Tag Archive | "venezuela"

US Sanctions Against Venezuela Signed by Obama


Opposition protests ended in violence in Venezuela (photo: AVN/Télam/ddc)

The sanctions are linked to violent protests which took place earlier this year in Venezuela (photo: AVN/Télam/ddc)

US president Barack Obama yesterday signed sanctions against 53 Venezuelan officials considered to be responsible for human rights violations linked to the anti-government protests that took place earlier this year.

Thirty-nine people – including protestors, government supporters, and police – were killed during weeks of unrest.

The sanctions, which freeze assets and limit travel to the US, were approved by the US Congress last week. It is the first time the United States has imposed sanctions against Venezuela.

Introducing the bill, Senator Robert Menendez said: “We in the United States have an obligation to shine a bright spotlight on Venezuela’s abuses and must object to the severe human rights violations committed by the Maduro government and his paramilitary thugs.”

Responding to the news, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro noted that the move came one day after the US initiated a period of detente with Cuba, saying on twitter: “The United States recognises the failure in its policies of aggression and blockades which our sister Cuba resisted and overcame” … and at the same time “it initiates a new stage of escalated aggression against the Bolivarian homeland which is totally rejected by our people.”

He went on to call the sanctions a “false move”, and noted that thousands of Venezuelans had demonstrated in Caracas on Monday in support of their government and against the US policy.

Maduro was in Argentina for a meeting of the regional Mercosur bloc, which issued a statement rejecting the sanctions against one of its members. The summit ended yesterday, with special declarations by the region’s heads of states in support of Venezuela and also backing Argentina’s judicial battles against holdout creditors.

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The Indy’s Weekly Review – 12th December 2014


In this week’s podcast: we analyse the housing crisis in Buenos Aires, four years on from the Parque Indoamericano takeover; during human rights’ week, we talk to Cecilia Milesi about Argentina’s leading role in transitional justice issues; and as the US Congress proposes sanctions against Venezuela, we look at the double-standards of international media when covering the South American country.

All that, plus a roundup of the week’s headlines from Argentina and Latin America, and music from our featured artist, Orkesta Popular San Bomba.

Presenters: Kristie Robinson & Marc Rogers
Production: Celina Andreassi
Editing: Pablo Fisher

You can also download this week’s podcast, and all previous episodes, from iTunes.

We will be looking to continually improve and add to this podcast, and we’d love to hear your feedback on it, as well as suggestions for any additional stories or content you’d like us to cover in it in the future. Send us an email at info@argentinaindependent.com, or comment on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

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Venezuela: 13 Dead in Prison Riot


Humberto Prado, from the Venezuelan Prison Observatory (photo: PROVEA)

Humberto Prado, from the Venezuelan Prison Observatory (photo: PROVEA)

At least 13 people have died and 145 poisoned during a prison riot in the north-west of Venezuela.

The incident occurred in the prison of Uribana, in the state of Lara, when a group of inmates who were carrying out a hunger strike entered the prison’s infirmary and took a number of medications, including antibiotics and medicines against epilepsy and hypertension, according to the Ministry of Penitentiary Services.

However Humberto Prado, member of the Venezuelan Prison Observatory (OVP), questioned the official version, saying: “Inmates are not that stupid so as to take medicines without reading [the information leaflet].” He also questioned the number of victims, as the OVP reported that 19 bodies were received by the morgue.

The Uribana inmates were striking since Monday, demanding better conditions and denouncing the violation of their human rights by prison authorities. The jail is home to 3,700 inmates — four times its allowed capacity.

As well as the Uribana riots, the Prosecutor’s office informed on Wednesday that 41 inmates from a provisional detention centre outside of Caracas had escaped after opening a hole in the walls of the cells.

Such incidents are not unusual in Venezuela, where 150 inmates died in violent episodes in the first half of 2014 alone, according to the OVP. Jail conditions in the country are at tipping point: the OVP reported that the worst problems are an overcrowding of 190% as well as the unsanitary conditions and malnutrition the inmates are subject to.

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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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