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Pence Talks with Opposition Leader Leopoldo Lopez over Venezuela’s ‘Dire Situation’


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U.S. Vice President Mike Pence called Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez Friday “to address the dire situation in Venezuela,” as concern over U.S. interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs continues to grow.

In his phone conversation with Lopez, Pence praised “Mr. Lopez for his courage and outspoken defense of Venezuelan democracy,” according to the White House press statement.

Earlier this month, Lopez’s party Popular Will boycotted the dialogue process called by President Maduro to ease tensions between the government and the opposition.

Lopez also denounced Maduro’s call for the National Constituent Assembly, demanding the elections for the 545 representatives be canceled.

In the White House press statement, the vice president also reiterated, “President Trump’s pledge that if the Maduro regime imposes its Constituent Assembly on Sunday, July 30, the United States will respond with strong and swift economic actions.”

Lopez has a long and sordid history in Venezuelan politics, particularly for his involvement in the deadly “guarimba” protests. He gained prominence after becoming the mayor of the wealthy Caracas district of Chacao in Venezuela between 2000 and 2008.

According to investigative journalist Eva Golinger, in 2002 Lopez began frequenting Washington, D.C., to “visit IRI (International Republican Institute) headquarters and meet with officials in the Bush administration.” The IRI is one of the three foundations of the National Endowment for Democracy, NED, and has been pumping tens of millions of dollars to the opposition groups in Venezuela, including Justice First.

In 2014, Lopez was convicted and charged with plotting and promoting the violent street blockades, also known as “guarimbas” in Venezuela. The widespread violence led to the death of 43 people while hundreds more were injured. The violence also cost billions of dollars worth of damage to public buildings and infrastructure.

Lopez was sent to jail in 2015 and given a 13-year nine-month jail sentence for his role in leading the violent protests. He was recently allowed to serve his sentence under house arrest after citing “health concerns.”

In a video published by NBC Miami Wednesday, Lopez urged the Venezuelans to continue protesting on the streets, stating that Venezuela is facing a “clear and imminent threat” to its democracy.

The phone call between the opposition leader and the U.S. vice president comes as the United States escalates its threats against Venezuela.

Earlier this week, Washington issued a travel warning telling the U.S. citizens to avoid travel to the South American country and also ordered the relatives of all its diplomats to leave Caracas.

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Maduro Invites the Opposition to Talks Before Assembly Vote


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    Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has been addressing crowds in Caracas as campaigning ends. | Photo: AVN
Candidates and government supporters are making the final preparations ahead of Sunday’s election.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has proposed holding round table peace talks with the opposition before the National Constituent Assembly vote on July 30.

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Electoral campaigning for the Assembly‘s candidates has drawn to a close at a rally attended by tens of thousands of people in Caracas.

Addressing the crowds, Maduro said “I want peace, reunification and national dialogue”.

“Do you want to give a lesson to these violent people? On Sunday the 30, you have to go out and vote in peace for the National Constituent Assembly,” he added.

Maduro also said he would be setting up a Truth, Justice and Reparation for Victims Commission.

He then went on to criticize the U.S. President Donald Trump, as well as his Colombian and Mexican counterparts, Juan Manuel Santos and Enrique Pena Nieto for speaking out against the Constituent Assembly election.

“What do we do? Who do we answer to?” Maduro asked Venezuelans on the streets. “The people,” answered the crowd.

Maduro said the polls are a vote against imperialism and against Trump, following the announcement of U.S. sanctions on 13 Venezuelan senior officials.

“On Sunday we will choose between a free country or a dominated colony,” he said.

The U.S. State Department is ordering its diplomats’ relatives to get out of the Venezuelan capital.

It’s also allowing government workers to leave its embassy in Caracas and limiting the movement of those who stay.

An updated travel warning on its website urges U.S. citizens not to travel to Venezuela due to ‘social unrest and violence’.

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Hundreds of candidates have been giving their final speeches outlining their proposals for the constituent body which will rewrite the country’s constitution following the vote.

Almost 20 million Venezuelans are expected to choose from 6,120 candidates representing diverse sectors and territories of society for the 545-member assembly.

Meanwhile, some sections of the opposition are calling for a boycott of the election and continue to reject Maduro’s offers of dialogue.

Opposition-led protests aimed at toppling the Bolivarian government began in early April.

More than 100 people have been killed and around 1,200 others have been injured.

The right-wing MUD coalition has called for a week of action in the run up to the vote to disrupt the electoral process.

But the latest 48 hour strike failed to bring the country to a standstill and most people went to work as normal.

However, the MUD claimed it was a success and is calling for its supporters to take part in a mass demonstration, dubbed the ‘Great Takeover of Venezuela’, on Friday.

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Maduro Calls on Trump to ‘Stop Aggression Towards Venezuela’


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    Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro at a meeting in Caracas, Venezuela, July 26, 2017. | Photo: REUTERS
Maduro mused that he’d cherish the opportunity to “extend (Trump) a handshake and to tell him that we’re in the 21st century.”

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro reiterated that his country wants to live in peace during an interview with RT Spanish Wednesday.

RELATED:  US Announces New Sanctions on Venezuela in Interventionist Move

Faced with a new round of U.S. sanctions against 13 Venezuelan senior officials, Maduro urged U.S. President Donald Trump to exercise reason and halt his administration’s interventionist policy in Venezuela.

“As president, I appeal to him, to President Donald Trump: Stop aggression towards Venezuela. Venezuela is a fundamental basis of stability in the whole Caribbean Basin,” Maduro said.

Contemplating an eventual meeting with Trump, Maduro mused that he’d cherish the opportunity to “extend (Trump) a handshake and to tell him that we’re in the 21st century.” He added that U.S. officials should “dismiss the Monroe Doctrine” because times have changed and these times required an acceptance of “diversity and new, more advanced relationships.”

Venezuela’s head of state noted that U.S. foreign affairs strategists should deliberate with greater rationale and end their aggressive stance because “Venezuela wants to live in peace, it wants to live quietly.”

He emphasized, however, that if the situation deteriorates beyond the harmonious confines of dialogue and peace, something that the people of Venezuela desperately want, “the Bolivarian Revolution will have to take up arms and, once again, we’ll be fighting under the same flag.”

Confronted by an emboldened opposition which has been documented to work closely with sanctions-wielding Washington, Maduro recalled that he’d spent almost the entire month of May “seeking direct dialogue” with them in order for Venezuelan society as a whole to “become members of the Constituent Assembly, but they refused.”

Adding that his political adversaries have ventured to “the radical right,” skirting even traditional allies “who voted for them,” Maduro admitted that his greatest error as president was to “underestimate the opposition, their capacity to inflict damage, their malice, their capacity for violence.”

Maduro also announced that Venezuela will sign new gas and oil agreements with Russia, as he emphasized the importance of maintaining good economic partnerships with major powers.

RELATED: Argentina’s Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Support Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly

“For the second half of the year, important documents will be signed to expand bilateral investments between Russian oil and gas companies and our PDVSA,” Maduro told Russia Today.

The announcement comes as the United States increasingly threatens and enacts sanctions against Venezuela. On Wednesday the U.S. Treasury Department made good on Trump threats to impose sanctions on the country if the National Constituent Assembly vote went forward on Sunday, July 30.

Maduro confirmed that despite U.S. attempts to rattle Venezuela’s economy via an “indirect blockade,” the country is equipped to meet all challenges. The end game of such obstruction, as was attempted in 2015 and 2016, Maduro argued, is to force Venezuela’s economy to default.

Despite these attempts, he said that the country has always “paid its bills, met its obligations.” In the event of a complete cutoff between Caracas and Washington, Maduro assured that “the roads leading to the west, to the south, and to the east, fortunately, will stay open for Venezuela.”

Maduro explained that it is essential to maintain good relations and strong partnerships with major global economic powers like Russia and China, and that he was thankful for the solidarity expressed to Venezuela by these nations.

The president said that Russian-Venezuelan relations are “advancing at a good pace,” particularly in the realm of oil, considering the significant investments that Russia has in the Orinoco oil fields.

In addition to oil trade, the two countries share a broad range of mutual cooperation encompassing over 200 agreements in fields ranging from medicine to tourism, agriculture, and mining.

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Venezuela Suspends CNN en Espanol Due to Threat to ‘Peace, Democratic Stability’


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cxtjjwnwgaacrsfVenezuela’s National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) has suspended the operation of the CNN en Espanol news channel on the territory of the country, the commission said in a statement.

The suspension of CNN en Espanol, which allegedly generates “a climate of intolerance” and threatens “the peace and democratic stability” of the people of Venezuela is effective immediately starting on Wednesday on all “national territory,” CONATEL said on Wednesday, accusing the channel of “aggression” against Venezuela.

The commission also urged other media actors to offer the Venezuelan people timely and impartial information that corresponds to the values of the Venezuelan society and fulfills the constitutional guarantees of free communication.

The Venezuelan government reportedly launched an investigation into the work of the CNN en Espanol channel in August 2015, accusing it of spreading false reports on violence in the country.

The news comes as US President Donald Trump called CNN “fake news” and refused to give their reporter a question at a press event after the broadcaster had helped to fuel false rumors he had hired prostitutes at a Moscow hotel and engaged in lewd behavior.

The network that markets itself as centrist relief from hyper-partisan outlets Fox and MSNBC aired an uncorroborated, unverified report alleging that Russians had obtained compromising information on Trump. The report originated from a former UK intelligence operative, according to CNN and BuzzFeed, the first outlets to publicize the reports.

Following the national and global embarrassment, CNN desperately tried to distance itself from BuzzFeed. CNN claims their reporting of Russia potentially having compromising financial or personal information against Trump is part of its honorable First Amendment duty of “informing the people of the inner workings of their government.”

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Venezuela Cash Reserves Reach New Low Amid U.S.- Led Sabotage


NOVANEWS
 
Venezuela Currency Slide

From 1958 up until Chávez’s presidency began in 1998, Venezuelan politics rigidly conformed to U.S. political and economic interests on all strategic issues. For nearly 40 years, Venezuela was at the U.S.’ beck and call – following Washington’s lead in breaking off relations with Cuba, supporting U.S. invasions of other Latin American nations and backing U.S. counter-insurgency policies throughout the region.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Venezuelan government moved to make the nation’s economy subservient to U.S. interests by committing to programs promoted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that privatized the majority of the nation’s resources  and introduced drastic austerity programs.

While U.S. corporations reaped massive profits,Venezuela’s inflation hit triple digits, its unemployment rate spiked and poverty rates hovered around 50 percent. As a result, these policies fostered caustic resentment against U.S. domination of Venezuela’s political and economic structures, resulting in the rise of Hugo Chávez.

Chávez, upon becoming president, worked to unchain Venezuela from U.S. influence, passing numerous reforms and nationalizing key utilities that had been privatized decades earlier. These efforts, which translated into dwindling U.S. influence, earned him the ire of the Bush administration, whose efforts to oust Chávez culminated in the failed coup attempt of 2002.

Emboldened by the U.S.’ failed regime change efforts, Chávez then moved to nationalize Venezuelan oil and even more utilities, ejecting numerous U.S.-based multinational corporations in the process. Though the U.S. refrained from attempting to overthrow him, the Venezuelan government has accused them of being responsible for Chávez’s untimely death in 2013 – claiming that they induced the cancer that claimed his life as a covert means of assassination.

In the years since Chávez’s death, his successor Maduro has been fighting wave after wave of destabilization attempts. Most of these efforts have manifested economically, including widespread shortages of goods and basic necessities. However, on more than one occasion, Venezuelan authorities have caught businesses hoarding food, medicine and other goods in order to create the appearance of scarcity while raising profits through massive price increases and the smuggling of goods to Colombia.

The Venezuelan government has also accused these businesses of intentionally creating scarcity with the goal of fueling unrest that could destabilize the government. If history is any indication, this is quite likely, considering the same tactics were used against the Allende government in Chile in the 1970s.

However, the most destabilizing influence of all has been lower global oil prices. Venezuela’s economy is largely dependent on oil exports, which represent 90 percent of its total exports. Thus, the decline in oil prices has done a number on the nation’s economy – even forcing them to import oil due to the financial difficulties plaguing the country’s refineries.

This decrease in oil prices has not been based on the whims of the market, but rather a concerted effort led by the U.S. and its ally Saudi Arabia. The artificial lowering of oil prices has several benefits for the U.S.-Saudi alliance due to the economic harm it inflicts on the Saudi’s oil-producing competitors – chief among them Iran, Russia, and Venezuela. These are also countries that the U.S. aims to contain.

Maduro was well aware of the situation when he asked rhetorically: “What is the reason for the United States and some U.S. allies wanting to drive down the price of oil? To harm Russia.” But Venezuela has arguably been much harder hit than any other country targeted by the price drop.

Another tactic employed by the U.S. to force Maduro out of power has been the imposition of sanctions. In 2015, the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Venezuela, asserting that the South American nation was a direct threat to U.S. national security, despite no evidence offered to support this claim. At the time, many journalists and analysts noted that the timing was odd, as it coincided with the Obama administration’s attempts to normalize relations with Cuba.

“President Barack Obama … has personally decided to take on the task of defeating my government and intervening in Venezuela to control it,” Maduro said in a televised address soon after the sanctions were announced.

Despite Venezuela’s resilience against U.S.-led sabotage for nearly two decades, they may not be able to hold out for much longer. Venezuela’s cash reserves have dwindled to a mere 10.5 billion dollars, 7.2 billion of which they must use this year just to pay off outstanding debts. These latest figures, based off of data recently released by the nation’s central bank, show that the South American nation’s reserves have declined dramatically. For instance, in 2015, Venezuela had 20 billion dollars in reserves and, in 2011, it held over 30 billion dollars.

Venezuela is running out of time, as the country is set to run out of cash within a year or two. But the day of reckoning could come sooner if the U.S. and the Saudis choose to collude once again in slashing global oil prices, as this would further crippling Venezuela’s economy.

Some of Venezuela’s more powerful allies may try to keep the Maduro-led government afloat. But if Venezuela’s government were to run out of funds and subsequently collapse, it would only be the latest leftist government to fall in a nearly century-old U.S. government effort to eradicate socialism and democracy in Latin America.

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