assures that the process of political dialogue in Venezuela has REACHED A 95% COMPLETION. "There has been no progress at all in the exploratory process since we issued an statement in which we clearly stated that we were not going to go to the Dominican Republic because the conditions established had not been met," said Florido.

     For the deputy to the National Assembly, what the Head of State is seeking is "to generate uneasiness among the population, to generate confusion as if there was a hidden process that is taking place." However, Florido stressed that the Bureau of Democratic Unity (MUD) has proposed a "serious" negotiation process, which has not yet begun. "I reiterate, we are still in an exploratory phase that has not advanced, which was stopped in the whole subject of the preconditions above all with what corresponds with the guarantees in electoral matters," he stressed.

     Finally, the president of the foreign policy commission of the AN said that "we are very far to initiate a negotiation process". According to the opponent, Maduro made these statements to "generate unrest in the population" and "create confusion as if there was a hidden process that is taking place", for which he remarked that "a process of serious negotiation", as requested by the opposing collation has not initiated yet. He also reiterated that they are in the "exploratory phase" of the dialogue "that was stopped in the whole subject to the preconditions that corresponds tov in electoral matters and we are already seeing how that is not even being recognized" .

VENEZUELAN GOVERNMENT CONFIRMS NEGOTIATION WITH ROSNEFT TO CHANGE CITGO'S COLLATERAL

         CARACAS, VENEZUELA --  Venezuela's oil minister confirmed on Wednesday that state oil company PDVSA is in talks with Russia's Rosneft to modify its collateral at US refiner Citgo, saying they expect to reach "soon" an agreement. In July, sources told Reuters exclusively that Russia's biggest oil producer was negotiating to change the collateral of the refinery owned by Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), a move that seeks, in part, to avoid complicating the economic sanctions imposed by the United. States

    Rosneft has a collateral of 49.9 percent of Citgo as a guarantee of a loan of about $ 1.5 billion it made last year to Venezuela, whose economy is suffering a complicated economic crisis, exacerbated by the low oil prices. "We are discussing it," Minister Eulogio Del Pino told an energy forum in Moscow when asked about potential change, adding that he expected to reach a conclusion "very soon." He did not elaborate when. Two US senators recently urged Donald Trump's government to review what they considered a potential acquisition of Citgo by Rosneft, which they said would be a risk to the national security of their country.

     In addition, other senators have questioned whether the agreement could violate the sanctions against Russia in force since 2014, if Rosneft executed the guarantee. However, knowledgeable sources in the negotiations argue that it was PDVSA that offered the collateral and that its Russian counterpart is not interested in taking control of the refinery. It remains to be seen whether Venezuela can offer assets attractive enough to compensate for the current deal. A special Reuters report revealed that Nicolas Maduro's socialist government is increasingly turning to its allied Russia for the money and credit it needs to survive by offering oil assets in retu

October 4, 2017

VENEZUELA OPPOSITION WON'T ATTEND SCHEDULED TALKS WITH GOVERNMENT

      CARACAS, VENEZUELA   --  Venezuela's opposition said on Tuesday it will not join scheduled talks with President Nicolas Maduro's government, undercutting a dialogue effort that has been viewed with suspicion by many adversaries of the ruling Socialist Party. The government has eagerly promoted the talks amid global criticism that Maduro is turning the country into a dictatorship, while the opposition has always insisted the talks should not distract from the country's economic crisis.

     The two sides held separate exploratory conversations with the president of the Dominican Republic earlier this month. But the opposition said the government has not made enough progress on issues such as human rights to warrant full bilateral talks. "Negotiation is not to go and waste time, to look at someone's face, but rather so that Venezuelans can have immediate solutions," opposition leader Henrique Capriles told reporters. "We cannot have a repeat of last year's failure," he said, referring to Vatican-brokered talks in 2016 that fell apart after the opposition said the government was simply using them as a stalling tactic. The Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

     The opposition wants a date for the next presidential election, due by the end of 2018, with guarantees it will be free and fair. It is also calling for freedom for hundreds of jailed activists, a foreign humanitarian aid corridor and respect for the opposition-led congress. With Spain pushing for the European Union to adopt restrictive measures against members of the Venezuelan government, Maduro may be hoping to dodge further sanctions. The United States has issued several rounds of sanctions against Venezuela, primarily in response to the creation of an all-powerful super body called the Constituent Assembly that was elected in a July vote the opposition labeled fraudulent. Many countries have refused to recognize the assembly, which Maduro insists has brought peace to the country of 30 million. He says opposition leaders are coup-plotters seeking to sabotage socialism in oil-rich Venezuela under the guise of peaceful protests.

OAS CHIEF ASKS FOR TOUGHER SANCTIONS AGAINST VENEZUELA REGIME

        WASHINGTON, D.C.   -- 
OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro said Monday that sanctions against Venezuela should be tougher and more widespread to make sure the country gets back on the path of democracy, but more internal pressure is also needed and that will require a stronger Venezuelan opposition. That was Almagro's response to a question asked him at the 2017 Latin American Summit organized by Florida Gov. Rick Scott and attended by representatives of the US and Latin American public and private sectors.

     In the opinion of the OAS chief, the sanctions must include the totality of the Venezuelan regime, which "has completely abandoned the rule of law." Almagro presented a detailed view of what he called the collapse of Venezuela and of democracy in that country, and of the desperate consequences it inflicts on the daily life of its citizens. He noted that the process of Venezuela's departure from the OAS "has not yet begun," because of the disagreement between the permanent mission of the OAS and leaders of the Venezuelan National Assembly about the application of the Inter-American Charter.

     As for former Attorney General Luisa Ortega, he said he has spoken with her, but for now "no decision has been taken" about her possible collaboration, though she could make a valuable contribution to the cases under study of human rights violations by the Nicolas Maduro regime. Opposition leader Carlos Vecchio, also at the meeting, agreed with Almagro that multilateral sanctions have been seen to work, as in the case of the apartheid regime in South Africa. In a statement to reporters after Almagro's speech, Vecchio said that the US sanctions against officials in the Maduro government are not enough by themselves. "We need multilateral sanctions, with the European Union joining in," he said.

GOV. SCOTT PROPOSES MAJOR LEGISLATION PROHIBITING BUSINESS WITH DICTATOR MADURO REGIME

         MIAMI, FLORIDA --  Today, Governor Rick Scott met with world leaders for the 2017 Latin American Summit and announced a major legislative proposal for the upcoming legislative session which will strictly prohibit the State of Florida, including all state agencies, from investing in any company that is doing business with Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro’s oppressive government. Earlier this year, the SBA unanimously approved Governor Scott’s proposed resolution to prohibit the State of Florida from investments connected to the Maduro regime.

     Governor Scott said, “In Florida, we have been absolutely clear – the brutal government of Nicolas Maduro must end and the people of Venezuela must be given total freedom and democracy now. Earlier this year, my resolution was passed by the State Board of Administration to make sure that Florida state investments do not support the Maduro regime. Now, we are building on this action. Today, I’m proud to announce that during the upcoming legislative session, I will propose additional measures to continue to advocate for human rights and democracy for the people of Venezuela. My new proposal holds the Maduro regime accountable by making the steps we took this year permanent in Florida law.

      It also extends this action to all state agencies, prohibiting Florida’s state government from investing in any company doing business with the regime. I also call on all local governments and businesses to do what I’m advocating for at the state level and not do business with those that support the Maduro Regime. Companies can choose to either support the Maduro Regime, or to seek investments from the State of Florida – not both. “Let me be clear- this proposal is aimed squarely at the Maduro regime – not businesses who provide much needed goods and services to the Venezuelan people. Florida continues to stand with the people of Venezuela and steadfast against any government that oppresses its people and denies freedom and human rights.” Details on Governor Scott’s proposed legislation will be available in the coming weeks.

October 3, 2017

AT LEAST 59 DEAD IN LAS VEGAS IN THE LARGEST MASS SHOOTING IN U.S. HISTORY, MORE THAN 527 WOUNDED

      LAS VEGAS, NEVADA   --  A gunman perched on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel-casino unleashed a hail of bullets on an outdoor country music festival below, killing at least 58 people as tens of thousands of concertgoers screamed and ran for their lives, officials said Monday. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. More than 500 other victims were taken to the hospital, authorities said. SWAT teams using explosives stormed the gunman’s hotel room in the sleek, gold-colored glass skyscraper and found he had killed himself, authorities said. He had as many as 10 guns with him, including rifles, they said.

     There was no immediate word on the motive for the Sunday night bloodbath. Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said authorities believe it was a “lone wolf” attack. President Donald Trump delivered a message of unity, saying in a somber White House address that: “in moments of tragedy and horror, America comes together as one. And it always has.” President Donald Trump addressed the nation on Monday, a day after 50 people were killed and 400 were injured when a gunman opened fire on a Las Vegas concert. He praised the speed of Las Vegas police and other first responders who responded to the scene and assured those who were now mourning friends and family "we are here for you."

     Country music star Jason Aldean was performing Sunday night at the end of the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival in front of a crowd of more than 22,000 when the gunman opened fire from inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino across the street. The gunman was identified as Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nevada. He had checked into the hotel room on Thursday, authorities said. “What we are going to try to do as best we can is to get our first responders back on their feet and responding and conducting a proper investigation to ensure that we have the safety of this community at heart,” the sheriff said. Paddock’s brother, Eric Paddock, who lives in Florida, told the Orlando Sentinel: “We are completely dumbfounded. We can’t understand what happened.”

ISIS CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR LAS VEGAS MASSACRE

        LAS VEGAS, NEVADA   -- 
ISIS claimed responsibility Monday for the Las Vegas rampage. “The Las Vegas attack was carried out by a soldier of the Islamic State and he carried it out in response to calls to target states of the coalition,” the terror group’s news agency Amaq said in reference to the US-led coalition fighting the group in the Middle East.“The Las Vegas attacker converted to Islam a few months ago,” Amaq also said on the Telegram online messaging service, according to Agence France-Presse.

      The terrorist group’s statements — which did not include the attacker’s name — came after ISIS on Friday released an audio recording of what it said was its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi That was seen as a bid to boost its fighters’ morale under pressure in Syria and Iraq from offensives by the Damascus regime and its allies, including Russia and US-backed fighters in both countries. Since Baghdadi’s previous message to his followers in November, the territory the jihadists still hold in the self-declared caliphate they proclaimed in 2014 has shrunk to a fraction of its former size.
 

     The US Homeland Security Department said there was no “specific credible threat” involving other public venues in the United States. ISIS often claims attacks by individuals inspired by its message but with no known links to the group. However, it is not known to have claimed any attacks to which it was not at least loosely linked. The group remains active in recruiting followers on social media, and has repeatedly called for attacks in Western nations.

FBI: "NO CONNECTION" TO TERRORISM FOUND IN LAS VEGAS SHOOTING

         LAS VEGAS, NEVADA  --  Investigators have so far found "no connection" between international terrorist groups and a mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed at least 58 people and injured more than 500, an FBI special agent said Monday. The Islamic State group, through its propaganda arm, had earlier claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming the shooter was a recently converted "soldier." Police said the attack was carried out by Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old retired accountant.

      "As this event unfolds we have determined to this point no connection with an international terrorist group," said Aaron Rouse, the special agent in charge of the Las Vegas office of the FBI. The Islamic State claimed Monday that the massacre in Las Vegas was carried out by one of its "soldiers" who had "converted to Islam" months ago. "The executor of the Las Vegas attack is a soldier of the Islamic State and he carried out the operation as a response" to calls to target countries engaged in military action against the jihadists, IS's propaganda outlet Amaq said in online statements.

     "The author of the Las Vegas attack converted to Islam a few months ago," Amaq said, in the statements posted on the Telegram online messaging service.
It provided no evidence to back up its claims. Fifty people were killed and hundreds wounded on Sunday night when an attacker opened fire on a country music concert in Las Vegas, in the deadliest mass shooting in US history. Police said Paddock had been found dead by special forces responding to reports of gunfire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino. At least eight rifles rented by the 64-year-old were found inside the room, he added. Since Baghdadi's previous message to his followers last November, the territory the jihadists still hold in the cross-border "caliphate" they proclaimed in 2014 has shrunk to a fraction of its former extent.

October 2, 2017

PRESIDENT TRUMP SAYS TILLERSON 'WASTING HIS TIME' ATTEMPTING TO NEGOTIATE WITH NORTH KOREA

      WASHINGTON, D.C.   --  President Donald Trump said Sunday that the secretary of state is “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with North Korea over the communist state’s nuclear weapons program. The comments, made in a series of morning tweets, came a day after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Washington has “lines of communication to Pyongyang,” even as the two sides trade threats and personal insults. “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump wrote, using his nickname for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!” he added.

     Trump has said in the past he would be willing to talk to Kim under the right conditions. But he has more recently adopted a hard line, warning that he would “totally destroy” the North if necessary and insisting that military options are on the table. The escalating war of words has stoked fears of a possible conflict on the divided peninsula, which was devastated by a 1950-53 war that ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty. About 28,500 U.S. servicemembers are based in the South. Tillerson, meanwhile, has left the door open for dialogue and acknowledged for the first time that the United States was probing the North’s willingness to talk. But he insisted that it was up to the North to halt missile launches.

     “We have lines of communication to Pyongyang. We’re not in a dark situation, a blackout,” Tillerson told reporters Saturday during a visit to China. “We can talk to them, we do talk to them.” He reiterated that Washington would not recognize North Korea as a nuclear power but also has no plans for regime change. +Tillerson, who met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other top officials, didn’t elaborate and the State Department later appeared to walk back the remarks. “North Korean officials have shown no indication that they are interested in or are ready for talks regarding denuclearization,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

PARAGUAY, ARGENTINA AND CHILE CALL FOR RESTORATION OF DEMOCRACY IN VENEZUELA

        ASUNCION, PARAGUAY   -- 
Paraguay's foreign ministers, Eladio Loizaga, and Argentina's Jorge Faurie signed a joint statement last Thursday in Asuncion urging the full restoration of democracy in Venezuela. Both chancellors expressed "their condemnation of repression and political persecution in Venezuela ", reaffirming what was expressed during the second meeting of the countries of the Lima Group. Loizaga and Faurie met to discuss the bilateral agenda, in a meeting that focused on the state of the binational hydroelectric dam Yacyretá.

     In their statement, they called for "the exhaustion of all possible measures within the framework of a concrete and credible dialogue, with full respect for human rights" in Venezuela. On the other hand, they valued an initiative of Canada to celebrate in October a new meeting of ministers, calling to the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to join this initiative in favor of the Venezuelan people. It should be remembered that Venezuela is currently experiencing an economic, political and social crisis, resulting in a great conflict between the Government and the opposition, as well as a great discontent among the Venezuelans themselves.

     In addition, Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz said today that his country does not want a "symbolic dialogue" in Venezuela because it would be "useless", and said that he "understands" that the country's opposition wants a "security" agenda of the negotiation. "What Chile does not want is simply to participate in a process that is symbolic and that has no real effects for a democratic exit for the restoration of the constitutional democratic order that has been broken in Venezuela," the minister told reporters at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. "And that then," he continued, "would be useless. Therefore, in order to have concrete results, we have to have an agreed agenda between the parties and we hope that this will happen." The chancellor avoided advancing the agenda of the meeting of the so-called "Lima Group" scheduled for October in Toronto (Canada) because one must "wait and see the circumstances."

U.S. ACCUSES IRAN, VENEZUELA OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING FAILINGS

         WASHINGTON, D.C.    --  The White House said on Saturday it had ordered that Iran, Venezuela and four African nations be added to a U.S. list of countries accused of failing to crack down on human trafficking, a step that further isolates them from the United States. The White House said it also was increasing restrictions on North Korea, Eritrea, Russia and Syria, which already were on the list, by constraining them from engaging in educational or cultural exchange programs with the United States.

     In addition, President Donald Trump’s administration instructed the U.S. executive director of the International Monetary Fund and U.S. executive directors at other multilateral development banks to vote against extending loans or other funds to North Korea, Russia and Iran for fiscal year 2018, which begins on Sunday. Under a 2000 U.S. law called the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the United States does not provide non-humanitarian, non-trade-related foreign assistance to any country that fails to comply with minimum standards for eliminating trafficking and is not making efforts to do so.

     The White House said in a notice that Iran, Venezuela, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea, South Sudan and Sudan had been added to the list of countries subject to these restrictions for the new fiscal year. The move came six days after Trump included Venezuela and Iran on a list of eight countries targeted for travel restrictions to the United States. The restrictions on Venezuela focused on government officials who the Trump administration blamed for the country’s slide into economic disarray. The travel ban on Iranians was broader. That travel ban list lifted previous restrictions on citizens from Sudan.


 

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