Tag Archive | "venezuela"

Venezuela: Femicide Established as Criminal Offence


Women at the launch of the Government Council on (photo: Venezuelan government)

Women at the launch of the Presidential Council of Women’s Popular Government (photo: Venezuelan government)

President Nicolás Maduro promulgated yesterday a reform to the Law on the Right of Women to a Life Free of Violence which establishes femicide as a criminal offence.

The reform was put forward by the country’s General Prosecutor and passed by the National Assembly —Venezuela’s Congress. It imposes penalties of between 25 and 30 years in prison for those who commit femicide.

A document by the National Assembly accompanying the reform, states that femicides are violent incidents that end up in the killing of women for reasons strictly related to their gender.

General Prosecutor Luisa Ortega Díaz said that “in the history of the republic, women had never played such a prominent role,” and added that establishing femicide as a criminal offence shows that Venezuela is a country that respects and recognises human rights.

Ortega Díaz proposed that all the state institutions should have special units to treat women who are victims of violence. She also stated that victims of gender violence should be supported when they report crimes against them, in order to avoid their re-victimisation.

President Maduro signed the bill into law in an event carried out on Tuesday, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, in which he launched the Presidential Council of Women’s Popular Government, “a new power organisation that will have a direct impact in the decision-making process.”

 

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Colombia: Man Arrested over Venezuelan Politician’s Death


Robert Serra casting his vote in 2010, when he became the youngest member of the National Assembly (photo courtesy of Robert Serra's official facebook page)

Robert Serra casting his vote in 2010, when he became the youngest member of the National Assembly (photo courtesy of Robert Serra’s official facebook page)

Colombian officers have arrested Leiva Padilla in connection with last month’s murder of Venezuelan legislator Robert Serra and his partner María Herrera.

Padilla, aka ‘El Colombia’, was detained in a shopping centre in Cartagena by agents working for the Colombian National Investigation Authority, Dijín. A warrant had been emitted by Interpol for his arrest.

The couple were stabbed to death in their Caracas apartment on 1st October in a planned attack that Venezuelan officials have said involved a group of six “paramilitaries directed from Colombia”.

Padilla, who is thought to have been the mastermind behind the murders, is the 11th person to be arrested in connection with the murders, and Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro has accused two police officials of being involved.

Serra, a 27-year-old criminal lawyer, was the youngest member of Venezuela’s National Assembly. A prominent lawmaker with close ties to President Nicolás Maduro, he was widely known as a pro-Chávez youth leader, and also for his strong statements in the assembly. He was elected in 2010.

In 2012 Serra’s bodyguard, Alexis Barreto, was killed. His body was found in a hill in the capital Caracas, and it was confirmed to have been a targeted assassination, as neither the money he was carrying nor his gun were taken.

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Venezuela: ICSID Rules Against Exxon Mobil on Nationalisation Case


Orinoco Belt (image: Wikipedia)

Orinoco Belt (image: Wikipedia)

The World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) ruled in favour of Venezuela in a case against Exxon Mobil for the nationalisation of its oil projects in the country in 2007.

The multinational company was seeking US$12bn in compensation, however the Venezuelan state was ordered to pay just US$1.6bn.

“The Tribunal has found that the expropriation was conducted in accordance with due process, that it was not carried out contrary to undertakings given to the claimants in this respect and that the claimants have not established that the offers made by Venezuela were incompatible with the ‘just’ compensation requirement of (…) the Bilateral Investment Treaty,” ICSID said on its website.

In a statement issued by the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Venezuelan government said that “in the arbitration process that Exxon Mobil started against [state-owned oil company] PDVSA before the International Chamber of Commerce, PDVSA proved that Exxon Mobil’s demands were overly exaggerated and that, had Exxon Mobil had any interest in negotiating an agreement in good faith, it could have obtained the appropriate compensation through a friendly agreement.”

After mentioning that Venezuela has already paid US$907m of the outstanding debt, the statement celebrated that “despite the fact that the sum already paid by PDVSA should have put an end to the dispute in relation to the compensation for the Cerro Negro Project, the global amount determined by the ICSID arbitration tribunal for the total of the Exxon Mobil projects in the country is within the reasonable range considered by the Republic in 2007.”

In 2007, under President Hugo Chávez’s administration, the Venezuelan government nationalised all the oil projects in the Orinoco Belt. A decree signed by Chávez in February of that year stated that all the oil projects in the region had to exploited by mixed companies, where the state should have a majority stake of no less than 60% of the shares.

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Venezuela: Government Legislator Robert Serra Killed


Robert Serra casting his vote in 2010, when he became the youngest member of the National Assembly (photo courtesy of Robert Serra's official facebook page)

Robert Serra casting his vote in 2010, when he became the youngest member of the National Assembly (photo courtesy of Robert Serra’s official facebook page)

Venezuela’s Justice Minister, Miguel Rodríguez Torres, has announced that Robert Serra, a legislator from the governing United Socialist Party (PSUV) had been found dead in his apartment in the capital Caracas along with his partner, María Herrera.

Serra, a 27-year-old criminal lawyer, was the youngest member of the National Assembly. A prominent lawmaker with close ties to President Nicolás Maduro, he was widely known as a pro-Chávez youth leader, and also for his strong statements in the assembly. He was elected in 2010.

In a press conference this afternoon, Rodríguez Torres confirmed that the murders were “intricately planned” and that they were not a result of a regular criminal act, such as a robbery, but seemed to be pre-meditated assassinations. Both were killed using “long stabbing objects”, although further details have not been given.

Maduro reacted to the news, paying tribute to Serra via Twitter: “We’re immensely sad about the murder of Robert Serra, Bolivarian pro-Chávez leader. May God lift you to His glory […] Robert, we will continue your example, loyal and steady on the path of the Revolution that you always defended passionately.”

The murders took place at around 10pm last night. Rodríguez Torres said that further details could not be disclosed until a full investigation had taken place. He also refused to give a possible motive for the killings.

In 2012 Serra’s bodyguard, Alexis Barreto, was killed. His body was found in a hill in the capital Caracas, and it was confirmed to have been a targeted assassination, as neither the money he was carrying nor his gun were taken.

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Venezuela: Video Shows Opposition Activists Planning Attacks


A still from video allegedly showing student activists Lorent Saleh (left) and Gabriel Valles plotting an attack in Venezuela.

A still from video allegedly showing student activists Lorent Saleh (left) and Gabriel Valles plotting an attack in Venezuela.

A video aired on state-channel VTV earlier this week appears to show two Venezuelan opposition student activists, who were recently deported from Colombia, planning an attack in their own country.

The video seems to show the two men – Lorent Enrique Gómez Saleh and Gabriel Valles Sguerzi – talking in a video chat to an unknown third person about “taking” a bridge and “warming up” the state of Táchira, which is on the border with Colombia and was the scene of violent protests earlier this year.

Saleh also says that a group is preparing specialist military training in Bogotá – including the use of firearms, explosives, and self-defence – in order to be ready “after the elections”, allegedly in reference to municipal elections held in Táchira in December 2013.

In the video, Saleh says they need to “deactivate” and “burn” distilleries and nightclubs in the city of San Cristóbal, in Táchira, before targeting the National Election Commission (CNE). He adds that they need the “diplomatic front” of Operación Libertad, an organisation set up by Saleh to oppose President Nicolás Maduro’s administration and fight for democracy and human rights.

Deported

The video release comes 12 days after Saleh and Valles were deported from Colombia on 4th September for breaking the terms of their stay in the country and publicly holding political activities.

They were immediately picked up and detained by authorities in Venezuela, as they were wanted for violating a conditional release order to present themselves at local courts every 21 days while awaiting trial for participating in “violent protests” in 2010.

Venezuela’s Public Ministry later confirmed that Saleh was facing seven charges, including disrupting public order and divulging false information.

On the weekend, before the video release, Saleh released an audio file form prison saying he was being held for political reasons only, claiming he and Valles are simply human rights activists.

Uribe

The mention by Salah in the video of a person named “Uribe” has sparked allegations that he was being supported by former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe, currently a senator.

Uribe, an outspoken critic of the Maduro government, had stated that the deportation of the two activists was a “national shame”.

However, he has not yet commented on allegations by the Venezuelan government that he is the man named in the video and that he is supporting efforts by the opposition in Venezuela to destabilise the country through violence.

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Venezuela: President Maduro Announces Government ‘Shake-Up’


President Nicolás Maduro  (Photo: AVN/Télam/dsl)

President Nicolás Maduro (Photo: AVN/Télam/dsl)

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro revealed major changes to his cabinet as part of a promised “shake up” of the government and its policies.

The president also announced five ‘revolutions’ to embark on a new phase in the country’s so-called ‘Bolivarian Revolution’.

The changes to government include the creation of new vice-presidencies and the fusion of several ministries. The new vice presidencies will be for: Productive Economy and Finance; Security and Food Sovereignty; Planning and Knowledge; Social Development and the ‘Misions'; Political Sovereignty; and Territorial and Eco-Socialism.

Each vice presidency will have several ministries under its orbit.

Among the most significant personnel changes, Maduro announced that Rodolfo Marcos Torres would take over the role of vice president for economy from Rafael Ramírez, who has been an advocate of a currency devaluation to ease the country’s economic problems.

Ramírez will also step down as head of the state-oil company PDVSA – to be replaced by Eulogio del Pino – and move to the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

The cabinet changes come as Maduro expressed a need to renew the Bolivarian Revolution started by his predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez.

“We are going to continue with a Socialist Revolution and keep renewing the government’s methods and policies,” said Maduro in a national broadcast last night. “I call, in the spirit of Chávez, for this to be the time for a revolution within the revolution to consolidate the horizons for the economy, social life, and national prosperity.”

Maduro explained that the new “phase” of the model would incorporate five main ‘revolutions': economy; culture, science and technology; social policies; state policies; and territorial socialism.

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Venezuelan Detained for Cocaine-Filled Breast Implants


Breast implants stuffed with cocaine are seen in this handout picture released by Spain's police (photo by Rene Walter)

Breast implants stuffed with cocaine are seen in this handout picture released by Spain’s police (photo by Rene Walter)

A Venezuelan woman has been detained in Madrid’s Barajas airport after confessing to police that she was carrying 1.7kg of cocaine inside her breast implants. The 43-year-old had arrived on a flight from Bogotá.

According to the Spanish police, the passenger had been acting in a way that aroused suspicion among the drug control section, who also noticed certain “irregularities and malformations” in the woman’s breasts.

When the woman realised she was being observed, as authorities were checking her bags she confessed that she was carrying implants that contained cocaine in her breasts. She was immediately transferred to a Madrid hospital, where she underwent surgery before being detained.

The drugs would have had an estimated street value of US$250,000. It is estimated that upwards of 120 tonnes of cocaine make it to Europe each year.

 

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Venezuela-Colombia Border to Close at Night


Colombia's president Juan Manuel Santos and his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolás Maduro, during the Cartagena summit

Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos and his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolás Maduro, during the Cartagena summit

Starting tonight, the 2,200km border between Colombia and Venezuela will shut between 10pm and 5am in a bilateral effort to combat smuggling.

The hope is to stem the flow of food and fuel products from Venezuela, where prices are much lower due to state subsidies of 40%. Venezuelan authorities estimate that 40m litres of petrol and 20,000 tonnes of food have been smuggled across the border into Colombia so far this year.

The smuggling has led to scarcities of products in the west of Venezuela, which was one of the grievances of groups that were involved in the anti-government protests earlier this year.

The inflow of cheap goods has also had an effect on Colombian producers who have found it hard to compete with the contraband products. Colombian authorities also say such illicit trade, which they estimate to be worth US$6bn a year, is one of the main sources of finance for mafia and illegal groups in the country.

The measure is one of many to be implemented as a result of a meeting in Cartagena between President Juan Manuel Santos and President Nicolás Maduro earlier this month. The leaders met to review the peace process between Colombia and FARC and also discuss trade between the neighbours. They also reviewed freight and passenger transport and the efficiency of their borders as well as creating a permanent working group, directed by both countries’ ministries of economy, to monitor the effects of the new measures and also evaluate the bilateral trade.

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Venezuela: Arrested Diplomat Returns from Aruba


The island of Aruba is located in the Southern Caribbean, just north of Venezuela (image: Wikipedia)

The island of Aruba is located in the Southern Caribbean, just north of Venezuela (image: Wikipedia)

Hugo Carvajal, the Venezuelan Consul General to Aruba, returned to his home country yesterday after being illegally arrested on the island last week.

Carvajal, a former military intelligence chief, was arrested on 23rd July in the capital city of Oranjestad, following a request by the US Department of Justice. Carvajal is being investigated for alleged links with drug trafficking operations conducted by the FARC (Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces) in Venezuela. However, he was released yesterday after the Dutch state recognised that his arrest contravened international laws regarding diplomatic immunity, such as the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961.

Carvajal had been appointed Consul General earlier this year, though he was yet to receive formal approval by the Aruban government. According to Venezuela’s Supreme Court, the retired military official “began his consular functions on 7th February 2014, as per the notification made on 10th February 2014 by the General Consulate of Venezuela in Aruba to the Aruban Foreign Relations Department.”

On a note sent by the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Venezuelan government, it is stated that “As per article 13 of the consular agreement [the Vienna Convention], the head of a consular mission may be admitted provisionally to exercise their functions. In that case, the dispositions of the consular agreement apply. Based on this article, the Kingdom recognises that the dispositions of the consular agreement are applicable to Mr. Carvajal Barrios. This means that his detention on 23rd July was in violation of his [diplomatic] immunity, the Kingdom will see to his release.”

The note finishes saying: “The Kingdom informs the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela that Mr. Carvajal Barrios must return to his country after his release.”

Carvajal flew back to Caracas accompanied by the Venezuelan deputy chancellor for Europe, Calixto Ortega, and was greeted at the Simón Bolívar airport by Foreign Affairs Minister Elías Jaua. Upon his return, he said: “I want to point my finger at two people: the judge that dealt with my case and the prosecutor are both corrupt. I suspect they received money to do what they did to me.”

Talking to Venezuelan TV station TeleSUR in Aruba, Ortega said that “the government of the Netherlands assumed the criterion of the Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Ministry in the sense that the Mayor General [Carvajal] is a diplomatic functionary; common sense prevailed and that’s the reason why he was released.” On the potential severity of the issue, he added that “tensions arise when the diplomatic status is not acknowledged: this would have set a very grave precedent with which we don’t know what could have happened.”

The US State Department issued a statement saying that the government “is deeply disappointed by the decision of the Dutch government” to release Carvajal “based on a supposed immunity that goes beyond the established international rules.”

The Island of Aruba is located in the Netherlands Antilles, some 27km north of the Venezuelan coast on the southern Caribbean Sea. It is one of the four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along with the Netherlands, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten.

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Venezuela: Charges Upheld against Leopoldo López


Leopoldo López (centre) gives himself up to the National Guard today (photo: AFP/ Juan Barreto/Télam)

Leopoldo López (centre) gave himself up to the National Guard on 18th February (photo: AFP/ Juan Barreto/Télam)

During a hearing that concluded in the early hours of this morning, Judge Adriana López upheld the charges against Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López, ordering him to be remanded in custody until his trial.

López is accused of being the mastermind behind arson, damage and conspiracy related to the violent events that took place during a student march on 12th February. He is also charged with inciting public violence. Four students are also facing charges related to damage and conspiracy.

His lawyers consider him a prisoner of conscience and maintain that he is being kept behind bars as a result of his political ideas.

López has been held military prison on the outskirts of the capital Caracas since 18th February, after handing himself in in the middle of a demonstration in support of him. No date has been set for his trial, but his lawyers estimate that it will begin in August. 

In other news, Venezuela’s attorney general, Luisa Ortega, yesterday issued subpoenas for former deputy María Corina Machado and other members of the opposition, ordering that they appear on Monday testify about the alleged assassination plot agains Maduro, which was unveiled last week. Former director of Petróleos de Venezuela, Pedro Burelli, former ambassador Diego Arria, and lawyer Ricardo Koesling will also appear.

Since anti-government protests erupted in Venezuela in February, 44 people have been killed and over 600 injured, and a further 2,500 have been imprisoned. 

 

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