Venezuela’s Maduro strips rival of U.N. post amid corruption purge – sources

Article originally appeared in ReutersCARACAS/HOUSTON (Reuters) – Venezuela has ordered the removal of Rafael Ramirez, once a powerful oil minister and head of state oil company PDVSA, from his post as representative to the United Nations in New York, four sources with knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday.

Though the decision will not affect the OPEC nation’s struggling oil industry, it may help President Nicolas Maduro shore up his position in crisis-stricken Venezuela as the country heads toward presidential elections in 2018.

Ramirez, an increasingly vocal critic of Maduro in recent months, was seen by some as angling to be a presidential candidate as Maduro’s unpopular government and an economic crisis have fuelled divisions with the ruling Socialist Party. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform American policymakers and American and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.