Tuesday, July 10, 2012
The swift impeachment of Paraguay's former President Fernando Lugo drew strong criticism from left-leaning governments in South America. Chávez ordered Venezuela's ambassador to leave Paraguay and halted oil shipments in protest.
Paraguay's new defence minister, Maria Liz Garcia, has accused Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro of participating in a meeting with senior Paraguayan military officials during the two-day process that removed Lugo.
Garcia, who was appointed by President Federico Franco, said several days ago she had information that Maduro had urged the military officials to intervene to stop Lugo from being removed from office by Congress.
Maduro dismissed the accusations last week.
Garcia made her statement on Wednesday before a prosecutor who has opened an investigation.
Citing “the grave evidence of intervention by Venezuelan officials in the internal affairs of Paraguay,” the Foreign Ministry ordered its ambassador to leave Caracas.
Earlier this week, Franco's government gave journalists copies of security camera footage showing Maduro walking down a corridor in the presidential palace. Other images showed military chiefs, but there were no pictures of them meeting.
Landlocked Paraguay with a long history of political instability and military rule, making accusations of military meddling is a highly sensitive subject.
Maduro travelled to Asuncion the day before Lugo's was removed from the presidency after a hearing that lasted hours. He went as part of a delegation of foreign ministers from countries belonging to the UNASUR regional grouping.
The Union of South American Nations and regional trade bloc Mercosur have suspended Paraguay from both organizations until elections are held next year.
President Franco has pledged to comply with the electoral calendar with elections next April and the swearing in ceremony of the elected president in August 2013.
An Organization of American States mission that visited Paraguay for on the ground fact-finding will deliver its report to the OAS Permanent Council next Monday.
Friday, July 6, 2012
(Pamplona, Spain, July 06. Reuters) - The launch of the traditional "chupinazo" rocket that marks the beginning of the San Fermin, Pamplona became today, in northern Spain.
To cries of "Viva San Fermin" the fuse of the rocket was lit announcing nine uninterrupted holidays.
Thousands of people dressed in white packed the town hall square and surroundings, with their handkerchiefs extended to form a red cloak, unmistakable symbol of the San Fermin festival has begun.
Joy flooded the old part of town, with thousands of locals and tourists from around the world come to live the festivities universalized by the American writer Ernest Hemingway in his novel "The Sun Also Rises" (1932).
However, not until 08:00 am on Saturday when there is the main event of the San Fermin festival, with the first closure.
Hundreds of "boys" run then through the narrow streets of the historic center of the city in front of six bulls in a stretch of 800 meters, separating the Santo Domingo corrals to the bullring, where animals will be fought hours later.
Minutes of tension, intense emotion and not without danger, as they often crash and cause incidents, with the result of several bruised and wounded.
In total, 15 runners have died so far, the last in 2009, a Spanish teenager Daniel Jimeno Romero, 27, who died on July 10 of that year and was gored in the neck by a bull while running alomg the route.
As stated by mayor Enrique Maya on the eve of San Fermin, "If a party is in times of crisis, that's San Fermin, with plenty of street events and where you can enjoy a lot with a controlled spending. "
Among the events planned, the main novelty this year is the traditional "Riau-Riau", the march of the municipal corporation to the chapel of San Fermin this afternoon, to be released again after 16 year absence from the official program for the recorded incidents caused by young radical nationalists.
"Riau-Riau" is just one of the 431 official events, of which 305 are music, 77 are children and family activities, 33 consist of bullfighting, eight are rural sport exhibitions and many other institutional events.
This year nearly 2,500 professionals in the media have requested credentials to the town of Pamplona.
After nine days of bulls and party, the traditional "Poor me!", Sung by thousands of throats at midnight of the last festive day, July 14, will lay off another year of San Fermin.
Monday, July 2, 2012
U.S. diplomats have been silent on these growing alliances. However, fresh revelations about Chávez’s alliance with Iran demonstrate what he is capable of doing when he is not provoked.
Hugo Chávez admitted on June 13 that Venezuela is manufacturing Iranian drones and that Iran has built several explosives and chemical facilities in his country. However, Chávez is trying to throw international observers off his scent by acknowledging an unmanned aerial vehicle program for “peaceful purposes.” What he did not disclose are the many other troubling aspects of the extensive military cooperation between the two rabidly anti-U.S. regimes—not the least of which is that Venezuela secretly shipped an F-16 to Iran in 2006 that could be used today to test the air defenses around Teheran’s illicit nuclear facilities.
U.S. diplomats have convinced themselves—and have tried to convince members of Congress and the media—that Iran’s push into the Americas poses no threat to U.S. security. Indeed, a State Department spokesperson quickly downplayed the significance of Chávez’s admission.
Here’s some of what U.S. diplomats continue to ignore:
The fact that Venezuela shipped one of its U.S.-manufactured F-16 fighter aircraft to Iran was revealed to me last month by a Venezuelan military officer who was present during an Iranian military delegation’s visit to El Libertador Air Base in Palo Negro. Because the Israeli air force operates modified F-16s, the Iranian military could use the purloined Venezuelan aircraft to calibrate its air defense systems.
Chávez also failed to reveal that Iran is bankrolling the production of marine (seaborne) mines that might one day be deployed in the Strait of Hormuz or across shipping lanes leading to the Panama Canal. According to another Venezuelan military source, the director of that mine program purchased some of the necessary technology here in the United States.
Neither did the Venezuelan caudillo explain why six Iranian companies associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and sanctioned by the United Nations, United Kingdom, and European Union for their involvement in Tehran’s illicit ballistic missile and nuclear programs are now operating major industrial facilities at strategic locations in Venezuela. For example, the firm Kimia Sanat, which is helping Venezuela build unmanned aerial vehicles near Maracay, Venezuela, was sanctioned under a 2007 UN Security Council resolution.
Parchin Chemical Industries, sanctioned under a UN resolution in 2007 for exporting chemicals used for Iran’s ballistic missile program, has recently completed a factory near Morón, Venezuela, to produce “ball powder,” an explosive propellant. Likewise, Iran’s National Petrochemical Company was sanctioned by the United Kingdom in 2008 but continues to operate a “petrochemical training facility” in Venezuela, which was inaugurated personally by Chávez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2006.
The Iranian Offshore Engineering Construction Company, which has operated a private port and shipyard on the strategic Paraguana peninsula since 2008, was sanctioned last year for being involved in the construction of the Fordow uranium enrichment site near Qom.
According to reliable sources in the Venezuelan government, Iranian Major General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the Revolutionary Guard Corps aerospace commander who previously headed Iran’s missile program, visited the facilities in Maracay and Moran in July 2009 and November 2011. An independent source who infiltrated Hezbollah on behalf of a South American security agency attended several lectures from 2006 to 2008 at the Iranian-run petrochemical training facility by radical cleric Mohsen Rabbani, who is wanted by Interpol for his role in the 1992 and 1994 terrorist bombings against the Israeli Embassy and Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.
Chávez is suffering from terminal cancer and may die before Venezuela’s October 7 presidential elections. In the meantime, members of his ruthless inner circle—many of whom are implicated in narcotrafficking and corruption—are determined to hold on to power at all costs. The Venezuelan opposition is waging a lonely battle against an authoritarian regime that is managed by Cuba, bankrolled by China, and armed by Russia and Iran.
U.S. diplomats have been silent on these growing alliances, determined to avoid a public confrontation with Chávez for fear of provoking the bombastic populist. However, these fresh revelations about Chávez’s alliance with Iran demonstrate what he is capable of doing when he is not provoked.
With Iran’s back against the wall, squeezed by new international economic sanctions, it will scratch and claw to hold on to its economic ties to Venezuela, which it uses to gain illicit access to the international financial system and carry its struggle to the United States’ doorstep. As the United States and the international community square off with Iran in the months ahead, we may pay a dear price for having neglected Chávez’s dangerous liaisons with Tehran until it was too late.