Embattled Venezuelan president calls for new constitution
CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s increasingly embattled president called Monday for a new constitution as an intensifying protest movement entered a second month with clashes between police and anti-government demonstrators.
After hundreds of thousands took to the streets again to call for his ouster, President Nicolas Maduro announced that he was calling for a citizens assembly and a new constitution for the economically flailing South American nation. He said the move was needed to restore peace and stop his political opponents from trying to carry out a coup.
Opposition leaders immediately objected, charging that Maduro was seeking to further erode Venezuela’s constitutional order. Maduro was expected to later give more details about his plan, which is likely to ratchet up tensions even more in a country already on edge.
Many people expect the socialist administration to give itself the power to pick a majority of delegates to a constitutional convention. Maduro could then use the writing of a new constitution as an excuse to put off regional elections scheduled for this year and presidential elections that were to be held in 2018, political analyst Luis Vicente Leon said.
Polling has suggested the socialists would lose both those elections badly. Opposition leaders have pledged to put top government officials in jail if they win power.
Venezuela Is Heading for a Soviet-Style Collapse
Venezuela is not the first developed country to put itself on track to fall into a catastrophic economic crisis. But it is in the relatively unusual situation of having done so while in possession of enormous oil assets. There aren’t many precedents to help understand how this could have happened and what is likely to happen next.
There is, however, at least one — the Soviet Union’s similar devastation in the late 1980s. Its fate may be instructive for Venezuela — which is not to suggest Venezuelans, least of all the regime of Nicolás Maduro, will like what it portends.
Venezuela has been ailing ever since the decline in oil prices that started in June 2014, and there is no reason to think this trend will shift anytime soon. Energy prices move in long quarter-century circles of one decade of high prices and one decade of low prices, so another decade of low prices is likely. Similarly, the biggest economic blow to the Soviet Union was the fall in oil prices that started in 1981 and got worse from there.
But the deeper problem for the Soviet Union wasn’t the oil price collapse; it’s what came before. In his book Collapse of an Empire, Russia’s great post-Soviet reformer Yegor Gaidar pointed out that during the long preceding oil boom, Soviet policymakers thought that they could walk on water and that the usual laws of economic gravity did not apply to them. Soviet policymakers didn’t bother developing a theory to make sense of their spending. They didn’t even bother paying attention to their results. The math seemed to work out, so they just assumed there was a good reason.
This is as true of the current Venezuelan leaders as it was of the Soviet leaders. The Venezuelan government, though it doesn’t claim to be full-fledged in its devotion to Marxism-Leninism, has been pursuing as absurd an economic policy mix as its Soviet predecessor. It has insisted for years on maintaining drastic price controls on a wide range of basic goods, including food staples such as meat and bread, for which it pays enormous subsidies. Nonetheless the Venezuelan government, like the Soviet Union’s, has always felt it could afford these subsidies because of its oil revenues.
I think a great part of the problem is that the Soviet policy makers didn't think that the laws of economics applied to them and that they were above them, just like Lyschenko didn't believe in the laws of genetics and biology. They were Soviets, they were above all that.
The problem with Venezuela is that hey have far exceeded what happened in the Soviet Union, they just haven't died of it yet, and a socialist style gov't isn't going to make it go away..
The problem with Venezuela is that hey have far exceeded what happened in the Soviet Union, they just haven't died of it yet, and a socialist style gov't isn't going to make it go away..
Venezuelans again take to streets as death toll jumps to 37
CARACAS, Venezuela — Students battled tear gas-throwing police officers in demonstrations across Venezuela’s capital Thursday as a two-month-old protest movement that shows no signs of letting up claimed more lives.
“We are students, not terrorists!” a mass of students chanted as they marched in Caracas.
Soldiers bathed hundreds of protesters in tear gas at the Central University of Venezuela, with medics in gas masks attending to students with bloodied faces and limbs.
“Do you know how many dead there are?” Rafaela Requesens, a student leader, shouted at a wall of National Guard officers standing shoulder-to-shoulder and stopping protesters from advancing. “They are your victims.”
Gunfire erupted at a student gathering in El Tigre, a city southeast of Caracas, leaving Juan Lopez, 33, dead and three others injured, according to the chief prosecutor’s office. Preliminary reports indicate an assailant fired at Lopez toward the end of the meeting and then fled on a motorcycle. Lopez was the president of a university federation.
Protesters march in Venezuela, destroy Chavez statue
CARACAS, Venezuela — Women banged on pans and some stripped off their white shirts Saturday as they protested Venezuela’s socialist government in an event the opposition billed as a “women’s march against repression.” As they marched, local media carried a video showing people toppling a statue of the late President Hugo Chavez the day before in the western state of Zulia.
Thousands of women took over streets in major cities all around the South American country. Wearing the white shirts of the opponents of country’s increasingly embattled government, the women sang the national anthem and chanted, “Who are we? Venezuela! What do we want? Freedom!” ...
The protest movement has drawn masses of people into the street nearly every day since March, and shows no sign of slowing. On Saturday, some of the women marchers approached soldiers in riot gear to offer them white roses and invite them to join the cause.
“What will you tell your kids later on?” one woman asked. ...
A statement from the White House’s Office of the Press Secretary said Trump underscored to President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski that “the United States will work together with Peru in seeking to improve democratic institutions and help the people of Venezuela.”
Lawmaker: Hugo Chavez’s childhood home burned by protesters
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Protesters set fire to late President Hugo Chavez’s childhood home in western Venezuela on Monday, an opposition lawmaker said, as protests against the South American nation’s socialist government grew increasingly hostile.
While demonstrators are decrying current President Nicolas Maduro for the country’s triple-digit inflation, rising crime and shortages of food and medicine, they have also destroyed at least five statues commemorating Chavez, Maduro’s mentor and the founder of Venezuela’s “Bolivarian revolution.”
Demonstrators lit the house in the city of Barinas where Chavez spent his early years aflame Monday afternoon along with several government buildings, including the regional office of the National Electoral Council, said Pedro Luis Castillo, a legislator who represents the area.
The burnings capped a violent day in Barinas — known as the cradle of Chavez’s revolution — during which protesters clashed with national guardsmen, businesses were shuttered and roads were blocked with fire-filled barricades.
Nineteen-year-old Yorman Bervecia was shot and killed during a protest, according to the nation’s chief prosecutor. His death brings to at least 49 the number killed in nearly two months of anti-government protests demanding new elections.
Venezuela walks out of Americas summit in Mexico
CANCUN, Mexico (AP) — Venezuela's foreign minister walked out of a meeting of regional diplomats to discuss the South American country's political crisis on Monday as a 17-year-old anti-government demonstrator was shot and killed during clashes with security forces.
The Organization of American States meeting being held in the Mexican resort of Cancun once again narrowly failed to approve a resolution that would have pushed back against some of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's most radical actions.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez stalked out of the meeting, and claimed that more OAS members were considering following Venezuela's example and withdrawing from the group, which has been putting pressure on her socialist government to hold timely elections, free political prisoners and scrap a bid to rewrite its constitution.
"Not only do we not recognize this meeting, we do not recognize any resolution coming out of it," Rodriguez said.
Venezuela president fires military brass amid unrest
Caracas (AFP) - Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro fired four top military commanders Tuesday including the head of a police force that is accused of attacking anti-government protesters during months of deadly unrest.
The commander of the National Guard military police, General Antonio Benavides Torres, will move on to "new responsibilities and battles," Maduro told supporters in a speech.
He said he was also replacing the heads of the army, navy and the central strategic command body.
The armed forces have maintained their public backing for Maduro in more than a year of mounting volatility in the oil-rich, crisis-struck state.
Analysts say the support of the military is key to keeping the socialist president in power in the face of pressure from the opposition over a desperate economic crisis.
Does not sound to me like an auspicious event.
My thoughts exactly. If they had the military on their side they probably won't for very much longer.
They might as well see if that works, nothing else does anymore. It would be nice if much of the military were not in league with the narcos , but nothing comes easy. They might just get the trains running on time.
RTH10260 wrote:Sounds as if the heavy weights of the armed forces have just been freed to prepare for a military coup....
Helicopter used for protest flight against Maduro, heightening Venezuela tensions
CARACAS — A Venezuelan police pilot apparently commandeered a helicopter Tuesday and flew it over the supreme court building carrying a sign that read “Freedom,” a public show of dissent against the embattled government that prompted security forces to seal off government facilities and heightened fears of further unrest.
During a chaotic afternoon in the capital, pro-government protesters also surrounded the National Assembly building, forcing legislators to remain inside, and tanks were spotted driving around the palace of President Nicolás Maduro.
After three months of near daily protest, Venezuela is on a hair trigger. The news of the dissident pilot and the mobilization of security forces prompted coup rumors to race through Venezuelan social networks. By Tuesday evening, however, it appeared that Maduro’s government remained in control.
In the late afternoon, Caracas residents saw a blue helicopter from the police investigations unit, the CICPC, circling the capital, carrying a banner that read “Libertad” and the number “350,” a reference to the article in the Venezuelan constitution that allows people to “disown” their government if it acts in an undemocratic way.
The helicopter circled over the building housing the supreme court, which has backed Maduro’s efforts to block early elections and to change the constitution. The communications minister said that the helicopter dropped four grenades and that three exploded.
Venezuelan news reports identified the pilot as Oscar Perez, a member of military special forces, citing his posts to social media. The reports note that Perez has acting experience, having produced and starred in a Venezuelan film, “Death Suspended.” Wearing a uniform and reading from notes, he spoke into a video camera about the “criminal government” as four masked men with guns stood behind him. Describing his group as a nonpartisan alliance of military, police and civilian officials, Perez said that their fight was not against the rest of the security forces.
Venezuela may be sliding into a civil war
It was like a scene from a movie. On late Tuesday afternoon, residents in Caracas saw a blue police helicopter circling the capital, carrying a banner that read "Libertad,” or "freedom,” and the number "350" — a reference, my colleagues explained, "to the article in the Venezuelan constitution that allows people to 'disown' their government if it acts in an undemocratic way.”
Government officials said the chopper then dropped a number of grenades on Venezuela's Supreme Court buildings and strafed the Interior Ministry. On Wednesday, authorities were on the hunt for the alleged ringleader of the attack, Oscar Perez, an actor who also served in the country's special forces.
In a country wracked by political turmoil and economic collapse, the helicopter incident — framed as a coup attempt by embattled President Nicolás Maduro and his supporters — happened to be just one explosive episode in yet another a day of chaos. Protests and counter-protests continued in several Venezuelan cities; pro-government supporters stormed the National Assembly, which is dominated by opposition legislators; Maduro made an incendiary televised speech, warning darkly of further violence. ...
That's why Perez's helicopter mission seemed so alarming. Maduro and his allies wasted no time describing the incident as right-wing terrorism abetted by outside powers. In a video uploaded to social media, Perez said his group was a nonpartisan military alliance of soldiers and police that sought no conflict with the country's security forces.
"It’s against the impunity imposed by this government,” Perez said in the video, which shows him flanked by masked men with guns. "It’s against tyranny. It’s against the deaths of young people who are fighting for their legitimate rights. It’s against hunger.”
But by Wednesday, many in Venezuela had started to question whether the attack, which fitted so conveniently into the government's narrative, was a false flag. The conspicuousness of Perez's own showbiz career — he starred in an action film called "Death Suspended” — raised eyebrows and confusion.
I don't think it is a case of "may be", I think that Venezuela is well on its way to if not a civil war, at the very least an ouster, probably violent, or outright collapse, equally violent, of the current government. The thing with a civil war is that you have to have at least two fairly even opposing factions, and in this case I think the current regime counts as a very small very unpopular faction and growing more so as time moves forward. The problem I see is that I don't know if there is actually a competent faction that can govern considering the shape the country is currently in. As things stand, I think the only more devastating thing they could do tho their economy would be to hold an Olympics.
The region cannot just stand by as Venezuela veers toward civil war
VENEZUELA’S POLITICAL and humanitarian crisis, which has long been desperate and deadly, this week tipped toward the surreal. On Tuesday, a helicopter swooped over the Supreme Court and interior ministry, dropping grenades and firing shots; President Nicolás Maduro called it a U.S.-backed coup attempt. But no one was injured in the incident, and when the pilot of the helicopter turned out to be an actor who has played a police commando in the movies — and who has yet to be detained by authorities — opposition leaders understandably wondered whether the incident was orchestrated by Mr. Maduro.
If so, it wouldn’t be suprising. The corrupt clique around the president, which inherited the leftist populist movement founded by Hugo Chávez, is resorting to increasingly far-fetched tactics to combat a mass protest movement that has the support of the vast majority of Venezuelans. It has dispensed tons of tear gas at the daily marches and demonstrations, and fired thousands of bullets, both rubber and real; at least 78 people have been killed since the unrest began in April. Five died on Wednesday. ...
You’d think the specter of civil war in a major oil-producing country of more than 30 million people would finally rouse its democratic neighbors to action. But Latin America remains largely paralyzed over Venezuela’s chaos. Last week, a group of countries led by Mexico tried to pass a resolution at the Organization of American States calling for the establishment of a contact group of nations to broker a peaceful solution, including free elections and the release of prisoners. It failed, thanks to the opposition of a handful of Venezuelan clients, including tiny Carribean nations bribed by Caracas with discounted oil.
It didn’t help that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson withdrew from the OAS meeting, preferring to focus on the boycott of Qatar by other Arab states. While the Trump administration has sporadically acted on Venezuela, imposing sanctions on some senior regime figures and issuing statements, it appears to have no strategy for addressing the most consequential crisis in the hemisphere since the Central American wars of the 1980s.
If only the United States had a department of career professionals who specialized in working with other countries so we could be leaders in getting countries to work together to deal with situations like this. /sarcasm
"The essence of responsibility is the acceptance of the consequences—good and bad—of your actions."
Venezuela: pro-government militiamen injure politicians in attack on Congress
Four Venezuelan politicians have been wounded after pro-government militias wielding wooden sticks and metal bars stormed the opposition-controlled Congress during a special session to mark the country’s independence day.
Blood was left splattered on the neoclassical legislature’s white walls. One of the wounded politicians, Americo de Grazia, had to be taken in a stretcher to an ambulance suffering from convulsions, said a fellow congressman.
“This doesn’t hurt as much as watching how every day how we lose a little bit more of our country,” Armando Arias said from inside an ambulance as he was being treated for head wounds that spilled blood across his clothes.
The attack, in plain view of national guardsmen assigned to protect the legislature, comes amid three months of often-violent confrontations between security forces and protesters who accuse the government of trying to establish a dictatorship by jailing foes, pushing aside the opposition-controlled legislature and rewriting the constitution to avoid fair elections.
BBC describes attackers a bit differently, but same incident.
Venezuela National Assembly stormed by Maduro supporters
Dozens of government supporters have burst into Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly, injuring several lawmakers and journalists.
Witnesses said the fracas came after an assembly session to mark the country's Independence Day.
The intruders brandished sticks and set off fireworks in the capitol building's gardens, AFP reported.
Footage from the scene showed two opposition lawmakers with blood running down their faces.
Pro-opposition Venezuelan website La Patilla reported that several deputies had been attacked by a mob at the building in the capital, Caracas.
Venezuela's Maduro orders state workers to vote for assembly
With many Venezuelans angry at the government and planning to sit out a July 30 vote for a new superbody assembly, President Nicolas Maduro has ordered all state workers to take part, seeking to avoid an embarrassingly low turnout.
After three months of anti-government unrest that has killed at least 90 people, Maduro has called for the Constituent Assembly, with powers to reform the national charter and supersede other institutions, in an election he says will bring peace.
Opponents plan a rival, unofficial referendum on July 16 to give Venezuelans a say on what they view as a sham poll by the leftist president, accusing him of trying to formalize a dictatorship in the South American OPEC nation.
Maduro has been trying to drum up his base, mostly state workers and poorer Venezuelans.
Venezuelans release opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez from jail
CARACAS, Venezuela — In a surprise move, Venezuelan authorities released opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez from a military prison early Saturday and placed him under house arrest, citing concerns for his health and “irregularities” in his conviction.
Lopez, the country’s most important political prisoner, was handed a 13-year jail term in 2015 and has been locked up ever since. He became a symbol of resistance for opponents of the government, his portrait printed in bright colors on the T-shirts and flags of protesters who chant “Free Leopoldo!”
Lopez, 46, was escorted out the prison at around 3 a.m. and sent home, according to family members and fellow opposition leaders.While the current state of his health was unclear, members of his family confirmed he remained at home, not in a hospital.
Few here were willing to believe that a concern for his health or the integrity of his trial were the reason for the decision to let him out. With Venezuela’s economy in free fall and the country sliding toward political anarchy, President Nicolas Maduro has come under growing international pressure to return to democratic norms.
Woman killed, 4 injured as violence erupts at Venezuela vote
CARACAS, Venezuela — Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans lined up across the country and in expatriate communities around the world Sunday to vote in a symbolic rejection of President Nicolas Maduro’s plan to rewrite the constitution, a proposal that’s raising tensions in a nation battered by shortages and anti-government protests.
A 61-year-old woman was killed and four people wounded in shooting that erupted after government supporters on motorcycles swarmed an opposition polling site in a church in the traditionally pro-government Catia neighborhood of western Caracas.
The opposition mayor of the Caracas borough of Sucre, Carlos Ocariz, said pro-government paramilitary groups attacked voters outside the Our Lady of Carmen Church around 3 p.m. The chief prosecutor’s office said Xiomara Soledad Scott, a nurse, had been killed and three wounded in the incident.
Video posted to social media showed massive crowds outside the church, then hundreds of people running in panic outside the church as motorcycle-riding men zoomed past and shots rang out. ...
In what appeared to be smaller numbers in many parts of the capital, government supporters went to polling stations in a rehearsal for a July 30 vote to elect members of the assembly that will retool Venezuela’s 1999 constitution.
Mexico's Vicente Fox banned from Venezuela
(CNN) Venezuelan authorities have declared former Mexican President Vicente Fox a "persona non grata" and banned him from ever returning to the country.
Fox was in Venezuela, along with other former Latin American presidents, to act as an observer in Sunday's non-binding referendum called by the opposition on government plans to reform the constitution.
In a series of tweets, the Venezuelan foreign minister, Samuel Moncada, says Fox abused the goodwill of the Venezuelan people and came to the country to "promote violence and the intervention by foreign world powers."
"As a preventative measure to protect our people, Señor Fox will never again be able to come back to Venezuela," Moncada wrote.
Nearly 7.2 million people took part in the unofficial vote, with the overwhelming majority coming out against Maduro's plan.
The referendum asked voters three yes-no questions. More than 98% of voters chose to reject the proposed constitutional assembly; request the military defend the existing constitution; and support fresh elections before Maduro's term ends in 2019.
New York Mag
What the Hell Is Happening in Venezuela?
Nicholas Casey, the New York Times’ Andes bureau chief, was returning to Venezuela late last year after a trip to Mexico. Customs officials stopped him and told him that, this time, he wasn’t going to be allowed to pass through. Instead of returning to his apartment in Venezuela, he spent the night in the airport. Casey was put on a flight to Bogota the next morning, and then sent back to New York. After about a year of reporting in Venezuela, just like that, he was banned.
Casey recently described his expulsion in the Times, along with the increasingly chaotic and dangerous situation in Venezuela that prompted it. President Nicolas Maduro, the anointed successor of Hugo Chavez, is trying to consolidate power as opposition protesters have taken to the streets in huge numbers. Those protests have turned violent. The country is in political crisis, but also economic crisis, with food and medicine shortages and dangerous hyperinflation. But there is plenty room to think the situation might get worse as Maduro plans to hold a vote Sunday to form a Constituent Assembly, which will take control of the country rewrite a new constitution. Casey explained to Daily Intelligencer what’s going on in inside Venezuela now and why no one knows what will come after Sunday’s vote.
What led up to you being banned from Venezuela?
The government has created this narrative that Venezuela is facing problems because of a combination of greedy businessmen who’ve been hoarding goods and causing shortages, and people like me in the media who they say are trying to work as a propaganda arm of countries that want to overthrow the government. This Maduro government has become extremely authoritarian, blocking reporters from doing their work, ordering government-aligned gangs to smash reporters’ equipment, and in my case, actually blocking them from even being able to come to the country.