Friday, April 26, 2013
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Venezuela said Thursday it has arrested a US national whom it accused of being an intelligence agent tasked with sowing chaos and civil unrest throughout the country.
The alleged agent, Timothy Hallet Tracy, was detained Wednesday at an airport near Caracas as he tried to leave the country, according to Venezuelan officials, who also released pictures of the American.
"Judging from the way this gentleman behaved, we presume that he belongs to some intelligence organization, because he is trained and he knows how to infiltrate, and how to handle sources and security information," Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres said.
Authorities also accused the American of being linked to an organized protest effort here known by the name "Operation Sovereignty," in which student demonstrators pressed for more information about the health of President Hugo Chavez prior to his death last month.
The movement, which has also been vocal in calling for transparent and fair elections, rejected results of the April 14 presidential vote won by Chavez's handpicked successor Nicolas Maduro.
Tracy, who officials said was born in the midwestern US state of Michigan in 1978, "began to have close relations with these youths from Operation Sovereignty," Rodriguez said at a press conference.
He said Tracy was part of a supposed plot hatched by right-wing political forces in Venezuela to reject results of the election.
The American sought "to bring the country to civil war... which would immediately provoke the intervention of a foreign power to restore order and reestablish democracy," said Rodriguez, in an apparent reference to the United States.
Washington, which so far has refrained from recognizing Maduro's government, had little to say about the alleged US agent's arrest.
"We're looking for more information," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters. "I don't have a comment for you one way or another as we're still seeking more information."
Maduro won the vote by a slim 1.8 percent, narrowly defeating right-of-center businessman Henrique Capriles.
Members of Venezuela's opposition have alleged electoral fraud, claiming some voters cast multiple ballots or even used ballots belonging to people who had died.
A partial review of ballots has been planned, although a national election board has not indicated when that review would take place.
Violence in the immediate aftermath of the contested balloting led to at least nine deaths and scores of injured.
Both the government and Capriles have called massive street rallies for May 1.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Monday, April 22, 2013
Saturday, April 20, 2013
This man in line had 30 Fake IDs, and people argued to let him vote.
Tthis sure ain't the Voice of America that I remember.
I hate to admit, I like al Jazeera's coverage better!
Thursday, April 18, 2013
They went out to protest, but never returned home. After peaceful demonstrations on Monday and Tuesday in Barquisimeto, calling for a recount of the recent election, and in the vicinity of the CNE National Electoral Council, 72 persons were detained, among them three women and a 15 year old adolescent.
17 More were Detained on Monday.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Venezuelan Officials: A Manual Recount is NOT Possible. The System is Fully Automated. There is NO Paper Trail
The several hundred supporters of Chavez and his heir, President-elect Nicolas Maduro, converged on the local headquarters of the National Electoral Council, where backers of opposition leader Henrique Capriles planned to hold a protest against the official results of Sunday's election to replace Chavez.
As he drove down the street on a motorcycle, one young man shouted: "Here we are, defending our votes," and sped away. Another man climbed up a light post and pulled down a banner of Capriles, which his cohorts doused with gasoline and burned.
The frenzied government backers moved on to a building belonging to the opposition Democratic Action party and threw a Molotov cocktail inside, causing a small fire. State police arrived and safeguarded the building, but made no attempt to arrest the aggressors.
The group then gathered around a bakery a few blocks away, where they said the owner was a Capriles supporter. They smashed the windows on the building's facade, entered and looted it, making off with boxes of snacks and cookies. The group also tossed rocks at the headquarters of the newspaper La Regional.
Tuesday's violence in Los Teques, a town in Miranda state outside the capital, is an example of the mob actions that many people fear could grow in Venezuela, where Capriles is questioning Maduro's razor-thin, 262,000-vote win, saying the election was stolen from him.
Maduro, in turn, is accusing Capriles of fomenting violence, plotting a coup and being responsible for post-election violence that the government says has caused at least seven deaths and 61 injuries. Capriles denies the charges.
A wild card in the confrontation are the pro-Chavista motorcycle gangs and groups of pistol-toting young men in Caracas slums who see themselves as the guardians of Chavez's self-proclaimed Bolivarian revolution.
Shadowy groups known as La Piedrita and the Tupamaros form part of an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 "colectivistas" who live near the Miraflores presidential palace and proclaim loyalty to the charismatic former paratrooper. Bands of motorcycle-driving toughs loyal to Chavez also arose during his years in power.
When the motorcyclists appeared in Los Teques, Maduro was on television accusing Capriles of fomenting violence and attempting to destabilize the country two days after the election.
Capriles canceled a planned Wednesday march to the National Electoral Council in Caracas to demand a vote recount, saying he wanted to avoid possible clashes between government supporters and adversaries.
Security analyst Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America said the rising tensions had him worried about "mob violence against opposition figures, and perhaps pro-government ones, too."
Think You Know Nicolas Maduro? An Ex-Cuban Intelligence Defector Speaks Out about One He calls a "Professional Subversive"
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A march to demand a recount in Venezuela’s contested presidential election turned violent Tuesday in the home state of the late President Hugo Chavez as the government blamed the opposition candidate for violent disturbances it said had claimed seven lives and left 61 people injured.
In a televised broadcast, Justice Minister Nestor Reverol accused the candidate, Henrique Capriles, of numerous crimes including insurrection and civil disobedience.
Government officials have been alleging since Monday that Capriles is plotting a coup, and President-elect Nicolas Maduro announced that he was prohibiting an opposition march scheduled for Wednesday in the capital.
In Washington, meanwhile, the Obama administration said it was refusing to the accept the official results of Sunday’s vote without a full recount given the closeness of the result: a margin of 50.8 percent to 49 percent favoring Maduro, the chosen successor of Chavez, who succumbed to cancer last month.
In Chavez’s home state of Barinas, police fired tear gas and plastic bullets at protesters heeding the Capriles’ call for protests by marching on the provincial headquarters of the National Electoral Council.
Chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega said 135 people had been detained in protests. Opposition leaders reported 30 arrests Tuesday. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
Capriles’ supporters also protested in cities including Merida and Maracay;.
In the capital, Caracas, Maduro said he would not permit an opposition march that Capriles called for Wednesday. His chief prosecutor, meanwhile, said seven people had been killed in protests.
Maduro blamed Capriles personally.
‘‘You are responsible for the dead we are mourning,’’ he said, calling Capriles ‘‘the defeated candidate.’’
Reverol said one of the dead was a man in the capital who was shot dead by opposition supporters. He said the other shooting deaths, in the states of Sucre, Tachira and Zulia, were being investigated.
The prosecutor, Ortega, said those killed were humble members of the working class.
Capriles issued a message on Twitter blaming the government that he says stole the election.
‘‘The illegitimate one and his government ordered that there be violence to avoid counting the votes,’’ he said. ‘‘They are responsible!’’
Maduro was certified the winner of a presidential election Monday amid questions about his ability to lead after he squandered a double-digit lead in the race despite an outpouring of sympathy for his party following Chavez’s death.
On Monday, thousands of students briefly clashed with National Guard troops who fired tear gas and plastic bullets while people across the nation banged on pots and pans to reject the National Electoral Council’s ratification of Maduro’s victory without a recount.
Late Monday, Maduro announced he had met with a newly created ‘‘anti-coup’’ command at the military museum that holds Chavez’s remains.
He accused opposition protesters of attacking government clinics and the house of electoral council President Tibisay Lucena, without offering details.
Government leaders and military leaders have closed ranks around Maduro despite his weak showing Sunday.
But a hint of discontent emerged in two Twitter messages by Diosdado Cabello, the National Assembly president who many consider Maduro’s chief rival within the ‘‘Chavismo’’ movement.
He expressed dismay after the electoral council president announced the election results.
In the first, he called for a ‘‘profound self-criticism’’ within Chavista ranks. In the second, he wrote: ‘‘We should look for our faults under the rocks if we have to.’’
Diego Moya-Ocampos, an analyst with the London-based consulting firm IHS Global Insight, said members of the ruling socialist party ‘‘realize that Maduro is not the man to guarantee continuity of the Chavista movement.’’
Cabello expressed disbelief at Capriles’ strong showing, asking why ‘‘sectors of the poor population would vote for their exploiters of old.’’
That might not be such a mystery.
Among Venezuela’s problems are crumbling infrastructure, persistent shortages of food and medicine, and double-digit inflation. The nonprofit Venezuelan Violence Observatory estimates Venezuela’s homicide rate last year was 73 per 100,000 people, among the world’s worst.
With such a narrow victory, Maduro has little political capital to make the difficult choices some of those problems require, said Risa Grais-Targow, Latin America analyst for the Eurasia Group.
Price and currency controls imposed under Chavez have failed to stem inflation or the flight of dollars and are strangling private firms. But lifting them abruptly could bring economic turmoil and hurt the poor.
Grais-Targow said Maduro will likely focus instead on expanding the myriad of social programs that cemented Chavez’s popularity. But that has become increasingly difficult to balance with the need to spend on redressing Venezuela’s other problems.
The state-oil company that gave billions of dollars to fund social programs is saddled with mounting debt and declining profits. Critics say the company has failed to invest in boosting oil production, which has fallen for years even though Venezuela has the world’s biggest oil reserves.
Throughout the campaign, Maduro blamed Venezuela’s frequent power blackouts on sabotage by government enemies and said food shortages are caused by hoarding by the private sector. So did Chavez before he died, but Sunday’s election results showed that a growing numbers of Venezuelans are no longer buying it.
Maduro, a former bus driver who rose to become foreign minister and vice president under Chavez, offered no ideas of his own for resolving the country’s problems. He did suggest at the news conference Monday night that a Cabinet shake-up was in the works, though he quickly added that he would ratify Vice President Jorge Arreaza, Chavez’s son-in-law, in his post.
Chavez swiftly sidelined those who openly questioned him during his 14 years in power.
Maduro’s narrow victory has given him less ability to maintain unity in a movement held together largely by loyalty to the charismatic Chavez.
Its factions include former soldiers like Cabello who joined Chavez in a failed 1992 coup. Maduro comes from the ranks of leftist political and labor groups that united to help elect Chavez president in 1998. Chavez’s relatives, led by his brother Adan, form another bloc.
‘‘His legitimacy comes from the fact that Chavez named him as his successor and other factions were forced to accept it,’’ said Grais-Targow. ‘‘But he faces this landscape where the other main figure, Diosdado Cabello, could elevate his role and have more power. There are also governors who have bases of support and could pose challenges.’’
Still, the powerful state political apparatus built by Chavez is standing with Maduro.
Four of the five directors of The National Electoral Council are pro-government. The Supreme Court is stacked with Chavista sympathizers, as are inferior courts. The National Assembly is also controlled by Chavistas.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Monday, April 8, 2013
MARACAY, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's opposition presidential candidate says he'll cut off subsidized oil to Cuba, distance his country from nations that disrespect human rights and shore up the South American country's own troubled economy with the billions it now sends abroad to socialist friends.
Henrique Capriles also told The Associated Press in an interview that he will seek better ties with Washington — always strained under the late President Hugo Chavez — but will demand respect from U.S. leaders, who he says have neglected Latin America.
And the challenger predicted more tough times ahead for oil-rich Venezuela if acting president and ruling party candidate Nicolas Maduro wins the April 14 election. He called Maduro incapable of governing this polarized nation and said its wealth of economic problems ultimate would force Maduro to resign or be forced out.
"Whatever the outcome, I don't see how Nicolas Maduro has the capacity to stay for an extended time in government," Capriles asserted after staging a rock-star-like rally late Thursday in the central coast city of Maracay, traditionally a Chavista stronghold.
"He will have to resign, abandon (the presidency) if he's able to win," Capriles said.
He did not elaborate on what would come, but in the back of many Venezuelans' minds is the unrest and violence that accompanied a brief 2002 coup against Chavez and a prolonged, opposition-led general strike against Chavez in 2003-2004.
Capriles, governor of Venezuela's most populous state, is waging a desperate campaign to unseat Maduro, who was foreign minister and vice president to Chavez and became acting president before Chavez died March 5 of cancer. Capriles lost to Chavez in an October election, but again is cross-crossing the country to rally supporters.
The abbreviated campaign has been marked by personal insults as Capriles insists Maduro is no Chavez, still beloved by millions. Capriles has tried to reassure voters he won't take away their state social programs while promising to address high crime, high inflation, nagging food shortages and recurring power outages.
Maduro's campaign strategy is to incessantly invoke Chavez, who tapped Maduro as his successor. He warns voters their social programs are at risk if Capriles wins, accuses foes of conspiring to destabilize the country and promotes his ties to an armed forces politicized by Chavez.
Exactly one month to the minute after Chavez's death, Maduro, members of Chavez's family and government officials paid tribute to the late president at the Caracas army barracks that hosts Chavez's tomb. Cannon shots were fired and taps played, followed by a remembrance mass.
Capriles previously had announced he had spoken with commanders he didn't identify about possible Cabinet posts. On Thursday, he said he believed most of Venezuela's 200,000 soldiers don't support Defense Minister Diego Molero's public endorsement of Maduro, an endorsement that violated Venezuelan laws that mandate the military's impartiality.
Capriles vowed to stop financing other nations with cheap oil and to redirect Venezuela's oil riches toward solving its own poverty. One of his first acts as president, he said, would be to expel Cuban military advisers from Venezuela's armed forces.
"We are giving to the Castro brothers' government ... nearly $4 billion a year," he said. "Because of that, the Castros love the possibility that this government remains."
The government stresses that in exchange for oil, Cuba has dispatched thousands of doctors and nurses who provide free medical attention in poverty-stricken areas that historically lacked services. Capriles has said previously he'd send the doctors home.
Capriles said he'd quickly chill ties with Iran and Syria that Chavez boosted.
"We have to take a look at the affinity we have toward Iran, beyond our shared interest as oil producers. There is none," he said. "With the Syrian government, there is none."
Venezuela has sent several shipments of diesel fuel to Syria's embattled regime.
"My political orientation is for democracy, not these authoritarian governments where human rights are trampled upon," Capriles declared.
The candidate said he wants better relations with Washington, but on an equal footing. Chavez frequently accused the United States of trying to unseat him, and Maduro has suggested it somehow injected Chavez with cancer.
Washington briefly embraced Chavez's ouster in the 2002 coup. The two countries haven't exchanged ambassadors since 2010. In March, Washington expelled two Venezuelan diplomats after Caracas expelled two U.S. military attaches for allegedly trying to turn Venezuelan soldiers against their government.
"I believe the United States has been erratic in its relationship with Latin America. It's made mistakes," Capriles said.
"I had big expectations of President Obama, that Obama was going to reach out to the South," he said. "The United States doesn't take into account the South's importance, and it must change the way it relates" to Latin America.
"We sell oil to the United States and we buy products from the United States," Capriles continued. "These are the huge contradictions of this (Maduro) government — it talks and it talks, yet it even imports gasoline from the United States."
Capriles blamed Maduro, as interim president, for a devaluation of Venezuela currency that weakened citizens' buying power. He also blamed Maduro, and Chavez before him, for frequent power outages, 23 percent inflation and rampant crime.
Capriles dismissed some polls that suggest Maduro, bolstered by enduring empathy for Chavez and a massive state elections machine, will win handily.
"Of course I can win," he said. "The act of voting is a rational, and emotional, act. I feel that that emotion is on this side. Maduro lacks charisma and leadership, he said.
As for Chavez' popularity rubbing off on his hand-picked successor, Capriles said "I don't believe in hereditary leadership."
Capriles' own charisma was on full display at a boisterous rally in Maracay's central boulevard before the AP interview — a 10-block display of passion among thousands that nearly resulted in disaster.
Whipped up into a near-frenzy by speaker after speaker over a waiting period of three hours, mobs pushed through successive security barriers until, by the time Capriles launched into his stump speech, dozens were crushed against a fence, struggling to breathe, the old and young alike crying and pleading for help.
Several people climbed building railings to escape the crush. Capriles' security detail pulled people from the crush. Crying children were separated from their parents; emergency personnel administered oxygen to a man prone on the ground. Dozens were taken for medical treatment.
When it was over, one of Capriles' aides found a wedding ring on the ground. She shook her head.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Venezuelan presidential candidate and Hugo Chavez's No. 1 fan, Nicholas Maduro, believes he had a conversation with the deceased socialist dictator after he appeared to him in the form of a "tiny little bird". In a televised address to the public, the bus driver turned de facto leader of Venezuela after Hugo Chavez's death on March 5 said he is convinced the flying animal was in fact Chavez and that they engaged in a heartfelt conversation.
It's Dr. Doolittle meets The Sixth Sense in this political love story.
Apparently, Maduro was with Chavez's brothers in a small Catholic church when suddenly a bird flew in through a window and began "communicating with whistling sounds." After the bird "looked at [him] weird," Maduro claims that Chavez "gave me his blessing and said 'This is the day our battle begins. Be victorious. That's how a felt it from my soul." This exchange apparently happened in the form of "whistles."
Venezuelan politics seem to be plagued by magic realism. This isn't the first time Maduro — who is running for president against the opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonsky — has mentioned the beyond during his campaign. Maduro, who lacks the charisma and larger-that-life image of the controversial Chavez, has been using the legacy of the dead dictator as his biggest weapon during his campaign. In fact, his campaign slogan is "Long Live Chavez, Forever."
Just a few weeks ago, Maduro publically stated that he believed Hugo Chavez's spirit "must have influenced from the sky so that a South American pope could be chosen," referring to Pope Francis's election into the papacy last month. Maduro has also openly blamed the CIA for "inoculating Chavez with the cancer that killed him".
Tension is palpable in the Venezuela capital of Caracas as presidential elections are set to take place April 14. Will Chavez's successor take the coveted position? Or will the dysfunctional oil-rich nation ruled by Chavez for 14 years take a step in a different direction and elect Henrique Capriles Radonski?
Just like "little bird Chavez," it's up in the air.