Tag Archive | "venezuela"

Venezuela Deports 791 Colombian Citizens

President Maduro decreed a state of emergency on Friday (photo courtesy of Venezuelan government)

President Maduro decreed a state of emergency on Friday (photo courtesy of Venezuelan government)

The Venezuelan government handed in 791 Colombian citizens to the Colombian General Consulate over the weekend, informed the governor of Táchira José Vielma Mora.

The governor indicated that the Colombian citizens were in Venezuelan territory “illegally” and that the deportation had been carried out between Saturday and Sunday, “as per the law, without any abuses, without any humiliation, without torture; they’re in a place with chairs, drinking water, food; they were taken in a bus to the border between Colombia and Venezuela, without any kind of abuse.”

Vielma Mora was responding to calls from the Colombian government to its Venezuelan counterpart “to respect the integrity and human rights of Colombian citizens subject to arrests, deportations, and other actions.” Colombian authorities said there were at least 42 minors amongst the deportees, and requested that the right of families to remain together be guaranteed.

The deportation was carried out as part of the Venezuelan government’s Operation for Freedom and Protection of the People, a campaign by the national police force that seeks to eradicate gangs of smugglers operating in the border between the two countries. Almost 1,500 people have been deported this year as part of the operation.

The weekend crackdown follows a decree signed by President Nicolás Maduro on Friday declaring a 60-day state of emergency in various municipalities in the state of Táchira, in the border with Colombia. On Thursday morning, the president had already closed the border and increased military presence after an incident in which two Venezuelan soldiers were wounded in a clash with smugglers.

According to BBC Mundo, low prices in subsidised petrol and other goods have increased smuggling activities along the 2,200 Km border over the last decade. President Maduro has blamed Colombian paramilitary groups, whom he says operate in Venezuela causing shortages in order to destabilise his government.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has criticised the measures taken by the Venezuelan government, saying they are ineffective to combat smuggling and affect regular people on both sides of the border. “If we cooperate, the only losers are the criminals; but if the border is closed down and there is no coordination [between the two governments] the only winners are the criminals,” said Santos.


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Venezuela: Maduro Slams US ‘Aggression’ After Obama Decree

President Nicolás Maduro (photo courtesy of Venezuelan government)

President Nicolás Maduro (photo courtesy of Venezuelan government)

Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro has criticised Barack Obama for serving the “imperialist elite” after the US leader declared Venezuela a national security threat to the US.

In the latest escalation of diplomatic tensions between the countries, President Obama also extended sanctions to seven senior government officials in Caracas.

“President Barack Obama, in the name of the US imperialist elite, has decided to personally take on the task of defeating my government, intervening in Venezuela, and controlling it from the US,” said Maduro.

Maduro addressed the nation hours after an executive order issued by Obama stated that: “The situation in Venezuela… constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.”

The statement made reference to “the Government of Venezuela’s erosion of human rights guarantees, persecution of political opponents, curtailment of press freedoms, use of violence and human rights violations and abuses in response to antigovernment protests, and arbitrary arrest and detention of antigovernment protestors, as well as the exacerbating presence of significant public corruption.”

The Venezuelan president said that it was the US government that posed the greatest threat to its own people by “deciding to invade, to kill, to sponsor terrorism across the world.” He added that Obama would be “remembered for this aggression towards the Venezuelan people.”

Maduro said he would request that the National Assembly approve a special “Habilitating Law” to grant the Executive more powers to “defend peace in the homeland.” Venezuela’s Foreign Affairs Ministry also called back its highest ranking diplomat in the US and stated that Obama’s order was just to try and “justify imperialist interventionism.”

Several Latin American government quickly responded with support for Venezuela. Bolivian President Evo Morales called for a urgent meeting of the Union of South American States (Unasur) to discuss the issue. Ecuador’s Foreign Affairs Minister Ricardo Patiño said that Unasur would “not allow foreign intervention in Venezuela nor a coup d’etat against Maduro.”

The Cuban government, whose relationship with the US has thawed in recent months, also criticised Obama’s decision and offered its full support to Venezuela.


Yesterday’s exchange is the latest sign of worsening relations between Caracas and Washington. The US government had already applied sanctions to other officials it accused of instigating violence against protesters in 2014. Maduro responded by adding new visa requirements for US travellers in Venezuela, and ordered that the US embassy cut its staff from 100 to 17 to match the number of Venezuelan diplomats based in Washington.

Last month Maduro also accused the US of conspiring with opposition leaders in Venezuela to stage an attempted coup on 12th February. The operation led to the arrest of Caracas mayor Antonio Ledesma, a move Maduro’s opponents said was evidence of a clampdown on political opposition. Meanwhile, the apparent killing of a 14-year-old student during a recent protest by a member of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB), who has since been dismissed and detained, also drew concerns from international human rights groups over increasing police repression.

The government in Venezuela has also been criticised for the deteriorating economic situation, characterised by soaring inflation, dual exchange rates, and acute shortages of goods. Maduro contends that the current economic problems are the result of “destabilising” tactics by the opposition and private business, which he claims are deliberately hoarding goods to provoke shortages and social unrest.

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Venezuela: Government ‘Categorically Rejects’ New US Sanctions

President Nicolás Maduro (photo courtesy of Venezuelan government)

President Nicolás Maduro (photo courtesy of Venezuelan government)

The Venezuelan government has “categorically rejected” a new round of sanctions announced by the US, saying they violate international law.

Yesterday, Washington extended visa bans for Venezuelan officials it accuses of being behind human rights violations in the South American country. The travel bans, which come on top of sanctions already imposed late last year, now also apply to some family members of the officials involved.

“The reiteration of unilateral and coercive measures go against the will of all the governments and populations of Latin America and the Caribbean,” read a statement issued by the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in reference to recent agreements made at the CELAC summit in Costa Rica.

“The government regrets this ongoing aggression from the US government, which conspires against the respectful dialogue pursued by Venezuela in international affairs and opts to continue violating the principles of national sovereignty, equal rights, and no interference in internal affairs that are intrinsic to international law.”

Yesterday, US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said that the list of those affected by the new visa restrictions would remain confidential, but noted that “we are sending a clear message that human rights abusers, those who profit from public corruption, and their families are not welcome in the United States.”

Last night, President Nicolás Maduro condemned the new sanctions, calling them hypocritical and saying he would write to President Barack Obama to express his concerns.

“What human rights are they talking about?,” he said at a party rally. “They kill black youth in the street with impunity, they persecute and have concentration camps of Central American kids. (In Guantanamo), they have abducted dozens of citizens of the world under no known legal system, submitting them to torture, isolation.”

Last week, Maduro accused US Vice President Joe Biden of attempting to lead a coup against him, something the US government said was “baseless and false”.

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Cuba: Highest Investment in Education in the World

Cuban school children (photo: Wikipedia)

Cuban school children (photo: Wikipedia)

According to a new report by the World Bank, Cuba spends 13% of its GDP on education, a figure that marks the highest investment in the sector in the world. The report follows findings from earlier this year that noted that the country had the highest literacy rate in the region.

Bolivia and Venezuela are the next countries in the region with 6.9% of their GDP going towards the sector, placing them joint 9th in the world rankings. The regional average for Latin America is 5.5% of GDP.

The report highlighted the increase in investment in the sector by Bolivia, which has increased between 2009 and 2013 to a tune of 319% in starter education, 105% in primary, and 306% in secondary. This represents a new record of US$2.3bn.

Bolivian president Evo Morales responded to the country’s ranking during his 2014 annual review of government, saying: “Those of us who have the responsibility of running the country are very encouraged, and such recognition by international organisations is very good.”

Venezuela ends the year with a record number of students, with 10.5m enrolled (of a population of 30m) in education overall, including a record 96% of children completing primary education. There are also a record 2.6m students in higher education, an increase of 294% from 2000. This is the largest number in the country’s history, and the fifth highest rate globally.

The investment in education is part of a larger social plan, recently dubbed a ‘Knowledge Revolution’ by President Nicolás Maduro. Policies to achieve these advances include the establishment of new educational “mission” programs, the foundation of new universities, reinforcing the free nature of higher education, with over 200,000 people awarded grants to study, and the provision of free school meals, textbooks, and laptops to schoolchildren.

Earlier this year the country undertook a national consultation for quality in education, in which more than seven million Venezuelans participated, among them teachers, students, parents, and social movements, to define the bases of education policy for the next ten years.

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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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