Venezuelans Protest Against Dictator Maduro In 4th Week, Protesting Starvation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

By Brian Ellsworth and Diego Oré | CARACAS

Venezuelans erected barricades with garbage and even bathtubs on Monday and snarled traffic with mass “sit-ins” along major thoroughfares to press their demand for early elections as anti-government protests entered a fourth week.

Ten people have been killed during clashes this month between security forces armed with rubber bullets and tear gas and protesters sometimes throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails.

At least 10 people have also died during night-time looting.

President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government accuses foes of seeking a violent coup with U.S. connivance, while the opposition says he is a dictator repressing peaceful protest.

The opposition’s main demands are for elections, the release of jailed activists and autonomy for the opposition-led congress. But protests are also fueled by the crippling economic crisis in the oil-rich nation of 30 million people.

“I have an empty stomach because I can’t find food,” said Jeannette Canozo, a 66-year-old homemaker, who said police used rubber bullets against protesters blocking a Caracas avenue with trash and bathtubs in the early morning.

Demonstrators wore the yellow, blue and red colors of Venezuela’s flag and held signs denouncing shortages, inflation and violent crime as they chanted: “This government has fallen!”

In the capital, they streamed from several points onto a major highway, where hundreds of people sat, carrying bags of supplies, playing card games, and shielding themselves from the sun with hats and umbrellas.

In western Tachira, at another of the “sit-ins” planned for all of Venezuela’s 23 states, some played the board-game Ludo in the street, while others played soccer or enjoyed street theater.

At protests in southern Bolivar state, a university professor gave a lecture on politics while some people sat down to play Scrabble and others cooked soup over small fires in the streets.

The demonstrations were largely peaceful by mid-afternoon, although there were some scattered reports of security forces dispersing people with tear gas.

“In the morning they appear peaceful, in the afternoon they turn into terrorists and at night bandits and killers,” senior Socialist Party official Diosdado Cabello said. “Let me tell them straight: we’re not going, Nicolas (Maduro) is not going.”

WORST UNREST IN THREE YEARS

This month’s unrest is Venezuela’s worst since 2014 when 43 people died in months of mayhem sparked by protests against Maduro, the 54-year-old successor to late leftist leader Hugo Chavez.

The latest protests began when the pro-government Supreme Court assumed the powers of the opposition-controlled congress. The court quickly reversed course, but its widely condemned move still galvanized the opposition.

The government’s disqualification from public office of two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, who would be an opposition favorite to replace Maduro, gave further impetus to the demonstrations.

“I’m staying here until 6 p.m. We’re simply warming up because the day will come that we are all coming to the street until this government goes,” said Gladys Avariano, a 62-year-old lawyer, under an umbrella at the Caracas “sit-in.”

More than 1,400 people have been arrested this month over the protests, with 636 still detained as of Monday, according to local rights group Penal Forum.

Facing exhortations from around the world to allow Venezuelans to vote, Maduro has called for local state elections – delayed from last year – to be held soon.

But there is no sign the government will allow the next presidential election, slated for late 2018, to be brought forward as the opposition demands.

Given the country’s economic crisis, with millions short of food, pollsters say the ruling Socialist Party would fare badly in any vote at the moment.

Trying to keep the pressure on Maduro, the opposition is seeking new strategies, such as a silent protest held on Saturday and Monday’s “sit-ins”.

While some small demonstrations have been held in poorer and traditionally pro-government areas, most poor Venezuelans are more preoccupied with putting food on the table.

(Additional reporting by Andreina Aponte, Carlos Garcia Rawlins and Efrain Otero in Caracas, and Anggy Polanco and Carlos Eduardo Ramirez in San Cristobal; Writing by Girish Gupta and Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Tom Brown and James Dalgleish)

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Mother Of All Protest Marches In Venezuela Against President Maduro: Starvation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

Racked by food shortages and political unrest, Venezuela swelled with what organizers are calling the “mother of all protests” on Wednesday. Demonstrators have taken to the streets in the capital, Caracas, and other major cities across the country to rally against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, who assumed office precisely five years ago.

Throughout the day, those rallies often devolved into clashes between demonstrators and security forces — chaotic, violent scenes rent by tear gas, tossed rocks and even two reported deaths.

Citing witnesses in Caracas, Reuters reports that Carlos Moreno, a teenage student who had not planned to join the demonstration, was shot in the head after “government supporters approached an opposition gathering and fired shots.” The news service says he died in the hospital later.

Later in the day a 23-year-old woman named Paola Ramirez was also shot and killed by pro-government groups, according to The Associated Press.

They were not the first to be felled in the course of the anti-Maduro protests that have been mounting since late last month. As of last week, five protesters — including a 13-year-old boy — had died of injuries suffered in fights with riot police.

But the protesters who showed up Wednesday vowed to keep struggling against Maduro and voicing their displeasure with the state of the country.

“This is exhausting — but we won’t give up until we achieve a better country and democracy,” Luiza Mayorca, a lawyer and mother of three, told NPR’s Phil Reeves in Caracas. “Every time we do something, that’s what we feel: that the worst thing would be to stay home, let fear take over us. This government, this regime, is making life miserable, and we cannot accept it.”

Demonstrators clog a Caracas highway on Wednesday, shouting their resistance to President Nicolas Maduro. The president’s push to tighten his power has helped trigger deadly unrest in Venezuela.

Carlos Becerra/AFP/Getty Images

“We want to get out of all this oppression and dictatorship, all the mistreatment we have had — the hunger, the kids dying in the countryside, the poverty,” another protester, an unemployed school teacher named Libertad Diaz, told Phil.

By several media accounts, hundreds of thousands of anti-Maduro demonstrators flooded city streets to protest bread scarcity, ballooning inflation — which several estimates peg at triple digits — and what they see as an increasingly dictatorial regime.

Protesters point to a moment a few weeks ago as proof of Maduro’s ever-tightening grasp on the levers of power, when a Supreme Court loyal to the president attempted to nullify the opposition-dominated legislature. The court backpedaled and restored power to the body after the abortive attempt drew anger both in Venezuela and the international community.

Maduro’s opposition is also demanding new elections, which were indefinitely postponed last year — mere months after Maduro also canceled a recall referendum that could have ousted him from power.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who was banned from public office for 15 years, protects himself against tear gas during a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday.

Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images

“What will end the phase in which our country currently finds itself? Allowing free and democratic elections and respecting the constitution, to put a stop to this coup d’état that’s being staged and controlled by Maduro together with the Supreme Court,” Henrique Capriles, a leading figure of the opposition, tells the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

Capriles, who Deutsche Welle calls “the opposition’s most promising candidate for the coming elections in 2018,” was banned last week from holding office for 15 years — a move Capriles says he does not recognize.

Maduro, for his part, has rejected the unrest as manufactured by forces outside Venezuela’s borders.

“The US government, the state department, have given the green light, the approval for a coup process to intervene in Venezuela,” Maduro said in a televised address Tuesday, according to The Guardian.

Demonstrators hurl flaming objects at riot police during a rally in Caracas against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday.

Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images

In response to Wednesday’s massive protests, which had long been in the works, Al Jazeera reports Maduro ordered the Venezuelan military to march in Caracas in “defense of morality” and “in repudiation of the traitors of the country.”

“From the first reveille, from the first rooster crow, the Bolivarian National Armed Forces will be in the streets … saying, ‘Long live the Bolivarian Revolution,’ ” he announced, referring to the populist “revolution” that brought his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, to power in 1999.

The military presence did little to ease the upheaval, however — or to dissuade protesters like Diaz.

“We’re going to go on struggling,” she said Wednesday, “because the one who tires, loses.”

U.S. Says Venezuela’s Vice President Is An International Drug Trafficker

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN)U.S. authorities on Monday said the vice president of Venezuela was an international drug trafficker and slapped severe sanctions on him.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said Tareck El Aissami has played a “significant role in international narcotics trafficking,” a news release said.
“OFAC’s action today is the culmination of a multi-year investigation under the Kingpin Act to target significant narcotics traffickers in Venezuela and demonstrates that power and influence do not protect those who engage in these illicit activities,” said John Smith, acting director of OFAC.
El Aissami, who was appointed vice president of Venezuela in January, is a former interior and justice minister and governor of the country’s Aragua state.
The Treasury Department said he “facilitated shipments of narcotics from Venezuela to include control over planes that leave from a Venezuelan air base, (and) narcotics shipments of over 1,000 kilograms from Venezuela on multiple occasions, including those with the final destinations of Mexico and the United States.”
In addition, the department said El Aissami is linked to coordinating drug shipments to Los Zetas, a violent Mexican drug cartel, and provided protection to a Colombian drug lord.
Monday’s action imposes sanctions on El Aissami that prohibit anyone in the United States from doing business with him, and freezing any assets the US.
A senior administration official said Monday’s sanctions are “not a reaction to El Aissami’s role as executive vice president of Venezuela. The designation is the result of a years-long investigation of narcotics trafficking by OFAC.”
The official went on to say, “This is a narcotics trafficking case … and any other kind of activity is not a basis for our action today.”
El Aissami is also a subject of a yearlong CNN and CNN en Espanol investigation published last week.
A confidential intelligence document obtained by CNN links El Aissami to 173 Venezuelan passports and ID‘s that it says were issued to individuals from the Middle East, including people connected to the terrorist group Hezbollah.
The official who ordered the issuing of the passports, the report said, is El Aissami, who “took charge of issuing, granting visas and nationalizing citizens from different countries, especially Syrians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Iranians and Iraqis.”
El Aissami has not responded to multiple requests for comment over several months. CNN reached out to the Venezuelan government Monday night but there was no immediate response.

Benefits of Indian cash overhaul elusive as deadline passes

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FOX NEWS)

THE AMERICAS

Benefits of Indian cash overhaul elusive as deadline passes

  • In this Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016 photo, an Indian woman, who had come to deposit money, argues with a bank officer in New Delhi, India. On Nov. 8, India yanked most of its currency bills from circulation without warning, delivering a jolt to the country’s high-performing economy and leaving countless citizens scrambling for cash. Still, as Friday’s deadline for depositing old 500- and 1,000-rupee notes draws to a close, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has called the demonetization drive a great success in drawing out tax dodgers and eliminating graft. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

    In this Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016 photo, an Indian woman, who had come to deposit money, argues with a bank officer in New Delhi, India. On Nov. 8, India yanked most of its currency bills from circulation without warning, delivering a jolt to the country’s high-performing economy and leaving countless citizens scrambling for cash. Still, as Friday’s deadline for depositing old 500- and 1,000-rupee notes draws to a close, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has called the demonetization drive a great success in drawing out tax dodgers and eliminating graft. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)  (The Associated Press)

Fifty days ago, India yanked most of its currency from circulation without warning, jolting the economy and leaving most citizens scrambling for cash. As the deadline for exchanging the devalued 500- and 1,000-rupee notes for new ones hits Friday, many Indians are still stuck waiting in long bank lines.

Empty ATMs and ever-changing rules are preventing people from withdrawing money, and many small, cash-reliant businesses from cinemas to neighborhood grocery stores are suffering huge losses or going under.

Despite those problems, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says his Nov. 8 demonetization decree has succeeded in uncovering tax evasion and cracking down on graft. The Indian government is urging patience, insisting it’s playing a long game that will eventually modernize Indian society and benefit the poor.

So far, despite the widespread inconvenience and costs, most of the country’s 1.25 billion citizens appear to be taking Modi’s word for it.

Here are a few things to know about India’s massive cash overhaul:

___

HARDSHIP FOR THE POOR

Modi’s announcement that 500 and 1,000 rupee bills — making up 86 percent of India’s currency — were no longer legal tender has posed an enormous hardship for millions of people who use cash for everything from salaries to cellphone charges.

Almost immediately, serpentine lines appeared at banks and ATMs as people waited hours to deposit or exchange old currency notes for new bills. Since authorities only began printing the new bills after the policy was announced, demand vastly exceeds supply and cash machines often run dry. Daily commerce in essentials including food, medicine and transportation screeched almost to a halt.

Worst affected were the country’s hundreds of millions of farmers, produce vendors, small shop owners and daily-wage laborers who usually are paid in cash at the end of a day’s work. Many lost their jobs as small businesses shut down, compounding their poverty.

Pankaj Aggarwal, owner of a clothing shop in the Old Delhi neighborhood of Chandni Chowk says his sales crashed by 70 percent.

“You can imagine what our business is like now. It will be some time before our sales normalize,” he said.

Modi appears to have succeeded in promoting the cash overhaul as a “pro-poor” policy, tapping into deep anger among the have-nots toward wealthy elites.

“The first two months have been so bad for us, we don’t even have enough money to buy food,” said daily wage laborer Neeraj Mishra, 35. “Overall, I think Modi has done some good. People with a lot of money are the ones who have been troubled. I don’t have enough cash for it to bother me much.”

Political scientist Sreeram Chaulia, dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs in New Delhi, describes the strategy as “classic populism.”

“Some people are outraged, but are hesitant to come out and say it because they don’t want to be branded as anti-national or self-centered,” he said.

___

A BRUISED ECONOMY

The wide impact of the demonetization won’t be known until the government issues its next quarterly GDP figures in February, but the Reserve Bank of India already has shaved half a percent from this year’s GDP growth forecast, to 7.1 percent.

Since domestic commerce drives most economic activity, analysts have expressed alarm over the scale of economic and social disruption and are warning a contraction is likely in coming quarters.

“The countless unpredictable consequences that will continue to show in the coming weeks and months mean that it is, in effect, a huge gamble,” said Jan Zalewski, an Asia expert with the Britain-based risk assessment firm Verisk Maplecroft. “Inflicting such huge costs for what is an uncertain outcome is problematic.”

Real estate, tourism, transportation and gold and gems have been hit the hardest, along with informal sectors that rely mostly on cash.

Prices are forecast to rise since the cash crunch is pinching supplies of all sorts of goods.

The country’s banks, however, are seeing banner business. The central bank said old notes worth 13 trillion rupees ($191 billion) had been deposited as of Dec. 10, with many more expected by Friday’s deadline.

That should improve bank liquidity and in turn encourage more lending to boost economic growth.

___

MIXED MESSAGES, CHAOTIC RULES

The Finance Ministry and central bank have issued at least 60 different directives, some of them contradictory, about such issues as how much money can be withdrawn from bank accounts and which documents are needed for depositing old cash. The mixed messages have compounded the overall chaos and shaken investors’ confidence.

“There appears to be less trust in many institutions, including the Reserve Bank and other banks. That is one important behavioral change that has been ushered in,” said Mihir Sharma, senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi based think tank.

Financial experts are baffled about how to evaluate the move.

“One of the major problems with the demonetization move is that success is so difficult to measure,” Zalewski said. “In and of itself, it can’t end black money, stop terrorism funding and the counterfeiting of notes.”

___

NEW BILLS, OLD HABITS

The idea that swapping old currency notes for new ones would wipe out tax evasion has already been proven naive. Over the last seven weeks, Indian income tax authorities uncovered more than 32 billion rupees ($477 million) in undeclared wealth held in new notes, foreign currency, gold and other commodities.

The Finance Ministry found enormous stashes of new currency bills secreted away by corrupt bank managers. Axis Bank’s CEO Shikha Sharma said she was “embarrassed and upset” after it was found managers at the bank had used the stolen funds to fake accounts and launder customers’ untaxed savings for a premium.

___

A GLOBAL TREND?

A month after Modi scrapped the high-denomination notes, Venezuela’s president announced that the 100-bolivar notes that account for more than three-quarters of the country’s cash would be taken out of circulation.

Skyrocketing inflation had taken the value of the Venezuelan notes to 2 U.S. cents from 10 cents in the past year.

But while India’s cash overhaul has been relatively peaceful, Venezuela’s was not.

When no new bolivar notes appeared to replace the old ones, riots and looting erupted in towns across Venezuela, whose economy was already in shambles. Hundreds of grocery stores were damaged or destroyed. Ultimately, the government extended use of the old 100-bolivar notes until Jan. 2.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro declared the abrupt cash overhaul an economic triumph, claiming people were racing to deposit the old notes into banks. He did not say how much was deposited.

In Pakistan, opposition lawmakers passed a resolution last week calling for the withdrawal of the country’s highest-denomination note from circulation. The government rejected that move, saying there was no need to discontinue the country’s 5,000-rupee note, worth about $48.

“The very notion of cancellation of such convenience in transactions is preposterous and unequivocally denied,” the Finance Ministry said in a statement.

___

Associated Press writers Fabiola Sanchez in Caracas and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.

___

Follow Katy Daigle and Nirmala George at http://www.twitter.com/katydaigle and http://www.twitter.com/NirmalaGeorge1

Venezuela: Does An Incompetent Tyrant Ever Willingly Give Up The Presidency?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

In escalation of crisis, Venezuela congress to put Maduro on trial

Venezuela’s opposition-led National Assembly on Sunday vowed to put Nicolas Maduro on trial for violating democracy, days after authorities nixed a recall referendum against the unpopular socialist president.

The measure is unlikely to get traction given the leftist government and a compliant Supreme Court have systematically undermined the legislature, but it further heightens tensions in the crisis-hit OPEC nation.

“It is a political and legal trial against President Nicolas Maduro to see what responsibility he has in the constitutional rupture that has broken democracy, human rights, and the future of the country,” said opposition lawmaker Julio Borges during a special congressional session on Sunday.

The opposition coalition, seeking to end 17 years of socialism in the South American nation, says Thursday’s suspension of its drive for a plebiscite against Maduro shows Venezuela has abandoned democracy.

Ruling party officials have accused the opposition of fraud in their signature drive and say the coalition is seeking a coup to gain control of Venezuela’s vast crude reserves, the world’s largest.

Despite that oil wealth, Venezuela has plunged into an unprecedented economic crisis, with many people skipping meals due to shortages and soaring prices.

Many Venezuelans fear that preventing a the referendum increases chances of social unrest in the already volatile and violent country.

The opposition coalition has called for a major peaceful protest on Wednesday, dubbed “The takeover of Venezuela” to keep pushing for the plebiscite.

(Reporting by Deisy Buitrago; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer

Will Ali Khomeini Have Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani Murdered In Venezuela This Week?

 

This week the President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani gave a speech saying that the Iranian Government needed to “back it down a notch” concerning rhetoric toward Saudi Arabia and the U.S.. Within a couple of hours the person who really rules Iran as a true dictator “the Demon” Ali Khomeini who calls himself “The Supreme Leader” gave a very different speech concerning these issues. By no means is this the first time that the “moderate” President Mr. Hassan Rouhani differed on policy issues whether it be domestic or foreign. The Supreme Leader whom the people of Iran have not elected to that position constantly undermines the President of Iran whom the people did elect. Today Mr. Khomeini after the President spoke of a lighter touch concerning the Saudi’s and the U.S. did his typical tongue lashing of the President and spoke a very harsh line toward the U.S. and the Saudi’s. For those of you who do not know it, Iran is the biggest Shiite Islamic country in the Middle-East and Saudi Arabia is the largest Sunni Islamic country in the Middle-East and these two branches of Islam have hated each other since the Islamic faith started about 1,400 years ago. If the U.S. Security Agency’s are correct these two country’s are the biggest supporters of terrorism in the world. Both want total control of the Islamic faith, and of the whole world. The U.S. of course is hated by almost all the Sunni and the Shiite and is constantly refereed to as “the Great Satan.” Yet because the Saudi Government sells the U.S. many billions of dollars worth of oil each year and the U.S. sells the Saudi’s billions of dollars of military equipment the U.S. Government stays mostly quiet about terrorist acts committed by Saudi citizens. Also ever since “the Islamic Revolution” in 1979 Iran and the U.S. have been at odds with each other.

 

This weekend the OPEC country of Venezuela is having a conference, a get together if you will of Nations called “the Non Aligned Movement Country’s.” The Venezuelan President Mr. Maduro at this point in time is barely holding onto his power as President as most of his citizens want him ousted because he has done a horrible job with the Nations economy since he took office. The people of his Nation are out of work, have almost no utilities and they are starving. Crime in his country is totally out of control, even though his country is a OPEC country it appears that the revenues aren’t going to the people and the economy. Usually when this is happening history tells us that the leaders and their buddies are stealing the country blind. So, now there is this conference being held in Venezuela at the Island of Margarita. It is reported that things are so bad that even their, there is no running water and that employees are putting water jugs in the bathrooms of the major hotel so that the guests will be able to wash their hands. This hotel used to be considered a 5-star facility, now these honored guests can’t even flush their toilets or take a shower or bath.

 

My question is simple, with the living conditions on the ground there in Venezuela being what they are, how good is the security there really going to be? With the reality that ‘The Supreme Ruler’ hates the Iranian President because he is a man who dares to stand against the policies of Ali Khomeini  at times even publicly like yesterday, will Mr. Khomeini have the President assassinated while he is out of Iran there in Venezuela? Think about it for a moment, it would be an easy thing for Khomeini to have done. Having him murdered while he is in South America would be advantageous to him because he could and probably would blame the assassination on the U.S. Government. Certainly President Maduro of Venezuela whom also hates the U.S. and blames the Americans for almost all of his personal failings would have no problem blaming the Americans. To me this conference just seems like the ideal time and location for ‘the Supreme Leader’ to get rid of a President that he personally hates. I personally hope that this event does not happen but it is a well know fact that Mr. Khomeini is a mass murderer just like his daddy was and I do not believe he would lose any sleep over the death of the Iranian President. I hope I am wrong, I hope that no harm comes to President Rouhani, now, only time will tell.

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