Sometimes I really hate it when I’m right. The “vote” in Venezuela yesterday went largely as expected, with the government of tyrant Nicolas Maduro claiming that upwards of eight million people voted to essentially wipe out the elected legislature and replace it with some window dressing which essentially makes him dictator of the country. This is a condition which could last for his entire life unless his people manage to find a way to oust him from office.
The vote was, of course, largely a sham. And as NBC News was reporting throughout the day, many of the polling places were frequently empty as Maduro’s many opponents boycotted the bogus proceedings.Many polling stations were largely empty and more than 70 percent of the country was opposed to the vote in the first place, according to opinion surveys. Critics called it a naked power grab by President Nicolas Maduro.Noticing something of a disparity there? Nearly three quarters of the country was opposed to and sitting out the vote according to recent polls. Election monitors put the turnout at 9% (which actually might be on the low side) and yet Maduro’s “election officials” said it was over 40%. Even if that was a valid figure, that’s still pretty low for something this historic in terms of completely reshaping the country’s government structure.
As protesters clashed with police across the increasingly volatile country, only about 9 percent of eligible voters went to the polls, Delsa Solórzano, a prominent leader of the opposition party Un Nuevo Tiempo, said at a news conference Sunday night.
The country’s election authorities, meanwhile, put the number of voters at 8.1 million, equaling a 41.5 percent turnout.
CNN describes just how much power Maduro has now and also grimly notes that the body count went up as even more protesters – including two teenagers – were slaughtered by his militias.The election will allow Maduro to replace Venezuela’s current legislative body — the National Assembly — with the new assembly, which would be made up 545 members, all nominated by his administration.Now the rest of the world has to decide what, if anything, to do about it. As far as the United States goes, our U.N. Ambassador, Nikki Haley immediately declared the vote to be “a sham” and said that the United States “would not accept the results.” Our State Department put out a statement condemning the results as well and promising a “strong and swift response”, though in somewhat gentler terms. But what does that mean? More sanctions? I’m not sure Maduro particularly cares at this point.
Deadly clashes between protesters and police marred Sunday’s vote, which followed weeks of violent street protests in which many people have been killed or injured. On Sunday the death toll rose sharply with at least six people — including two teenagers — killed at protests and a National Guard officer also reported dead by the attorney general’s office.
More than 8,089,000 people or about 41.53% of registered Venezuelan voters cast ballots Sunday, according to Venezuela’s National Electoral Council.
Unless there’s a drastic (and probably violent) change in course, the stage seems to be set. Maduro has completed his takeover and will now be able to rule essentially as a dictator. He’ll probably gather the support of a few other authoritarian regimes, but even that will be limited until he can get his oil production back up. (Assuming he can manage it.) For now, Venezuela will likely become a hermit kingdom, much in the style of either Fidel Castro’s Cuba during the early years or North Korea’s present regime. And the real losers in all of this will be the Venezuelan people. They are currently starving while living on some of the richest farmland on the continent and their government is almost bankrupt while sitting atop some of the largest proven crude oil reserves in the world. These are the fruits of socialism. Watch closely if you are cheering for similar policies in the United States.
Monday, July 31, 2017
from Noticias 24
(Caracas, 30 de julio. Noticias24) – La rectora del Consejo Nacional Electoral Tibisay Lucena ofreció a las 11:47 de la noche de este domingo el primer boletín tras la elección de los miembros de la Asamblea Nacional Constituyente.
Lucena precisó que el órgano electoral contabilizó 8.089.320 votos para alcanzar el 41,53% del padrón electoral.
Asimismo agradeció a los funcionarios que hicieron posible el proceso electoral pese a las dificultades que presentó la jornada en diferentes partes del país dados los focos de violencia.
Friday, July 28, 2017
CARACAS, July 27 (Reuters) - Three people died during clashes on the first day of an opposition-led strike against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, the state prosecutor's office said on Thursday.
At least 106 people have died in total during anti-government unrest convulsing the South American OPEC nation since the opposition launched protests in April demanding elections to end nearly two decades of socialist rule.
Many streets around Venezuela remained barricaded and deserted during the second day of an opposition-led shutdown, which began on Wednesday. The strike aims to to pressure Maduro into cancelling a controversial vote for a new congress at the weekend.
Adversaries say the ruling Socialist Party wants to consolidate dictatorship with a sham vote for the super-congress that will have the power to rewrite the constitution and shut down the existing opposition-led legislature.
Faced also with intense international pressure including the threat of U.S. economic sanctions, Maduro says he is going ahead with Sunday's election for the Constituent Assembly as the only way to empower the people and bring peace to Venezuela.
The Venezuelan prosecutor's office said a 23-year-old man died in western Merida state, while a 16-year-old boy died in the poor Caracas neighborhood of Petare during clashes between security forces and young masked protestors on Wednesday. That added to the previously announced death of a 30-year-old man, also in mountainous Merida state.
Thursday, July 27, 2017
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Under pressure from growing street protests and threats of U.S. sanctions, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has offered the opposition, in secret negotiations, a 45-day delay of Sunday’s election for a Constitutional Assembly and a proposal to hold presidential elections by the end of next year.
Maduro’s offer requires the legislative National Assembly, controlled by the opposition, to recall the 33 new judges it appointed last week as well as a “cooling down” of the street protests against the government, according to sources familiar with the talks.
Confirmation that the talks were taking place came late Monday night by a message on Twitter by the vice president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Freddy Guevara, who reported that the former prime minister of Spain, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, brought the proposal to the residence of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who is under house arrest.
Previously, local media had picked up a story run by Chilean newspaper La Tercera with comments from Rodriguez Zapatero confirming the talks. The former prime minister later denied he talked to the publication, but he did not deny that the meeting with opposition leaders took place.
“As always, Leopoldo asked me to report clearly and directly concerning the meeting that took place in his house and the invocation of a general strike and the ‘Take Over of Caracas,’ ” Guevara said on Twitter.
According to a source in Washington close to the opposition leaders, Maduro is asking the opposition to help him lobby the U.S. government to abstain from slapping new sanctions on the Venezuelan government.
In exchange, Maduro is offering to delay for 45 days the Constitutional Assembly election set for Sunday and to give opposition leaders a chance to participate, said the same source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The opposition, however, told Rodríguez Zapatero that it remains firm in its demand to cancel outright the Constitutional Assembly vote, according to Guevara’s tweets. More than 7 million Venezuelans voted against the assembly election in a July 16 plebiscite.
The 45-day delay offer was also confirmed by an opposition leader who also asked not to be named.
The source also said that Maduro was also dangling another offer before his adversaries: a proposal to hold presidential elections by the end of next year.
The balloting for the Constitutional Assembly is scheduled for Sunday, using a system that guarantees the government will control the body even though the Maduro government’s popularity now stands at about 10 percent.
The street protests have become a critical stumbling block for Maduro and he has decided to search for some sort of arrangement that would allow him to put off the vote, said Martín Rodil, president of the Venezuelan American Leadership Council.
“The government fell into its own trap. It proposed the Constitutional Assembly with the intention of trapping the opposition, and it wound up falling into its own trap because the opposition is obeying the will of the street and refused to participate,” said Rodil.
“At the end of the day, they found themselves in an untenable position because it’s causing cracks within the armed forces and because they may soon be hit with [U.S.] sanctions,” he added.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Caracas (AFP) - Venezuela's opposition called a nationwide strike for Thursday to press President Nicolas Maduro to back off a rewriting of the constitution, ratcheting up tensions after an unofficial vote rejecting Maduro's plan and amid months of deadly protests.
The strike call, issued on Monday, was part of what the opposition called a "final offensive" aimed at forcing Maduro out through early elections before his term ends in 2019.
On Sunday, in an event organized by the opposition, more than a third of Venezuela's 19 million voters rejected Maduro's bid to have a citizens' body called a "Constituent Assembly" elected on July 30 to redraft the constitution.
Several countries lauded the balloting. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Monday it sent an "unmistakable statement" to Maduro and his government.
The EU's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, said that Maduro should suspend his plan, or he "risks further polarizing the country and increasing confrontation."
However Maduro and his government, backed by a loyal military, have dug in against the opposition tactics and the international criticism.
Despite growing public anger at food and medicine shortages under a spiralling economic crisis that has fed into the opposition movement, authorities in Caracas portray the efforts against them as illegitimate and the result of interference from the "imperialist" United States.
- 'Escalation' to follow -
"We are calling all the country to take part in a massive and violence-free protest through a nationwide civic strike for 24 hours," said one leader in the opposition coalition, Freddy Guevara.
He said the stoppage was a "mechanism for pressure and to prepare for the definitive escalation to take place next week."
There were fears, however, that the stepped-up confrontation could worsen violence in Venezuela's streets. Since April, when anti-Maduro protests and police pushback turned bloody, 96 people have died.
The opposition set the scene for the strike with its vote Sunday, which it called a "plebiscite" but which the government dismissed as "illegal."
Electoral authorities, who have systematically sided with Maduro against the opposition-controlled legislature, denied authorization for the balloting.
A total of 7.6 million Venezuelans -- at home and abroad -- turned out for Sunday's vote, the opposition said, undermining legitimacy for Maduro's future Constituent Assembly.
Brazil's foreign ministry said in a statement "the high turnout in the plebiscite... was an unmistakable sign the Venezuelan people want democracy quickly restored." It, too, called on Maduro to shelve his Constituent Assembly idea.
- Change wanted -
Venezuela's opposition, invigorated by the voter support and the international reactions, clearly was keen to seize the moment.
"The mandate the people have given us is clear," said Julio Borges, leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly.
Borges said the vote showed a public desire to see Maduro leave power before his term ends.
Political analyst John Magdaleno told AFP that "there is evidence of a persistent and durable demand for political change."
The result of Sunday's vote may not have been binding, but Venezuela "sent a clear message to the national executive and the world," announced Central University of Venezuela president Cecilia Garcia Arocha, one of several experts who oversaw Sunday's vote.
According to the opposition, the final turnout figure was enough to overturn Maduro's mandate should there be a recall referendum, because it exceeded the 7.5 million votes that put the president in power in 2013.
To lend weight to the vote, a group of former Latin American presidents, including Mexico's Vicente Fox, who was declared "persona non grata" by the government, took part as observers.
But Luis Vicente Leon, head of the polling firm Datanalisis, said the opposition's challenge now was to leverage the vote to "crack" Maduro's stance and "press for negotiations that would give an peaceful chance for change."
The opposition has accused Maduro of driving the country into bankruptcy, and of planning to use the Constituent Assembly to entirely sideline the legislature.
For many ordinary Venezuelans suffering under shortages of basic goods, sky-high inflation and climbing unemployment, the vote was a way of expressing frustration at the president and his policies.
Yet Maduro has insisted his proposed Constituent Assembly is "the only path" to peace and economic recovery. Thus far, he has shown no sign of backing down.
by Enrique Krause and Biodun Iginla, BBC News, Caracas
More than seven million voters have taken part in an opposition-organised referendum in Venezuela, according to academics monitoring the poll.
Voters strongly opposed government plans for a new constituent assembly with the power to scrap the National Assembly and rewrite the constitution.
Venezuela is polarised between backers of President Nicolás Maduro and opponents, who want fresh elections.
A nurse was shot dead while queuing to vote in the capital, Caracas.
Men on motorbikes opened fire, killing 61-year-old Xiomara Soledad Scott, and wounding three others.
The opposition blamed a “paramilitary” gang for the shooting, which prosecutors said they would investigate.
Separately, journalist Luis Olavarrieta was grabbed by what he said were a group of government supporters who robbed and beat him, but he managed to escape.
Friday, July 14, 2017
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Sunday, July 9, 2017
Saturday, July 8, 2017
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was transferred to house arrest Saturday after spending more than three years behind bars in a military prison.___
The Supreme Court, in a statement, said it had granted Lopez the "humanitarian measures" for health reasons and "serious signs of irregularities" in the handling of the case that it did not specify.
Outside Lopez's house in the capital, Caracas, a few dozen supporters arrived carrying Venezuelan flags to celebrate along with journalists looking for information about whether the transfer may have been part of a larger deal between the opposition and President Nicolas Maduro's government.
The opposition has been demanding the release of dozens of activists it consider political prisoners, the most prominent being Lopez, in order to initiate talks aimed at resolving a political crisis that has left more than 90 people dead and hundreds injured.
"We spoke for like 40 minutes. He's hugging his children, he's with his wife. .... I'm sure they are celebrating," Lopez's father, who shares his son's name, said from exile in Spain. He said in recent days Lopez had been isolated in his prison cell without food and attributed his son's transfer to the considerable international pressure on Maduro's government.
"He told me himself recently: Dad, it's always darkest right before the break of dawn," he added.
Lopez, 46, was sentenced in 2015 to nearly 14 years in prison for inciting violence during anti-government protests in which three people died and dozens were wounded.
Venezuela has been rocked by months of near-daily protests again this year, fueled by widespread discontent over shortages of basic goods, galloping inflation and allegations that Maduro is flouting democratic norms.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy broke the news of Lopez's pre-dawn transfer in a message posted on Twitter. His predecessor, Jose Luiz Rodriguez Zapatero, has been traveling back and forth to Venezuela for months trying to broker a deal on jailed opposition leaders and jumpstart a dialogue between the government and opposition and was in Caracas as recently as last week.
Colombian former President Ernesto Samper, who had been working with Zapatero on some sort of humanitarian release for Lopez, praised the "positive gesture" by the government, predicting it would open a space for dialogue across Venezuela's bitter political divide so that in the coming months there could be transparent, democratic elections.
There has been much speculation about Lopez's since several people, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, reported in early May that he had been rushed to a hospital in very serious condition. The report was later denied by the government, which released video of Lopez saying he was alive and well.
But more recently supporters have stepped up complaints that Lopez was being tortured and punished for supporting the street protests against Maduro — claims that the government has denied. Lopez's party said he had not been allowed to see his lawyers for 90 days and had been in solitary confinement for the last 32 days.
Lopez's lawyer in Spain, Javier Cremades, said the terms of Lopez's release mean he will be allowed to serve out his sentence at home and cannot leave.
"It is a gesture of weakness of the Maduro regime and of the opposition's strength," Cremades said. "It is a step forward, and very positive news."
Lawmaker Gaby Arellano of Lopez's Popular Will party said his release represents "the end of the dictatorship."
Foreign governments and human rights groups have criticized Lopez's detention as politically motivated. A Venezuelan prosecutor on the case who later sought asylum in the United States has said he was ordered by the government to arrest Lopez despite a lack of evidence.
Lilian Tintori, Lopez's wife, has campaigned in Venezuela and abroad to try to win freedom for her husband.
In February she met with President Donald Trump in the White House. Trump tweeted a photo of the Oval Office encounter and called for Lopez to be released "immediately."
"It gives us great pleasure that Leopoldo Lopez is at his home with his family!" said Henrique Capriles, another opposition leader, via Twitter. "He must be given his full freedom, like all the political prisoners!"
Thursday, July 6, 2017
Caracas (AFP) - Dozens of pro-government activists stormed into the grounds of Venezuela's National Assembly Wednesday and attacked lawmakers, leaving several hurt and bleeding.
Intruders brandishing sticks and dressed in red broke through the front gate and set off fireworks in the interior gardens of the building, AFP journalists at the scene said.
The government supporters reached as far as the corridors of the congressional building, striking and injuring at least three lawmakers. The attackers ordered journalists to stop filming and taking photographs and leave the premises.
Lawmaker Yajaira de Forero named three of her colleagues who she said were struck, including one who was taken away for medical treatment.
Tension is high in Venezuela after three months of anti-government protests that have seen 91 people killed in clashes with police.
Protesters blame President Nicolas Maduro for a desperate economic crisis. He says the chaos is the result of a US-backed capitalist conspiracy by the opposition.
The opposition-controlled legislature was holding a special session to mark independence day when the government supporters burst in.
Before the violence broke out on Wednesday, Maduro's vice-president Tareck El Aissami had made an impromptu appearance in the congress along with the head of the armed forces, Vladimir Padrino Lopez and ministers.
El Aissami made an address in which he called on supporters of Maduro to come to the legislature to show support for him. A crowd of Maduro supporters held a rally outside the building for several hours before breaking into the grounds.
Maduro retains the public backing of the military high command -- a key factor in keeping him in power, according to analysts.