Archive | Venezuela

Trump, Like Obama and Bush, Pursues ‘Regime Change’ in Venezuela

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  • Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami (L) and U.S. "Insane Clown President" Donald Trump (R)
    Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami (L) and U.S. “Insane Clown President” Donald Trump (R) | Photo: Tareck El Aissami Official Site / Reuters (teleSUR combination photo)
The U.S. government’s targeting of Venezuela’s vice president is just the latest episode in ongoing attempts to subvert Venezuelan democracy.

Based on allegations of drug trafficking, the U.S. government has added Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami to its list of “sanctioned” Venezuelan officials. Unsurprisingly, Westerns journalists uncritically spread the allegations. Borrowing from Einstein, a definition of corporate journalism could be “the practice of uncritically citing the same dishonest sources over and over again no matter how catastrophic the result.”

RELATED: Venezuela Sanctions CNN in Fight Against ‘Imperialist’ News

The targeting of El Aissami is part of the United States’ “regime change” policy toward Venezuela that goes back nearly two decades. It began shortly after the late President Hugo Chavez was first elected in 1998. As always, the international media’s collaboration with U.S. government objectives is crucial.

In March of 2015, the Obama administration declared Venezuela to be an “extraordinary threat to the national security of the United States.” The U.S. media was truly impressive in the way it maintained a serious tone when reporting that utter lunacy: “a formality required by law in order to carry out sanctions” the New York Times soberly assured its readers. Reflecting and reinforcing U.S. policy, hysterical opponents of Hugo Chavez (and Venezuela’s current president Nicolas Maduro) have long made the international media like the New York Times their stomping ground. Moises Naim, in an op-ed the New York Times ran in March of 2003, said that the Venezuelan government under Chavez was “a threat not just to its neighbors but to the United States and even Europe.“ Naim was a member of the government that perpetrated the infamous Caracazo massacre in 1989, a decade before Chavez first took office. Recently, the western media has falsely depicted Naim as a victim of censorship because broadcasters in Venezuela (where according to an opposition-aligned pollster Chavez remains very popular) passed on a TV series Naim wrote about the life of Chavez. The series has been getting poor ratings in Colombia despite being heavily promoted” there, according to the Miami Herald.

Since 1998, in all national level elections, 41-63 percent of the Venezuelan public has voted Chavista. The low point was the December 2015 elections when 41 percent voted for the government in the legislative elections. Nothing like 40 percent, or even 4 percent, of the international media’s coverage, has ever come from a Chavista perspective. The “left leaning” Guardian in the U.K., which is about as liberal as a major western outlet can get, was about 85 percent hostile toward Chavismo from 2006-2012. Venezuelans like Naim may fail at TV drama, but they’ve been wildly successful at propaganda outside Venezuela where their perspective has always dominated.

RELATED: The Context of Trump’s ‘Vile Aggression’ Against Venezuela

This Reuters article is far from being the worst example of how the media has responded to the sanctioning of El Aissami. Venezuelan officials are quoted by Reuters denying the allegations. Over the years, journalists have actually told me that this is how they provide “balance” in their articles: by including quotes from a government that has been relentlessly lied about and demonized in the western media. Hugo Chavez, who decisively won clean elections with very high turnout against opponents with ample media support in Venezuela, was dismissed by Bernie Sanders as a “dead communist dictator.” That tells you how well most western media consumers are equipped to evaluate statements by the Venezuelan government.

Reuters bolstered the Trump administration’s allegations against El Aissami by quoting David Smilde – a U.S. academic hostile the Venezuelan government. Smilde said the U.S. blacklisting would be “a gift” to Nicolas Maduro’s government and added that “to be clear, El Aissami and others should be held responsible for their actions. However, it should be understood this process has pernicious unintended consequences. I think we are effectively witnessing the creation of a rogue state.”

Smilde’s concern that U.S. belligerence might actually help Maduro is a U.S. establishment-friendly critique – the typical “independent” view that supports the basic stance of U.S. elites: El Aissami is guilty and must be “held accountable” by the world’s most dangerous rogue state. Of course, Smilde didn’t mean the Unites States when he fretted about a “rogue state” being created. U.S. aggression has killed about two million Iraqis since 1990. U.S. officials lied about the existence of Iraqi WMD while Saddam Hussein, a monstrous dictator, was telling the truth. Obama, in true rogue state fashion, ensured that Bush-era torturers went unprosecuted while also appointing himself a global executioner through his drone assassination program. In the past half century, hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have lost their lives thanks to the Unites States’ savage opposition to progressive reform in the region. In Syria, the Obama administration sided with al-Qaida to pursue its geopolitical objectives. A track record of horrific brutality and deceit never undermines the credibility of U.S. officials in the eyes of corporate journalists and the academics they typically turn to for analysis. By contrast, anyone like El Aissami who is denounced by the Imperial Rogue State will struggle to ever clear his name. The facts are irrelevant. Chavez was a “dictator” declared the Imperial Rogue State. The corporate media repeated (or otherwise strongly insinuated) it endlessly. Case closed.

RELATED: Drug Trafficking Accusations Against Venezuela VP Don’t Add Up: Foreign Minister

The U.S. Office of the Inspector General conceded that the Bush administration provided “training, institution building and other support” to groups involved in a military coup that briefly ousted Chavez in April of 2002. An outlet that lacks to courage to state that fact directly could find many independent journalists with years of experience in Venezuela to explain: Rachel Boothroyd-Rodas, Tamara Pearson, Ryan Mallette-Outtrim to name only a few. In fact, Mallette-Outtrim just wrote a devastating response to an Islamophobic article a Washington-based outlet, The Hill, published about El Aissami. But even when corporate journalists know independent journalists, and maybe even respect them, there is always an excuse to turn to someone like Smilde.

It is fascinating to watch the media attempt to shield itself, and U.S. officialdom generally, from the harsh re-evaluation that Trump’s presidency should provoke. Adam Johnson wrote brilliantly about one technique deployed by the U.S. media to avoid looking in the mirror and to avoid acknowledging the ample common ideological ground between Trump and the more conventional members of U.S. political class. The idea that Imperial Rogue State must be not only believed but obeyed runs deep in the international media – even with an Insane Clown President” in the White House.

Joe Emersberger was born in 1966 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, where he currently lives and works. He is an engineer and a member of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union.

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30 Tons of Venezuelan Bolivar Bills Found Hoarded in Paraguay

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A stack of 100 bolivar notes

  • A stack of 100 bolivar notes | Photo: Reuters

While hoarding typically happens in Colombia, a massive pile of bolivars has been found in Paraguay.

A massive hoard of 50 and 100 Venezuelan bolivar Bills, amounting to 30 tons in weight, was uncovered in a house in Paraguay on the Brazilian border, Associated Press reported Monday.

RELATED: Trump Turns Screws on Venezuela by Sanctioning Vice President

The private house located in Salto del Guaira, northeast of the capital Asuncion, belongs to Leandro Da Costa, a Paraguayan that made no declaration on the haul. According to Prosecutor Julio Yegros, the haul amounts to 30 tons of bills, but its total value will have to be determined by experts and the documents detailing its entry to the country need to be verified.

The massive find is the latest example of the ongoing of hoarding Venezuela’s larger notes as part of the so-called currency war. What the government calls “financial mafias” — including organized crime groups, speculators and right-wing business owners — have been speculating and hoarding huge amounts of 100 bolivar bills.

Most commonly, bolivars are hoarded in Colombia as well as Brazil, and the situation has severely affected the value of Venezuela’s currency. Hoarding and the large flow of bolivars out of the country, combined with soaring inflation, has seen Venezuelan ATMs running out of cash and being forced to deliver only bills of smaller denominations of bolivars to users, causing major inconveniences for locals.

OPINION: From 2014 Violent Barricades to Venezuelan Assembly Right-Wing

To combat the widespread hoarding, the Venezuelan government announced plans late last year to take the 100 bolivar bill out of circulation and introduce a new 500 bolivar bill, as well as higher denomination bills, which will be introduced gradually. Venezuela has also closed its border with Colombia to help control hoarding and smuggling.

The Venezuelan government says cross-border smugglers take advantage of price controls and subsidized exchange rates where goods are taken out of Venezuela to sell for higher profits elsewhere, contributing to shortages throughout the country.

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The Hill Publishes Islamophobic Fake News on Venezuela

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By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim 

ta630rg24Love it or hate it, The Hill can be a pretty useful source of information on the goings on around DC, but its latest article on Venezuela comes from some disturbing places.

In a recent article, titled Meet Venezuela’s new VP, fan of Iran and Hezbollah, The Hill’s Emanuele Ottolenghi profiled the South American country’s new second in command, Tareck El Aissami.

Although El Aissami was appointed vice-president just a few weeks ago, he’s hardly a new face to anyone who has followed Venezuelan politics for a while. He previously served as Aragua’s governor, and also had a stint as interior minister a few years back.

So what’s so special about El Aissami? A lot, according to Ottolenghi, whose piece reads much like the biography of a minor goon from a Schwarzenegger flick, replete with semi-comical claims with the credibility, sophistication and nuance of Ninja Terminator.

Here’s a few highlights:

“Despite the Baathist family background — his father headed the Venezuelan branch of the Iraqi Baath Party — and his Lebanese Druze origins, El Aissami seems to prefer the Islamist Shiite revolutionary Hezbollah and Iran over the Baath’s supposedly secular pan-Arabism.

Like his Islamic revolutionary role models, he used violence to advance his politics.

Opposition figures have accused both El Aissami and Nassereddine of recruiting young Arab-Venezuelan members of the ruling party to undergo paramilitary training in South Lebanon with Hezbollah.

As if this were not enough, El Aissami reportedly facilitated drug trafficking, a crime for which he is being investigated in the U.S.”

In other words, El Aissami is every boogyman and right-wing scapegoat wrapped up in one nice little package, at least based on Ottolenghi’s depiction. He’s a mish-mash of Baathism, Sunni radicalism and Shiite extremism; plus he smuggles coke.

The obvious question is whether any of this is true. For one, El Aissami is indeed one of many suspects in a US investigation into Venezuela’s narcotics trade. We could discuss the politics of this investigation until the cows come home, but what about the juicier claims? For instance, the claim that El Aissami has been accused of sending young Venezuelans to Lebanon to train with Hezbollah, and that he has colluded with “guerrilla movements”?

If we follow the hyperlinks provided by Ottolenghi, we find that these claims were sourced from the Centre for Security Policy (CSP). It sounds credible, but has been widely dismissed by journalists as basically a joke. According to the Southern Poverty Law Centre, the Centre for Security Policy is “known for its accusations that a shadowy ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ has infiltrated all levels of government and warnings that ‘creeping Shariah,’ or Islamic religious law, is a threat to American democracy”.

“For the past decade, CSP’s main focus has been on demonising Islam and Muslims under the guise of national security,” the Southern Poverty Law Centre stated.

A cursory glance at the CSP’s homepage features ads for books with colourful titles like “CAIR is HAMAS”, “Civilisation Jihad”, “ObamaBomb” and “See No Sharia”. At the time of writing, some of their latest articles included one describing Islam as a “supremacist totalitarian ideology”, and another claiming Iran might already secretly have a “nuclear weapon” (which it doesn’t).

Well, that got weird fast.

So basically, Ottolenghi gets his best material from a website that is so far off the deep end, it has even been banned from the Conservative Political Action Conference.

As a side note, Donald Trump cited a report from the CSP back in 2015, when he falsely claimed one in four Muslims support violence against the US. At the time, the CSP’s claims were widely dismissed as junk.

But hey, that’s just one source – perhaps I’m not giving Ottolenghi’s narrative enough of a chance. Frustratingly though, Ottolenghi’s piece is very light on sources, and he provides no other references for his two most eyebrow raising claims.

Luckily, Ottolenghi is far from the first English language pundit to express this particular point of view on El Aissami. A few years ago, the Gatestone Institute published a piece that reads eerily similar to Ottolenghi’s more recent article. For example, the older piece details how El Aissami supposedly loved Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Ignoring the fact these two political figures espoused totally different and utterly incompatible political ideologies, the Gatestone article did a somewhat better job than Ottolenghi in terms of providing sources for their claims.

This is where things take a turn for the outright bizarre.

So, where did the Gatestone’s critical intelligence on El Aissami originate? According to the reference list they provided, the answer to that question is: Wikipedia and this obscure blog. Following the breadcrumbs, the blogger also provided a reference list for their sources. This list is extremely short for supposedly groundbreaking investigative reporting, and only features four different names: Al Arabiya, MEMRI, Jihad Watch and another blogspot blog called The Jungle Hut.

…. Okey-dokey then.

The trail runs dry over at The Jungle Hut, where there’s nothing more than a dead link and a nice photo of a waterfall. It’s not quite what I was expecting to find, so let’s look at the other two sources. Al Arabiya is Saudi Arabia’s state media outlet, though don’t let that bother you too much; they’ve actually produced some decent stuff in the past. Unfortunately, there’s no links to specific articles, so again, the trail runs dry. The same problem arises when we head to MERMI. Finally, we get to the El Dorado of anti-Islam trash: Jihad Watch, a blog created by the notorious Islamophobe Robert Spencer. For anyone who doesn’t know, Spencer is perhaps best known for co-founding two prominent anti-Muslim lobby groups, Stop Islamisation of America (SIOA) and the American Freedom Defence Initiative (AFDI). Both have been listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Centre. Spencer also garnered media attention in the wake of the 2011 Norwegian white supremacist terrorist attack carried out by Anders Behring Breivik. In his sprawling anti-Muslim manifesto, Breivik cited Spencer dozens of times.

This is where our journey down the rabbit hole ends; with an Islamophobe beloved by one of the worst white supremacist terrorists in recent years. I guess this is what I get for checking people’s sources: a browser history full of links to hate groups, anti-Islam garbage and one nice picture of a waterfall. I didn’t find much credible reporting, but I did learn that El Aissami is hated for one reason above all: he’s got a Muslim-ish sounding name.

That’s it.

You might think I’m being harsh on Ottolenghi.

And you’d be wrong.

Ottolenghi is a long time anti-Iran hardliner, and has authored books with names like “Under a Mushroom Cloud: Europe, Iran and the Bomb”. According to a review of this book over at The Jewish Chronicle, “Ottolenghi’s view that Iran, as an exceptional case, merits exceptional treatment, is perhaps unrealistically rigid. His argument is not helped by the absence from his text of source references by which the reader could cross-check the many, selective quotes he adduces in support of it.”

In other words, making far fetched claims based on no real evidence is something of a modus operandi for Ottolenghi.

Along with having an obvious disdain for the notion of providing sources, Ottolenghi seems like just another pundit with a bone to pick with Islam, and anyone who sounds like they might be Arab, Persian or any other ethnic group he doesn’t like. Ottolenghi’s writings seem better suited to publishers like Jihad Watch, and his presence at The Hill is surprising to say the least.

Unfortunately though, this whole saga is symptomatic of a deeper problem in the media. The fact that an article for The Hill can get away with featuring links to the Islamophobic fake news CSP is emblematic of the dismal state of international corporate media. Islamophobic rants are treated like credible political analysis, and conspiracy crackpots are put on pedestals. It’s a grim state of affairs, but the real question is: how much further will we slide?

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Venezuelan Supreme Court: The President Has Not Abandoned His Post

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By Rachael Boothroyd-Rojas 

Caracas – Venezuela’s Supreme Court (TSJ) has blocked an attempt by Congress to oust President Nicolas Maduro over the allegation that he has “abandoned his post”.

Earlier in January, the opposition-controlled National Assembly (AN) approved an agreement stating that the president should be dismissed, accusing him of being responsible for a “serious rupture of the constitutional and democratic order,” the “devastation” of the country’s economy, and human rights abuses.

Opposition lawmakers argued that the declaration was based on Article 233 of the Bolivarian Constitution, which outlines the circumstances under which the president can be considered to have permanently vacated the position.

However, on Monday, Venezuela’s highest court released a statement confirming that there were no constitutional grounds for President Maduro’s removal from office, and criticised the AN’s interpretation of the article as “fraudulent and insurrectional”.

“The President of the Republic, citizen Nicolas Maduro Moros, has not been absent, nor separated in any moment, from the exercise of his post, nor has he ceased to exercise his constitutional responsibilities since the beginning of his mandate, which is a public, well-known and communicable indisputable fact,” reads the declaration.

In the official ruling, the high court describes opposition lawmakers’ actions as an attempt to set in motion a “coup d’etat” against the president of the Republic and to “subvert the established constitutional order”.

“(This) responds to their interest in destabilisation, with the only intention of changing the legitimately constituted government through an unconstitutional procedure,” continues the top judicial body.

TSJ judges also went on to reprimand the opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable, for having continuously flouted the court’s previous orders demanding that congress remove three opposition legislators pending investigations into voter fraud. The court has released several statements declaring the National Assembly to be in contempt of court and consequently void, as well as warning the legislative body not to overstep its constitutional boundaries.

According to the Constitution, the Venezuelan president can be considered to have “abandoned his post” through his death, resignation, destitution by the TSJ or his “physical or mental incapacity” as corroborated by a medical committee.

Nonetheless, opposition legislators have prioritised removing Maduro from office through a variety of initiatives since winning a congressional majority in the legislative elections of December 2015.

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How the WaPo Turned 111 Venezuelan Jewish Emigrants into a Mass Exodus

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By Lucas Koerner 

The international media has long peddled outlandish fake news about Venezuela aimed at presenting the economically-struggling South American democracy as a starvation-ridden communist dictatorship.

Faced with the reality that the elected socialist government of Nicolas Maduro has not been toppled by the highly unpopular opposition despite a severe economic crisis, corporate journalists have grown increasingly desperate for even the scantiest of evidence supporting their narrative of the country’s descent into apocalyptic ruin.

The Washington Post’s Ruth Eglash brings this pernicious race to the bottom to new, awe-inspiring depths.

In an article titled “Venezuelan Jews are moving to Israel to escape deepening poverty”, the Jerusalem-based reporter decries the shocking flight of Venezuelan Jews to Israel.

Just how many Venezuelan Jews constitute this mass exodus?

111, says Eglash, “more than double the number who arrived in 2012.”

Yes, you read right: 111 Venezuelan Jews emigrated to Israel in 2015, just about fifty more than in 2012 when there was no economic crisis and oil prices topped $100 per barrel.

Apparently, Israel is such a popular destination that Venezuelan Jews are packing their bags to move by the dozens.

However, 2016 appears on track to set records. Eglash quotes the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which has reported aiding a whopping 90 Venezuelan Jews emigrate this past year.

Eglash goes on to relay the jarring testimony of Venezuelan Jews who decided to move to Israel. Daniel Ortiz complains, “There was no meat, no sugar, no pasta.”

Indeed Venezuela has been hard hit by a deep economic crisis triggered by the collapse of global oil prices that has seen soaring inflation and chronic shortages, leading thousands to seek work in other countries.

However, the Washington Post correspondent never bothered to interview any of the approximately 9,000 Jews who have decided to remain in their country in spite of the economic difficulties. Not all Venezuelan Jews, she may be shocked to learn, view Israel as a promised land “filled with social innovation and opportunities”.

“I don’t think Israel is a very good option for emigration,” says Jaime Palacios, a Jewish student at Venezuela’s state-run Bolivarian University.

Palacios is a native of the Caracas neighborhood of Petare, which is one of the largest barrios in Latin America.

“There [in Israel] there is no freedom of religion and we see how the Israeli government attacks their Palestinian brothers and maintains constant conflict,” he told Venezuelanalysis, referring to Israel’s military occupation and its repression of the rights of Palestinian Muslims and Christians.

Nonetheless, Eglash insists on the apparently horrifying proportions of Venezuelan Jewish emigration. She notes that “about 50 percent of the 22,000 Jews who lived in the country when Chávez came to power have left,” as if to imply that this outflow was brought on by anti-Semitism that she says was “widespread under Chávez”.

Eglash’s only source for this charge of alleged anti-Semitism against the Chavista government is the Anti-Defamation League, which last year denounced a Venezuelan magazine for printing a cover suggesting that Orthodox Jews were behind illicit currency speculation in the country.

It’s no secret that the Anti-Defamation League has a long track record of dismissing any and all legitimate criticism of Israeli colonialism as “anti-Semitism”.

For example, in a 2014 report titled, “Venezuelan Government Fuels Incendiary Anti-Israel and Anti-Semitic Environment”, the ADL castigated President Nicolas Maduro– himself of Sephardi origin– for calling the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip “a huge Auschwitz” during the Israeli government’s 50-day assault that left over 2,200 Palestinians dead, including 490 children.

These dubious charges of anti-Semitism were also leveled against late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez over his condemnation of US-sponsored Israeli war crimes in Lebanon and Gaza, as well as his government’s geopolitical alliance with Iran.

While anti-Semitism is real in Venezuela, the ADL bases their claims exclusively on the government’s political stance vis-a-vis Israel, rather than seeking testimony from any Jews who may have experienced discrimination in the country.

“In Venezuela, you don’t see a large amount of anti-Semitism, though this isn’t to say that it doesn’t exist. The Jewish community in Venezuela has won the affection of many people,” explains Palacios.

Sadly, voices like Palacios’ are notably missing from the accounts of establishment journalists such as Eglash, whose confirmation bias leads them to systematically privilege the perspectives of upper class Venezuelans, such as 29 year-old Reisy Abramof, who studied for five years at a US university before emigrating to Israel.

Once again we note that basic journalistic standards seem simply not to apply when it comes to Venezuela.

Any story about the South American nation– whether it’s the emigration of several dozen Venezuelan Jews or the government’s confiscation of 4 million toys– is seamlessly woven into a preexisting narrative of the country’s catastrophic, socialism-inflicted collapse.

 The era of post-truth has arrived, and international corporate media– as Glen Greenwald has observed– are its greatest purveyors.

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Venezuela Expresses Concern Over Colombia-NATO Cooperation

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By Jeanette Charles | Venezuelanalysis 

La Ceiba – The Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Relations released an official statement Monday expressing its concern over Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ announcement that Colombia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are set to further military cooperation. Venezuela’s Bolivarian government recognizes the agreement as a threat against regional peace emphasizing Latin American institutions such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States’ (CELAC) commitment to peace of which Colombia is a member.

Santos celebrated the recently approved agreement and publicly reminisced how the process began nine years ago when he served as Defense Minister under former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s administration.

TELESUR reports that the agreement between the South American nation and Northern hemispheric military organization is based upon pre-existing cooperation tackling organized crime. In 2013, Colombia signed a cooperation memorandum with NATO in Brussels, Belgium the first of its kind for the military organization with a Latin American nation.

The 2013 memorandum was signed by former Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón and NATO Vice-Secretary General Alexander Vershbow. Pinzón expressed then that the agreement sought to “access knowledge, experience, good practices in peace missions, humanitarian missions, human rights, military justice, transformation processes and improvement of the defense and security sector, in addition to help in the fight against drug trafficking.”

Venezuelan Foreign Relations Minister Delcy Rodríguez expressed her nation’s concern Monday via social media platform Twitter where she published the Bolivarian government’s official statement.

“The Venezuelan Government is strongly opposed to the attempt to introduce external factors with nuclear capability in our region, whose past and recent actions claim a policy of war, violate bilateral and regional agreements of which Colombia is a member (UNASUR, CELAC) and through which Latin America and the Caribbean have been declared a Peace Zone,” read the statement.

For the Bolivarian government, Santos’ announcement also “distorts the principles of Bandung that gave rise to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which expressly prohibits member states from forming military alliances.”

Additionally, “the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela, for the sake of union and integration of the Patria Grande, urges the Colombian government to not generate elements of destabilization and war in South America and vows to attend to our Liberators’ historic call for peace and unity.”

NATO was founded in 1949 and has been most recently criticized for waging wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Twenty-eight member states constitute the multi-governmental military organization.

News of Santos’ decision to build a stronger alliance with NATO comes after several tumultuous months for the Colombian people following the devastating results of the Peace Accords plebiscite.

In recent weeks, the Colombian government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) reached consensus on revised peace accords which suggest potential opportunities for peace in the South American nation.

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Venezuelan Supreme Court Orders New Inquiry into Disappeared During Fourth Republic

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By Lucas Koerner | Venezuelanalysis 

Caracas – Venezuela’s Supreme Court (TSJ) issued a ruling Tuesday ordering the country’s the public prosecution to reopen investigations into the case of a law student disappeared in 1966.

Andres Pasquier Suarez, a law student at the Central University of Venezuela, was detained by Venezuela’s national guard on October 10, 1966 and subsequently handed over to the now defunct Armed Forces Information Service.

According to military records, the youth was transferred two days later to the Urica Anti-Guerrilla Camp from which he never returned.

A Maracaibo military tribunal charged with investigating the incident declared the case closed on March 15, 1968, finding that “no crime has been committed in any moment”.

Writing on behalf of the high court, TSJ President Gladys Gutierrez struck down the prior ruling as “contrary to the elemental principles of law and justice”, concluding that the military court had failed to conduct an impartial investigation of the disappearance.

The justice ordered the public prosecutor’s office to reopen the investigation and identify those responsible as mandated under article 19 of Venezuela’s Law to Prosecute Crimes, Disappearances, Tortures, and Other Human Rights Violations for Political Reasons during the Period 1958-1999.

Over the last 17 years, numerous inquiries have brought to light the magnitude of human rights violations committed under Venezuela’s pacted, two-party system known as the Fourth Republic.

This past July, the country’s official Truth and Justice Commission revealed that it had registered a total of 11,043 cases of torture, assassinations, and political disappearances between 1958 and 1998.

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Venezuela Opposition Cries Foul After Recall Suspended, Calls for Coup Against Maduro

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teleSUR 

The ominous calls came as courts temporarily froze the referendum process to investigate thousands of fraudulent signatures submitted in the first phase.

Leader’s from Venezuela’s opposition appeared to call for a coup against President Nicolas Maduro, after the country’s Supreme Court ruled that the presidential recall referendum would be temporarily suspended due to fraud committed in the first phase of the process.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles said Friday that President Maduro is “in disobedience of the constitution” and called on both the National Assembly and Armed Forces to “make a decision” and have people “respect the constitution.”

The former Venezuelan presidential candidate also said Maduro had vacated his position as president, prompting fears that a coup might be looming.

“Maduro did not only leave the country, he left his position,” Capriles said during Friday’s press conference.

“Maduro declared himself in disobedience, he does not respect the Constitution, and today he left the country, and will leave everything.”

Maduro left Venezuela for various OPEC and non-OPEC countries Thursday to help establish a stable price for oil, which has negatively affected the South American country’s economy.

Capriles, head of Justice First and one of the leaders of the opposition MUD coalition, also called on the nation’s armed forces to intervene.

“Hopefully the armed forces will have people respect the constitution,” he said.

The MUD leader also demanded the government repeal the decision to suspend the signature collection process for the recall referendum and called on opposition members to “take the streets of Venezuela.” Toward the end of his speech, Capriles denied he wanted a coup to oust Maduro and said he does not want to incite violence.

“We don’t want a coup in the country,” said Capriles, “A coup has (already) happened to the people and we have to restore constitutional order.“

Henry Ramos Allup, the president of the National Assembly, also spoke during the press conference and said the National Assembly he leads supports all the decisions and the message promoted by Capriles.

Ramos Allup also called on the Venezuelan Armed Forces “to analyze the abuses to the constitution” allegedly carried out by the government. He also said they were offering a constitutional way out for Maduro through the recall referendum in order to prevent “a violent way out” in the future.

The legislator said a delegation from the assembly will travel to the Organization of American States, or OAS, to demand the OAS apply the so-called Democratic Charter against his country, something the opposition has been requesting for months.

“Venezuelans have always been stronger than its leaders,” he said, before he cast doubt on Maduro’s nationality, suggesting he may actually be Colombian—a common allegation that has no basis.

The National Electoral Council, or CNE, said the decision to postpone the recall referendum process came after the MUD committed the criminal offense of presenting more than 600,000, about 30 percent, of signatures deemed irregular. Among the invalid signatures were almost 11,000 from deceased Venezuelans.

The Supreme Court also declared invalid all acts of the National Assembly after it swore in three legislators who had previously been suspended over irregularities when they were elected.

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Venezuela Police Officer Shot, Killed During Right-Wing Protest

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teleSUR 

A Venezuelan policeman died after being shot during an opposition protest late Wednesday in the province of Miranda, Minister of the Interior and Justice Nestor Reverol said, adding there were two other officers injured.

Reverol stated that the officer was shot after the police tried to disperse an opposition march to preserve public order on the Panamerican highway in San Antonio de los Altos, adding that two suspects were in custody.

“There are two people detained for questioning, and an order will be issued to begin investigations to clarify this murder,” said Reverol.

The wounded officers were taken to a private clinic, where Jose Alejandro Molina Ramirez died, shot in the abdomen and arm. Medouza Dany Daniel Briceno was shot in one hand, Davis Jose Laya Ayala was hit in one arm and Miguel Antonio Cuevas Pirela had a wound on his face from a blunt object, but all were out of danger, the doctors informed.

Reverol said the right-wing opposition was responsible for the death of officer Molina. He also confirmed that four policemen were injured in Zulia state during the protests.

“The officer killed is Jose Alejandro Molina Ramirez who was shot in the abdomen and arm.”

The right wing had called for a “Taking of Venezuela” march Wednesday, provoking clashes that led to more than a hundred injuries.

Despite some factions of the opposition agreeing to talks with the government, some of the splintered right wing have refused dialogue and instead called for a national strike on Friday and a more provocative march to the Miraflores presidential palace on Nov. 3.

Miranda’s governor is right-wing leader Henrique Capriles, who denied that opposition forces had agreed to talks with the socialist government Tuesday and has been instrumental in calling for street demonstrations and the ouster of President Nicolas Maduro.

“This needs to keep growing so that the government understands once and for all that we’re doing this for real,” said two-time presidential loser Capriles.

The National Assembly, that is in contempt of the constitution, voted Tuesday to start an impeachment process against Maduro, even though any actions it takes have been declared nulled by the Supreme Court in the country.

Crowds at the protests where the officer was shot chanted “This government is going to fall!”

Clashes also broke out in the western town of San Cristobal that was an epicenter of violence during 2014 anti-Maduro protests that left at least 40 people dead.

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Venezuelan Government Releases Five Opposition Activists in Goodwill Gesture

NOVANEWS
Image result for MADURO CARTOON
By Rachael Boothroyd-Rojas 

Caracas – Venezuela’s national government has agreed to release five jailed opposition activists in a goodwill gesture as part of its official talks with the country’s opposition.

The liberation of the prisoners is the first concrete agreement to emerge from the Vatican-mediated dialogue, initiated Sunday with representatives of four opposition parties.

On Monday evening, opposition mayor Carlos Ocariz took to social media to announce the negotiated release, confirming the freed prisoners as Andrés Moreno, Marco Trejo, Carlos Melo, Ángel Coromoto Rodríguez, and Andrés Leon– all arrested for their participation in violent protests or for the incitement of political violence.

As former security chief to opposition National Assembly President Ramos Allup, Ángel Coromoto Rodríguez, was arrested in May for allegedly bankrolling anti-police violence during opposition protests, while Melo was detained on August 31 for the possession of explosives. Similarly Moreno and Trejo were both arrested in late September after creating a video calling for the rebellion of the armed forces.

The longest-serving inmate amongst the group is Andres Leon, who was arrested during the deadly 2014 street violence known as the “guarimbas”. He was granted house-arrest on health grounds in June last year.

“Not enough”

The announcement comes just three days ahead of an anti-government march on the Miraflores Presidential Palace, called by the opposition for this coming Thursday.

Opposition leaders had previously hinted that they would be willing to consider calling off the demonstration depending on the progress of the talks, which they say are contingent on the release of their activists from jail.

Nonetheless, the government’s gesture appears to have done little to dissuade the MUD leadership from going forward with the controversial march– despite the violence unleashed by their supporters during protests last week.

“The release of the political prisoners is important, but not sufficient,” MUD Secretary Jesus Chuo Torrealba told reporters.

On Tuesday morning, the MUD opposition coalition also retweeted a message from legislator Freddy Guevara insisting that Thursday’s march would “still go ahead”. Guevara is a lawmaker for the ultra-right Popular Will party, which is currently boycotting the talks.

The coalition has been deeply divided over the decision to partake in official negotiations with the government, with proponents describing the top-level talks as just “one more terrain of struggle” amongst many.

Meanwhile, the government has hailed the move as a sign of its willingness to negotiate with the opposition in a bid to ease tensions in the politically polarised country.

“We, who have been permanently waiting for opposition sectors to (commit to) dialogue, salute the fact that it has finally taken place,” Venezuela’s foreign minister, Delcy Rodriguez, told press at the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

The opposition has stated that it will not negotiate on its demands for a presidential recall referendum this year or on the release of all of its activists from jail, regardless of their crime. The MUD has yet to release an official statement confirming the status of Thursday’s march.

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