You can look at the source documents yourself. This is not opinion, conjecture, or rumor. Hillary Clinton transmitted the names of American intelligence officials via her unclassified email.
From a series of Clinton emails, numerous names were redacted in the State Department releases with the classification code “B3 CIA PERS/ORG,” a highly specialized classification that means the information, if released, would violate the Central Intelligence Act of 1949 by exposing the names of CIA officials.
How FOIA Works
The Freedom of information Act (FOIA) requires the government to release all, or all parts of a document, that do not fall under a specific set of allowed exemptions. If information cannot be excluded, it must be released. If some part of a document can be redacted to allow the rest of the document to be released, then that is what must be done. Each redaction must be justified by citing a specific reason for exclusion.
But don’t believe me. Instead, look at page two of this State Department document which lists the exemptions.
Note specifically the different types of “(b)(3)” redactions, including “CIA PERS/ORG.” As common sense would dictate, the government will not release the names of CIA employees via the FOIA process. It would — literally — be against the law. What law? Depending on the nature of the individual’s job at CIA, National Security Act of 1947, the CIA Act of 1949, various laws that govern undercover/clandestine CIA officers and, potentially, the Espionage Act of 1917.
Names of CIA, NSA Officials Mentioned, Now Redacted
Yet Hillary’s emails contain at least three separate, specific instances where she mentioned in an unclassified email transmitted across the open Internet and wirelessly to her Blackberry the names of CIA personnel. Here they are. Look for the term “(b)(3) CIA PERS/ORG” Click on the links and see for yourself:
There are also numerous instances of exposure of the names and/or email addresses of NSA employees (“B3 NSA”); see page 23 inside this longer PDF document.
Why It Matters
— These redactions point directly to violations of specific laws. It is not a “mistake” or minor rule breaking.
— These redactions strongly suggest that the Espionage Act’s standard of mishandling national defense information through “gross negligence” may have been met by Clinton.
— There is no ambiguity in this information, no possible claims to faux-retroactive classification, not knowing, information not being labeled, etc. Clinton and her staff know that one cannot mention CIA names in open communications. It is one of the most basic tenets taught and exercised inside the government. One protects one’s colleagues.
— Exposing these names can directly endanger the lives of the officials. It can endanger the lives of the foreigners they interacted with after a foreign government learns one of their citizens was talking with the CIA. It can blow covers and ruin sensitive clandestine operations. It can reveal to anyone listening in on this unclassified communication sources and methods. Here is a specific example of how Clinton likely compromised security.
— These redactions show complete contempt on Clinton’s part for the security process.
BONUS: There is clear precedent for others going to jail for exposing CIA names. Read the story of John Kiriakou.
A Personal Aside: I just remain incredulous about these revelations seeming to mean nothing to the world. They’re treated in the media as almost gossip.
Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. His second book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent. Next up is a novel about WWII Japan, Hooper’s War. He writes about current events at http://www.wemeantwell.com and on Twitter @wemeantwell
Caracas – Russia’s Foreign Ministry has spoken out against “outside” efforts to destabilise Venezuela, warning against the consequences of imposing “colour scenarios” on the South American nation.
On Monday, Russian news agency Tass and Sputnik International reported that Russia’s Foreign Ministry had released an official statement addressing the current situation in Venezuela.
“The upsurge of tensions in Venezuela is being fed from outside,” asserted the Foreign Ministry statement.
“We are confident that a political solution to Venezuelan problems is to be found by the Venezuelan people who have elected its legitimate authorities… Destructive interference from outside is inadmissible,” it continued.
The South American country has been suffering from a worsening economic crisis for the past two years and is currently locked in a political stand-off between the executive branch and the opposition controlled legislature.
In firm language, the declaration also reminded other global powers that “no-one has the right to impose ‘color scenarios’ on Venezuela, referring to the outside financing of “proxy” organisations aimed at destabilising the national government.
Russia also warned that current tensions in Venezuela risk spilling over into open conflict on the nation’s streets, bringing “serious consequences” for the rest of the region.
Moscow’s remarks come as the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) begins to take tentative steps towards opening up negotiations between Venezuela’s two warring political factions: the leftist government of Nicolas Maduro, and the rightwing political coalition, the MUD, which currently controls the National Assembly.
However, escalating rumours of a possible coup against the national government in recent weeks are threatening to dampen hopes of a rapprochement.
The MUD has pledged to remove Maduro through a variety of “constitutional” means since taking hold of the legislature last December.
Nonetheless, Russia said it backed a UNASUR negotiated solution to the crisis and asked both sides to “cool down” their emotions. It also confirmed it would be open to participating in negotiation efforts in Venezuela if requested.
“We are confident that the main challenge facing Venezuela at the moment is to find realistic ways out of the economic crisis, improve the social situation of broad layers of the population… It is obvious that this is possible only in conditions of internal political tranquility,” asserted the foreign ministry declaration.
Although Moscow didn’t name the “outside” influences which it cites as exacerbating tensions in Venezuela, it is possible that the US has caught the Kremlin’s eye.
Just last week, Russia’s Vice-minister for Foreign Affairs, Sergéi Ryabkov, said that his government believed that Washington was intensifying its attempts to directly “interfere” in Latin American affairs to the detriment of the region.
He cited a swing to the right in Argentina’s government, as well as the recent controversial impeachment of Brazil’s left leaning president, Dilma Rousseff, as examples.
The Sudanese foreign ministry has sent a formal request to the US Embassy in Khartoum to grant the Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir an entry visa to the US to attend the next United Nations General Assembly.
Information Minister Ahmed Bilal said President Al-Bashir had been invited by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He said the US is obligated, as host of the UN, to grant a visa to the leader.
It would be Bashir’s first visit to the US since 2009 when he was indicted by the Hague-based ICC for alleged war crimes in Darfur.
In addition, the Sudanese minister announced the government’s desire to make a formal request, as it previously did, for the mandate of the international peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID, not to be renewed.
Ismail said that the reasons for the existence of UNAMID in Darfur are no longer present and that the government is now able to protect civilians and to ensure the stability of the situation.
UNAMID has been stationed in Darfur since 2007 with a mandate to stem violence against civilians. The UN Security Council will discuss a one-year renewal of its mission in June.
Venezuelan authorities did not carry firearms to the protests in Caracas and several authorities were injured by violent protesters. (AVN)
Caracas – Seven individuals were arrested for allegedly attacking Venezuelan police during a violent opposition march in Caracas on Wednesday that left five officers injured.
The march was part of nationwide mobilizations convoked by the right-wing opposition coalition, the MUD, protesting alleged stalling by the National Electoral Council (CNE). The CNE is in the process of validating the 1.85 million signatures collected by the coalition for a recall referendum against President Nicolas Maduro.
The MUD called for supporters to march to the CNE headquarters in the heavily pro-government city center despite being refused a permit by the El Libertador municipality over concerns of violence.
Bolivarian National Police (PNB) personnel were dispatched to prevent demonstrators from marching along the principal Avenida Libertador where they were attacked by a group of men wielding sticks and rocks.
“A group of people came to attack us. One of the citizens became violent and hit me. The shield protected me the first time, but the second time I fell,” recounts 22 year-old PNB officer Dubraska Alvarez, who suffered post-trauma capsulitis in her right elbow and multiple traumatisms.
Unarmed police beaten by demonstrators (teleSUR)
In a video that has circulated widely on social media, another officer can be seen falling to the ground after receiving a blow from a stick-wielding demonstrator and subsequently being beaten while prostrate by five men with sticks.
Another police functionary, Genessis Llovera Mambie, suffered the dislocation of her right shoulder while officer Erick Escalante came away with post-trauma bursitis in his left shoulder and a knee lesion.
Despite international media reports of police repression against protesters, PNB personnel were prohibited from carrying armaments and were only permitted to use tear gas if authorized by superiors.
“Our only order was to prevent people from entering Avenida Libertador, and we didn’t even have any sort of arms… it was inevitable [that people entered] because we only had shields to protect ourselves physically,” added Alvarez, who declined to show her face to the camera for fear of reprisals.
Seven men suspected of perpetrating the attacks were arrested in the heart of the wealthy eastern Caracas municipality of Chacao on Wednesday afternoon and were subsequently transported to the July 26th Penitentiary in Guarico state where they will await charges.
According to authorities, one of the suspects, Jheremy Bastardo Lugo, is a repeat offender who was reportedly arrested during the 2014 anti-government protests that saw opposition supporters erect violent barricades across the country, leading to the death of 43 people, the majority of whom were state security personnel and passerby.
Student residences vandalized
In addition to the violent incident on Avenida Libertador, protesters are reported to have vandalized a government-constructed student residence in Plaza Venezuela, breaking windows and allegedly attempting to set the building on fire.
“With sticks, stones, and gasoline, they were going to burn down the residence and the guards. I was attacked by hooded men armed with stones and bottles,” said student resident Angel Rodriguez.
“For having a different political ideology, they broke the windows, my comrades were attacked,” another student told teleSUR.
El Libertador Mayor Jorge Rodriguez denounced the day’s violent episodes and vowed to press charges against those responsible.
“This is the reason why we didn’t give them a permit to march to the city center,” he stated, pointing to the broken windows of the student residence.
Capriles blames “infiltrators”
Former opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles publicly blamed the violence on “infiltrators”, calling the incidents a “set up” by the government.
“We know the plan, but we are not going to stop protesting. We are not afraid, we will [protest] in the face of the infiltrators, because it is our duty to fulfill the Constitution,” he stated.
However, Wednesday’s protest was not the only instance in which the Miranda state governor has condoned violent demonstrations.
Last week, the former presidential candidate was also involved in his own confrontation with police, as he and his supporters attempted to physically break a police line in Miranda state.
Following his narrow defeat in the 2013 elections, Capriles also refused to honor the internationally-recognized result, urging his supporters “vent their rage” in street protests that left seven people dead and saw numerous government health clinics and food markets burned.
In the lead up to Wednesday’s protests, Capriles issued a public statement to members of the Venezuelan armed forces, urging them to reject a state of exception expanded by President Maduro on Friday and oppose alleged attempts by the government to block the recall process.
“Prepare the tanks and war planes… the hour of truth is coming to decide whether you are with the constitution or with Maduro,” he declared on Tuesday.
Earlier this week, a special commission responsible for supervising the referendum process announced that 190,000 signatures collected by the opposition as part of the initial recall request belonged to deceased individuals.
The statement has been sharply denounced by opposition leaders who accuse the CNE of intentionally dragging out the process in order to prevent the recall referendum from being held this year.
Unless the referendum is held in 2016, a successful recall vote will not trigger new presidential elections, with the sitting vice-president instead taking over as president for the remainder of the term.
Ernesto Samper, secretary-general of the Union of South American Nations. Photo – UNASUR
Ernesto Samper, secretary-general of the Union of South American Nations, told teleSUR in an exclusive interview that Dilma Rousseff remained “the legitimate leader” of the Brazilian people and maintains “democratic legitimacy” by virtue of having been re-elected in 2014.
During a press conference Thursday, Samper said that the decision of the Brazilian Congress to initiate an impeachment trial against President Dilma Rousseff was “compromising the democratic governability of the region in a dangerous way.”
“What has happened in Brazil, is a parliamentary political majority is challenging the citizens’ majority that expressed themselves in a clear way in favor of Rousseff,” said Samper referring to the 2014 re-election of President Rousseff.
He stopped short of calling the impeachment trial of Rousseff a rupture of democratic order, which would have triggered the possible suspension of Brazil from the regional bloc.
He added that the efforts by Brazilian politicians to oust Rousseff via impeachment were of “a political character” and criticized the lower chamber for failing to provide Rousseff with room to defend herself.
Samper called on the upper chamber, which will now preside over her trial, to respect due process.
“In this new phase, we ask that the right to defense for President Rousseff be guaranteed,” said Samper.
The secretary-general of UNASUR said it was “not their place to comment on the interim government (of Michel Temer).”
During an earlier event Wednesday, Samper said the greatest risk to governance in the region were groups who “engage in political work without political responsibility.”
The impeachment effort against Rousseff was largely driven by political, media, and economic elites in Brazil.
The support of the Globo media conglomerate was essential in stirring up support for impeachment, providing disproportional coverage of corruption allegations against members of the Workers’ Party and granting widespread media attention to right-wing rallies calling for Rousseff’s ouster.
Elements of the country’s judiciary—including Sergio Moro, the judge who is presiding over the investigation into a corruption scandal—played a lead political role, which Rousseff’s supporters said were inappropriate for a judge.
The country’s Supreme Court also refrained from intervening and stopping the coup plot, despite the fact that Rousseff was being put on trial without having been found guilty of any crime.
The impeachment effort against the ousted Brazilian president is based on allegations she manipulated budget accounts, a deed committed by most of her predecessors and by some of the very senators who voted for impeachment efforts to proceed.
The UNASUR chief previously warned that a potential impeachment scenario would set a “dangerous” precedent by criminalizing standard government budget management practices.
“Some people think they can lie and get away with it,” said former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with feigned outrage. And, of course, he has never been held accountable for his lies, proving his dictum true.
The question today is: Will former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Teflon coat be as impermeable to deep scratches as Rumsfeld’s has proven to be?
With the “mainstream media” by and large giving Hillary Clinton a pass on her past, few Americans realize how many Pinocchio faces need to be tacked onto many of her statements. Clinton is said to be “unquestionably” the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, essentially the presumptive nominee. That is unquestionably true – but only because she has not been questioned with much rigor at all. And on those few occasions when she has been asked hard questions, she has often ducked them.
For example, at the March 9 debate in Miami, Jorge Ramos, the longtime anchor for Noticiero Univision, asked Secretary Clinton whether she would quit the presidential race if she were indicted for putting classified information on her private email server.
She replied: “Oh, for goodness sake, it’s not going to happen. I’m not even answering that question.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Is Hillary Clinton Above the Law?”]
Not so fast, Madame Secretary. It is looking more and more as if you will, after all, have to answer that question.
Those “Damn Emails” Again
On Wednesday in Washington, DC, a federal judge issued an order that may eventually require Clinton to testify under oath in a lawsuit related to the private email server she used while Secretary of State.
The judge gave Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, permission to take sworn testimony from close Clinton aide Huma Abedin and others over the next eight weeks. It is possible that Clinton herself will have to testify under oath on the serious email issue before arriving at the Democratic convention in July.
One key issue in question is whether all relevant documents have been provided to Judicial Watch. My guess is that – given lawyers’ propensity, and often their incentive, to secure delay after delay in such proceedings – there may not be much likelihood of all this happening that quickly.
More precarious for Secretary Clinton, in my view, is the possibility that FBI Director James Comey will be allowed to perform a serious investigation and pursue Clinton on sworn testimony she has already given; for example, on whether she was aware of an operation run out of Benghazi to deliver Libyan weapons to rebels in Syria.
During her marathon testimony on Oct. 22, 2015, to the House Select Committee on Benghazi chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, was very specific in his questioning, leaving Clinton little wiggle-room:
Pompeo: Were you aware or are you aware of any U.S. efforts by the U.S. government in Libya to provide any weapons, directly or indirectly, or through a cutout, to any Syrian rebels or militias or opposition to Syrian forces?
Pompeo: Were you aware or are you aware of any efforts by the U.S. government in Libya to facilitate or support the provision of weapons to any opposition of Gadhafi’s forces, Libyan rebels or militias through a third party or country?
Did Secretary Clinton think we were “born yesterday,” as Harry Truman used to say? From what is already known about the activities of the U.S. “mission” and “annex” in Benghazi and the role played by the late Ambassador Christopher Stevens there, it seems quite likely that Clinton perjured herself in answering No.
And I believe this will become quite clear, if the FBI is allowed to pursue an unfettered investigation – and even clearer if the National Security Agency shares the take from its dragnet surveillance.
But those are big IFs. If I read President Barack Obama correctly, he will be more inclined to tell Attorney General Loretta Lynch to call off the FBI, just as he told former Attorney General Eric Holder to let retired General (and CIA Director) David Petraeus off with a slap on the wrist for giving his mistress intelligence of the highest classification and then lying about it to the FBI.
As for Clinton, perjury is not the kind of rap that she would welcome as she pursues the presidency. Trouble is, not only FBI investigators but also NSA collect-it-all snoopers almost certainly have the goods on whatever the truth is, with their easy access to the content of emails both classified and unclassified. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Hillary Clinton’s Damning Emails.”]
Sadly, Comey and his counterparts at NSA are likely to cave in if the President tells them to cease and desist. Indeed, like legendary FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, they may relish the prospect of being able to hold their knowledge of Hillary Clinton’s possible perjury and other misdeeds like a sword of Damocles over her head if she becomes president.
Thus, unless another patriot with the courage of an Edward Snowden or a Daniel Ellsberg recognizes that his primary duty is to honor his/her oath “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic,” and acts accordingly, the country could end up with a compromised President beholden to Hoover’s successors and the NSA sleuths who “collect everything,” including the emails of the Secretary of State – and those of the President.
Those at the FBI and NSA with the courage to consider whistleblowing need to be aware of the proud tradition they would be joining. The first recipient of the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence (2002) was Coleen Rowley of the FBI, and in 2004 the award was given to FBI analyst and translator Sibel Edmonds.
As for signals intelligence, no fewer than four Sam Adams whistleblower awardees have come from NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ: the UK’s Katharine Gun (2003), and three from NSA itself – Thomas Drake (2011), Edward Snowden (2013), and William Binney (2015).
More distinguished company among people of integrity would be difficult – if not impossible – to find. In a few months, we will be considering nominations for the award to be given in 2017.
Former UK diplomats are cashing in on their contacts and experience and advising despots, venture capitalists and Gulf regimes, according to a new investigation.
Britain’s ex-ambassadors to Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, as well as former MPs, are legally profiting from conflict zones and poor countries in the Global South, according to the Daily Mail.
It has led to concerns that former diplomats are using their years of exposure to state secrets and their enviable contact lists to win lucrative paydays with big corporations.
One of the most high-profile figures involved is a former ambassador to Afghanistan, and one-time critic of the war and occupation, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles.
Cowper-Coles took a job working for British arms firm BAE in 2010 after taking early retirement from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
Critics have connected him with halting a major investigation into the UK/Saudi arms trade in 2006.
He left BAE in 2013 to take up a role with HSBC. Both appointments were approved by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA), which examines if any conflicts of interest arise from such appointments.
Another former diplomat named in the investigation is Sir Dominic Asquith, who served as ambassador to Libya between 2011 and 2012 – the period immediately after the UK’s disastrous intervention to remove the Gaddafi regime.
Asquith now advises the Libya Holdings Group, which seeks out investment opportunities in the war-torn North African state.
Former ambassador to Nigeria Sir Andrew Lloyd later became a vice president of Statoil, under the proviso from ACOBA that he not deal with the firm’s Nigerian operations.
The highly experienced Sir William Patey – a former UK representative to Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia – later became an advisor for private security firm Global Risks.
Elected politicians have also been involved in similar venture capital schemes in the developing world.
Former Tory Africa minister Sir Henry Bellingham once sang the praises of UK mining firm Pathfinder Minerals to the government of Mozambique when the company was involved in a legal dispute. He now chairs the firm.
Blairite ex-Foreign Secretary David Miliband is reported to have earned up to £1 million from his advisory jobs within two years of leaving office. That includes £15,000 for one day of advising a Pakistan venture capitalist and £65,000 for sitting on a foreign ministerial forum in the United Arab Emirates.
Recently a number of retired British military generals have been seen to be involved in similar activities.
On April 27, ex-general Simon Mayall, former Ministry of Defence advisor to the Gulf, told a parliamentary committee on the arms trade that its inquiries were “unwelcome and self-defeating.”
After leaving the military in 2015, he took up a role at Greenhill & Co, a major investment bank with global reach and Middle East energy interests.
On April 18, former general and ex-head of mercenary firm Aegis James Ellery was interviewed by the Guardian over allegations the company was using former Sierra Leonean child soldiers as private guards in Iraq.
Ellery, who left Aegis in 2015, lamented the state of the mercenary market, saying: “I’m afraid all we can afford now is Africans.”
Ellery’s previous jobs include demobilizing Sierra Leone child soldiers as part of a UN program.
RAMALLAH – A student bloc of the Hamas movement on Wednesday came out on top in the closely-followed elections at Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.
Following debates between factions vying for the student vote, the pro-Hamas al-Wafaa Islamic bloc claimed victory after gaining 25 seats, with the Yasser Arafat bloc of the Fatah movement trailing behind with 21 seats.
The bloc representing Leftist movement Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine for its part came out with five seats, while other leftist parties including the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Palestinian People’s Party did not receive enough votes to garner a seat.
Voter turnout was reported as 76 percent of the student body.
The Islamic bloc last year won elections for the first time since 2007 at the historically staunchly pro-Fatah campus, taking observers by surprise.
As this year marked ten years since the last national elections, university elections are seen as important indicators of public opinion by political commentators in Palestine and Birzeit is considered to be the most important campus in the yearly political contests.
The Hamas movement congratulated the Islamic bloc for its win at Birzeit and said the victory was an indicator that the movement still had strong sway among the Palestinian public.
The Gaza-based movement said the win came despite efforts by both the Israeli authorities and Palestinian Authority to suppress the Hamas vote, citing the detention of Student Council President Saif al-Islam Daghlas and other students.
Human Rights Watch last year slammed the PA for detaining Palestinian university students across the West Bank after elections “for no apparent reason other than their connection to Hamas or their opinions.”
Hamas’ victory over Fatah comes as the rival factions have shown continued failure to follow through on with attempts to form a unity government since April 2014, after being on cold terms since 2006 when Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections.
In the following year, violent clashes erupted between Fatah and Hamas, leaving Hamas in control of Gaza and Fatah in control of the occupied West Bank.
Factional disputes between Palestinian factions have been on the rise since a wave of unrest erupted across the occupied Palestinian territory in October.
Hamas and PFLP in particular have lambasted the PA’s ongoing security coordination with Israel as an alleged attempt to quash resistance against the Israeli occupation, while Hamas last summer accused the PA of attempting to eradicate the movement from the West Bank.
Elections haven’t been held in the occupied Palestinian territory for ten years and the public has grown increasingly disillusioned with Palestinian political parties.
Frustration has grown among the youth in particular, with growing numbers showing preference for participating in demonstrations or resistance that are not affiliated with any political party.
Caracas – Venezuela’s opposition-controlled legislature passed a constitutional amendment in first discussion this Wednesday. If approved by popular referendum, the reform will cut short the terms of mayors, governors, and even the current president, triggering presidential elections later this year.
The proposed amendment seeks to modify articles 160, 174, 230, and 233 of the constitution, reducing gubernatorial, mayoral, and presidential terms from six to four years and prohibiting more than one consecutive reelection.
Supporters are billing the reform as a check on executive powers, but detractors have derided it as a ruse to force the country’s current leftist president from office before his term is up.
Controversially, the bill’s authors propose that the amendment would not only affect future elected terms, but retroactively be applied to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s current 2013-2019 term in office. The approved reform would see Maduro’s presidency come to an end on January 10, 2017.
The proposal is now awaiting final approval by the National Assembly, which would trigger a popular vote on the reforms within 30 days.
In line with the country’s constitution, all amendments to the Magna Carta must first be approved by a nation-wide referendum before coming into effect.
If the Venezuelan electorate approves the reform, the legislation would force presidential elections to choose Maduro’s successor before December 11th this year.
The amendment would also alter the transition procedure in the event that the president is recalled, impeached, or resigns, naming the National Assembly president and not the vice-president as president in the interim period. In such a situation, Venezuela would see veteran right-wing opposition leader Henry Ramos Allup take the reins over the country.
The amendment has however been met with sharp criticism by members of the minority socialist parliamentary bloc, who denounced the measure as unconstitutional.
“[The proposed amendment] violates articles 340, 341, and 342 of the constitution, according to which, an amendment is only a simple modification of one or various articles without altering the spirit of the document,” declared socialist party (PSUV) legislator Edwin Rojas.
“Amendments are not designed to reduce or revoke an elected mandate because the recall referendum already exists for that purpose,” he added, describing the move as a thinly veiled attempt to oust the country’s democratically-elected leftist president.
The pro-Maduro minority bloc also took aim at the Organic Referendum Law that was approved in second discussion on Wednesday.
According to its backers, the legislation seeks to streamline the process for convening recall referenda, shortening the time necessary for the procedure from eight months to five.
The right-wing parliamentary majority has accused the National Electoral Council (CNE) of obstructing its efforts to convene a recall referendum against President Maduro by allegedly stalling in turning over the official sheets for signature collection.
However, members of the leftist parliamentary coalition likewise condemned the proposed law as unconstitutional, as well as an attempt to override the country’s legally recognised electoral monitoring body, the CNE (National Electoral Council).
“The Referendum Law is an initiative of the opposition that is full of vices given that the Venezuelan Constitution clearly establishes that the electoral arena is the exclusive responsibility of the electoral authority [CNE],” argued the young PSUV lawmaker Jorge Perez.
Constitutional scholars have also raised doubts over whether the opposition-controlled chamber can pass the legislation given that the Venezuelan Constitution specifies that organic laws must be approved by a two-thirds super majority.
“We should realize the foolishness of the powerless opposition majority in the National Assembly promoting a law that it won’t be able to approve unless it miraculously convinces three Chavista legislators in order to reach the 112 required votes,” writes constitutional lawyer Jesus Silva on Aporrea.
If the law is approved without three-fourths backing, it will remain merely “symbolic” only to be subsequently struck down by the Supreme Court, he continued.
Although the rightwing Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition initially gained the 112 seats needed for a super-majority, three of their lawmakers and one Chavista were temporarily suspended following reports of vote-rigging.
Parliamentary Bloc Launches Offensive
Together the amendment and the recall referendum form part of a “roadmap” for ousting President Maduro announced by right-wing MUD coalition in March.
The simultaneous set of strategies also includes plans for street mobilizations to demand the resignation of the leftist president as well as a constituent assembly to rewrite the 1999 Constitution.
Critics have nevertheless held up the plan as an indication of the opposition’s sharp internal divisions, evidencing their failure to unite around a single strategy.
The lower house of Brazil’s parliament on Sunday supported the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, with those seeking her ouster securing the support of two-thirds of votes.
The divide among the Brazilian people was demonstrated on Sunday by thousands of pro- and anti-impeachment protesters outside the Congress building where the vote was taking place.
As the votes trickled in favouring the impeachment bid, the ruling Workers Party conceded defeat.
“The fight is now in the courts, the street and the senate. We lost because the coup-mongers were stronger,” Jose Guimarães, the leader of the Workers party in the lower house, said.
While she has not been accused of corruption, the popularity of Rousseff’s government has plummeted owing to a graft scandal at state oil company Petrobras and the investment strike targeting Rousseff’s downfall.
The issue of impeachment will now be put forth in the upper house of parliament for the consideration of the senate. If over 50 per cent of senators support it, Rousseff will leave her post for 180 days, during which Brazilian lawmakers will consider her case.
During that period, the country will be led by Vice President Michel Temer. If senators disagree with the arguments of presidential impeachment initiators, Rousseff will return to her post. If Rousseff is found guilty, Temer will remain acting president until the 2018 elections.
Rousseff has accused her critics of mounting a coup. She released a speech on social media over the weekend stressing that “the sovereign will of the people is at stake. Social achievements and the rights of Brazilians are at stake.”
A Guardian report listed the corruption-tainted deputies who voted for the impeachment bid on Sunday condemning the Brazilian President.
Business lobbies have openly thrown their weight behind the ouster of Rousseff, as they look to Vice President and centre-right leader Temer to restore business confidence and growth.
According to Brazilian newspaper O Globo, Temer, watched the impeachment proceedings alongwith bigwigs of his party, including Senator Romero Juca, with whom he is reported to have been planning his next move.
Rousseff watched the vote from the Alvorada Palace, the official presidential residence, together with former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and other allies.
Caracas – Venezuela’s right-wing opposition coalition, the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD), announced Tuesday it will not participate in the new Truth Commission established by the national government to investigate 2014’s violent anti-government protests known as the guarimbas.
The commission is a response on the part of the administration of President Nicolas Maduro to an amnesty law passed by the country’s right wing-controlled parliament, which was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (TSJ) Monday on the grounds that it would sanction impunity by freeing those convicted of violent crimes provided that they were committed “with a political end”.
Denouncing the TSJ ruling as politicized judicial activism, the MUD broadcast its refusal to participate in the Truth Commission, questioning its impartiality despite the presence of UNASUR Secretary General Ernesto Samper as well as ex-presidents from Panama, Spain, and the Dominican Republic.
“We’re not going to fall for their booby trap of offering to release a few political prisoners who have every right to be free in the context of some truth commission handpicked by the government and announced on television,” said National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup.
In particular, the Democratic Action leader took aim at Samper, who he accused of “partiality” towards the government in refusing to take a stance on the Amnesty Law and the TSJ decision.
Samper, for his part, dismissed the criticisms, citing UNASUR’s commitment to non-interference in the internal affairs of its member states.
The former Colombian president praised the commission as “one of peace, not of war” that will “offer Venezuelans the possibility to find a path of sincere dialogue.”
In addition to the UNASUR chief, the commission will include Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Martin Torrijos, and Leonal Fernandez, the former presidents of Spain, Panama, and Dominican Republic, respectively.
The commission was officially opened on Tuesday. According to Vice-President Aristobolo Isturiz, it will be tasked with “visibilizing and hearing [the testimony of] people affected by the violent acts that occurred in the country [in 2014],” in which 43 people were killed and over 800 injured.