Archive for the ‘Venezuela’ Category

Venezuela’s crackdown

| February 26th, 2015 | No Comments »

Venezuela’s “Bolivarian” regime is lurching from authoritarianism to dictatorship. On February 19th it arrested the elected mayor of metropolitan Caracas, Antonio Ledezma. Then it moved to expel Julio Borges, a moderate opposition leader, from the National Assembly—a fate already suffered by his colleague, María Corina Machado, ejected last year. Leopoldo López, another opposition leader, has been in jail for a year and is now on trial. Almost half the opposition’s mayors now face legal action. The regime’s favourite charge to level at hostile politicians is plotting to overthrow the government, often in conspiracy with the United States. But it is the president, Nicolás Maduro, who is staging a coup against the last vestiges of democracy. Venezuelans call it an autogolpe, or “self-coup”.

Hugo Chávez, who created and presided over the Bolivarian state-socialist system until his death in 2013, was repeatedly elected by Venezuelans, thanks to windfall oil revenues ... Read More

Meltdown in Venezuela

| February 26th, 2015 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

When Venezuelan intelligence agents carted off Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma to jail last week, they fired shots into the air to terrorize a gathering crowd. It was nothing unusual for the Venezuelan police state, which has studied under Cuba’s dictatorship. But it did underscore the magnitude of the economic and political crisis now gripping a country with one of the largest oil reserves in the world.

Mr. Ledezma is accused of plotting to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro with U.S. help. The government has provided no evidence. The mayor’s real offense is signing a letter this month calling Mr. Maduro’s government “terminal” and proposing a transition back to democracy.

Opposition leaders Leopoldo López, jailed a year ago, and Maria Corina Machado, who faces charges of plotting to kill Mr. Maduro, also signed the letter. On Tuesday the Maduro-controlled national assembly stripped opposition congressman Julio Borges of his seat and thus his legal ... Read More

What It Will Take to Beat Venezuela’s Maduro

| February 26th, 2015 | No Comments »
Bloomberg By Mac Margolis For anyone tracking the slow-motion crackup of the economy, the rule of law and all the other vital signs of democratic life in Venezuela, here’s a riddle.

How is it that the vast majority of citizens in Latin America’s poorest rich nation, with some of the world’s largest reserves of oil and gas, are fed up with life under the Bolivarian Republic and yet still have not turned on the Palacio Miraflores, never mind thrown in with the opposition?

Two recent surveys, by Datanalisis and Hinterlaces, show that seven to eight of every 10 Venezuelans believe that President Nicolas Maduro is doing a lousy job, and more than 85 percent say the country is in bad shape. Maduro’s personal approval rating has fallen to just 22 percent.

That ought to be dynamite fishing for Maduro’s foes as they head to legislative elections later this year. Instead, Venezuela’s opposition is fractured and floundering.

A poll in January found that ... Read More

Disaster in Venezuela

| February 26th, 2015 | No Comments »
Article Appeared in The Washington Times

President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela bears a marked resemblance to the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, right down to the mustache. With a collapsing economy that has soured his countrymen on his ruinous economic policies, Mr. Maduro is beginning to resemble Saddam in a more ominous way as well.

He is systematically jailing more and more of his opponents on trumped-up charges of plotting an “endless coup” against his government. Such attempts, he says, tipping his hat to the villain in the familiar Latin American imagination, are “supported and promoted from the north.” Intelligence agents last week burst into the office of Antonio Ledezma, the mayor of the capital Caracas and a leading opposition figure, and arrested him on vague “conspiracy” charges.

The mayor, 59, was taken to the Ramo Verde military jail where another opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, marked a year of incarceration on Feb. 18. The charges of arson, terrorism and homicide against Mr. ... Read More

Kerry blasts Venezuela’s ‘egregious behavior’

| February 26th, 2015 | No Comments »
From AFP

Washington (AFP) – US Secretary of State John Kerry blasted the Venezuelan government’s “egregious behavior” and promised the speedy implementation of recent sanctions against the crisis-hit country.

peaking at a US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Kerry said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s regime had made a series of “wrong choices” in its handling of anti-government protests, as well as its clampdown on opposition leaders over claims of a US-backed coup plot.

“Venezuela keeps moving in the wrong direction and making the wrong choices,” Kerry said. “The answer is the sanctions are being implemented right now as fast as possible.”

Washington in December passed a law allowing sanctions against senior Venezuelan officials accused of violating the rights of protesters during anti-government demonstrations at the start of 2014.

Kerry said several US government agencies had “no disagreement whatsoever on the egregious behavior, the repression of people, the ... Read More

Shooting of Student Protester in Venezuela Ratchets Up Tension

| February 26th, 2015 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

By SARA SCHAEFER MUÑOZ and EZEQUIEL MINAYA

SAN CRISTÓBAL, Venezuela—Mourning relatives buried a 14-year-old boy killed by police as scattered protests broke out across the country over what citizens see as the state’s growing crackdown on dissent.

The student, Kluibert Roa, was shot in the head with a rubber bullet during an antigovernment demonstration on Tuesday, authorities said. A policeman was arrested in connection with the killing. Officials blamed the death on overzealous protesters, while demonstrators told reporters the boy was shot at point-blank range.

The teenager’s death reverberated throughout this tumultuous, oil-rich country, which has been hit by soaring inflation, a scarcity of basic goods, and what people say are increasingly repressive measures by the government of socialist President Nicolás Maduro.

The death ratcheted up tension in this western Venezuelan city, which was the epicenter of demonstrations last year that shook the country, spreading nationwide and leaving at least 43 people dead. Schools and universities ... Read More

Venezuela Cracks Down on Dissent

| February 25th, 2015 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

By SARA SCHAEFER MUÑOZ and EZEQUIEL MINAYA

CARACAS—Lawmakers from Venezuela’s ruling party moved to strip an opposition congressman of his seat in what adversaries of President Nicolás Maduro ’s government said was part of an escalating campaign to silence dissent.

The legislative measure came as an antigovernment protest in the western city of San Cristobal turned violent, officials said, with police firing a shot that killed a 14-year-old boy.

Mr. Maduro condemned the killing and vowed to seek justice. “Those who are responsible are jailed,” Mr. Maduro said in a televised appearance, referring to a policeman who was charged.

The shooting came less than a month after the defense ministry issued a resolution allowing soldiers to use deadly force on demonstrators if the soldiers feel their lives are at risk—a rule that Citizen Control, a rights group here, called “dangerously vague.”

The move against the opposition congressman, Julio Borges, is an attempt by the president’s political allies, who ... Read More

Migrants’ remittances to Latin America grew 4 pct. in 2014

| February 24th, 2015 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

Expatriates’ remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean increased 4 percent in 2014 to $62.3 billion, the biggest jump since the global economic crisis in 2009, the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington think-tank, said Tuesday.

The largest gains went to Mexico and Central America, while several South American countries saw a decrease in remittances, due largely to the persistent economic crisis in Spain.

The overall advance in remittances to Latin America reflects improvements in the U.S. labor market, new migration patterns and the proliferation of new ways to transfer money, according to the report.

Remittances to Mexico increased 8.8 percent over 2013, while funds sent to Honduras increased 12.5 percent, and to Guatemala, 9 percent.

The Spanish economic crisis, with high levels of unemployment and falling pay, is largely responsible for decreases in remittances to Bolivia, 2.4 percent; Peru, 2.3 percent, and Colombia, which saw ... Read More

Venezuela and Cuba: Partners in repression

| February 24th, 2015 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

By Editorial Board

Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro paid a visit to Havana and met with Raúl and Fidel Castro, who have been his patrons and who helped to install him in power after the death of Hugo Chávez. Mr. Maduro’s political situation is desperate: As Venezuelans suffer severe shortages of staple goods and soaring inflation, his approval rating has dropped to 22 percent — and that’s before the full impact of falling oil prices hits a country dependent on petroleum for 96 percent of its hard-currency revenue.

On his return from Havana, Mr. Maduro turned to a familiar tactic. Intelligence agents stormed the residence of the elected opposition mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, and took him away to a military prison. Mr. Maduro then delivered a three-hour rant on television in which he accused the opposition leader of plotting a coup against him with the help of the Obama administration. Needless to say, he had no evidence to support this ludicrous charge.

If this ... Read More

Self-Inflicted Misery and Tyranny among Latin America’s Left

| February 24th, 2015 | No Comments »
Mexi Data

By Jerry Brewer

It is astonishing that with so much focus and dialogue on demands for world freedom, self-expression and human rights, many tend to ignore or simply fail to do their homework on repressive dictatorial-like regimes floundering throughout Latin America and oppressing their citizens.

It was certainly no secret that the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s 14 years in office was a tired precursor to a near failed state in Venezuela today. Chavez spent his entire rule in office working to recruit and support leftist presidential candidates throughout the hemisphere, touting his Bolivarian Revolution – that is quite simply the more exhausted Cuban Revolution that remains in Venezuelan to this very day.

Chavez demolished independence in Venezuela’s institutions, seized control of the economy, militarized the government, and virtually destroyed private enterprise. Death, destruction and insufficiencies in Venezuela remain rampant.

If there was even a modicum of value to add to the history of Venezuela from ... Read More

Venezuela cracks down on critics

| February 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Andres Schipani in Caracas and John Paul Rathbone in London

When Venezuelan security police dressed in camouflage and armed with assault rifles snatched Antonio Ledezma, the mayor of Caracas, from his office last week another high-profile government critic was locked up.

As the president’s popularity tumbles amid an economic crisis exacerbated by the fall in oil prices, many are worried that the socialist government will try to cling to power by any means ahead of contested midterm elections later this year. A socialist defeat could open the door for a recall

A big part of the government’s impoverished power-base is likely to remain loyal at the polls. But President Nicolás Maduro — who replaced the late Hugo Chávez but lacks his political skills and popular appeal — faces increasing public discontent as the economy shrinks and shortages of goods mount.

Luis Vicente León, a leading political analyst and pollster in Caracas, ... Read More

Venezuela on the Brink

| February 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »
Commentary

By Ben Cohen

While the rest of the world is coming to terms, in differing ways, with the Obama administration’s commitment to a weaker, humbler United States taking its place upon the global stage, in Venezuela, by contrast, you get the sense that time has stood still.

Last week, the country’s increasingly beleaguered president, Nicolas Maduro, yet again accused the United States of trying to engineer a coup against his government. Among the Washington foreign-policy elite, the phrase “regime change” has a peculiarly dated quality about it, but as far as Maduro is concerned, it remains the bedrock of America’s approach to international affairs. “We can’t let an empire that has been eyeing all of us pretend or think it has the right to sanction the country of Bolivar,” Maduro thundered, making an obligatory reference to the leader of Latin America’s struggle for independence from the Spanish Empire, ... Read More

Turmoil in Venezuela

| February 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »
The Economist

Late on the afternoon of February 19th a large group of armed men, some with their faces covered, burst into the offices of Antonio Ledezma, the mayor of Caracas, on the sixth floor of a tower block in the normally quiet district of El Rosal. Some carried assault rifles, others side-arms and at least one had a riot shield. They smashed the glass door to his office with a sledgehammer and, according to eyewitnesses, responded with expletives to Mr Ledezma’s demand for a search warrant.

Outside was a fleet of vehicles worthy of an action movie, including black Hummers and other late-model SUVs. The mayor’s lawyer put the number of men involved in the operation at around 80. Barack Obama sent fewer soldiers to kill Osama bin Laden. Punching the struggling mayor several times, they hustled him out of the building, firing shots into the air to ... Read More

Amid a Slump, a Crackdown for Venezuela

| February 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »
The New York Times

By SIMON ROMERO and GIRISH GUPTA

CARACAS, Venezuela — For a glimpse into Venezuela’s economic disarray, slip into a travel agency here and book a round-trip flight to Maracaibo, on the other side of the country, for just $16. Need a book to read on the plane? For those with hard currency, a new copy of “50 Shades of Grey” goes for $2.50. Forget your toothpaste? A tube of Colgate costs 7 cents.

Quite the bargain, right?

But for the majority of Venezuelans who lack easy access to dollars, such surreal prices reflect a tremendous currency devaluation and a crumbling economy expected to contract 7 percent this year as oil income plunges and price controls produce acute shortages of items including milk, detergent and condoms.

“I’ve seen people die on the operating table because we didn’t have the basic tools for surgeries,” said ... Read More

Time for Venezuela’s Friends to Act

| February 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »
International Crisis Group

By Javier Ciurlizza

The shocking 19 February arrest on coup charges of the mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, marks a sharp new drop in the downward spiral of Venezuela since protests and harsh repression erupted in its main cities nearly one year ago. To find stability, Venezuela needs urgent help from its friends to build political consensus. So far mostly silent, regional states and organisations, as well as the international community at large, must act firmly, not with unilateral sanctions, but with pressure for dialogue between the two sides.

Crisis Group and other organisations have repeatedly warned of Venezuela’s dangerous polarisation since the violence that killed 43 people, landed 61 in jail (now including Ledezma) and resulted in judicial restrictions on another 2,000. Neither government nor opposition, however, has responded with more than pompous sermonising.

Sounding the alarm about Venezuela’s imminent collapse, coups, riots and other calamities can ... Read More

SENATOR RUBIO CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE OF MAYOR ANTONIO LEDEZMA IN VENEZUELA

| February 20th, 2015 | No Comments »
US Senate Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) issued the following statement regarding the arrest of the Mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, by Venezuelan intelligence agents:   “The arrest of Mayor Antonio Ledezma and harassment of other key members of the democratic opposition is only the latest example of the Maduro regime’s cowardly and paranoid oppression of the Venezuelan people. Just one week ago marked the one year anniversary of the violent repression of peaceful demonstrators in Venezuela. Now, Mayor Ledezma’s arrest is only further proof that Nicolás Maduro will stop at nothing to secure his tyrannical rule and silence the Venezuelan people’s demand for a democratic and free future.   “I urge the Obama Administration to demand the immediate release of both Mayor Ledezma and opposition leader Leopoldo López, and furthermore, to implement provisions of the Venezuela sanctions bill that President Obama signed into law last year. These latest actions by the Maduro regime require a response ... Read More

Tensions up in Venezuela as police arrest opposition leader

| February 20th, 2015 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

By FABIOLA SANCHEZ and HANNAH DREIER

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Police broke into Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma’s office and carted off the longtime critic of Venezuela’s socialist government, adding to tensions on the anniversary of the outbreak of protests that paralyzed the nation a year ago.

President Nicolas Maduro took to television and radio to say that Ledezma, one of the most vocal opposition leaders, would be punished for trying to sow unrest in Venezuela, which is struggling with severe economic problems.

Emotions were already running high before dozens of men in flak jackets and camouflage uniforms smashed down the door of Ledezma’s office and forcibly carried him out of the building.

As news of the incursion spread across the capital, people spontaneously banged pots from their windows in protest while drivers tapped rhythms on their car horns in rush hour traffic. As night fell, a ... Read More

How Bad Is Venezuela’s Economic Chaos?

| February 19th, 2015 | No Comments »
Forbes

By Nathaniel Parish Flannery

Venezuela’s economy is slowly collapsing, crushed by the pressure of a falling oil prices and the accumulated weight of decades of mismanagement. Venezuela’s currency, the bolivar, is overvalued and artificially propped up by an arcane system of currency controls. The bolivar, like Venezuela’s economy, is trapped in a downward spiral. Within Venezuela the effects of the economic chaos are seen at the supermarket, where empty shelves are a constant reminder of the economic dysfunction that has come to define South America’s fifth largest economy. The economic distress is also felt on the balance sheets of dozens of major U.S. companies who hold sizable assets in Venezuela.

A group of around 40 companies, including General Motors and Merck & Co Inc, together hold assets worth US$11 billion in Venezuela. The problems for these companies stem from the fact that the official dollar exchange rate of ... Read More

To fix Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro must go

| February 19th, 2015 | No Comments »
Quartz

By María Teresa Romero

The profound crisis engulfing Venezuela shows no sign of abating. On the contrary, the first month of 2015 has exposed to the world the country’s dire shortage of basic foodstuffs and household products, rampant insecurity, human-rights violations, criminalization of protests, and the disarray of its armed forces, just to name a few issues.

This has created the conditions for renewed calls across society for the resignation of President Nicolás Maduro, or at least for such a possibility to be openly discussed. And the voices demanding it are not isolated. They come mainly from the Venezuelan opposition, who see in his resignation the only way for the country begin reconstructing a deeply fragmented society, in which the most basic values of cooperation have all but disappeared. But ordinary citizens unconnected to formal politics also feel the imminent crisis. The open disdain for human life has reached such heights that now Caracas ranks among the world’s top violent ... Read More

Venezuela Squanders Its Oil Wealth

| February 18th, 2015 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Anatoly Kurmanaev

(Bloomberg) — By packing bags for $1 a day and with tips at a Caracas supermarket, Luis has managed to save up for a Japanese sports motorbike. His secret? Getting hold of scarce food before it hits the shelves.

Luis offers preferential access to detergent, milk and sugar to his clientele of about 100 diplomats at a Centro Madeirense shop in the south of the capital. In return, they offer him occasional work as a handyman or courier and loan him money during dry patches.

“Times are tough. We have to spin to survive,” Luis, 30, said in an interview in Caracas last month. “We have to be creative with the opportunities at hand to make ends meet.”

Price controls have emptied stores of most goods, while the world’s highest inflation has pushed what is available beyond the means of most Venezuelans. To ... Read More

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