By Mark Weisbrot | The Hill | November 6, 2016
The Vatican’s participation in the mediation effort in Venezuela poses an unusual challenge to US policy in Venezuela and the region. On Sunday, October 30, three of the four major opposition parties and other prominent opposition leaders met with the government, with mediators from the Vatican and UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations). Some progress was made. The government released four people who the opposition considers political prisoners, and the opposition called off a political trial against President Maduro and a planned demonstration that most observers believed ran a high risk of violence.
Thomas Shannon, the number three official in the US State Department, also went to Venezuela this week, met with President Maduro and opposition leaders, and supported the dialogue. I wish I could say that this represents an actual change in US policy in the region, but all evidence still points to the contrary.
The US government is not looking at Venezuela in terms of dialogue or compromise. The Obama administration has economic sanctions against Venezuela, which President Obama renewed last March. In renewing these sanctions, the executive order again declared that Venezuela presented “an unusual and extraordinary threat to US security.” The world knows what happens to countries that the US deems to be “an unusual and extraordinary” security threat. Look what happened to Iraq. Look what happened to Nicaragua in the 1980s. It doesn’t matter how many people are directly affected by the specific sanctions against Venezuela. The threat is what matters, and it is ugly and belligerent enough to keep many investors from investing in Venezuela and to raise the country’s cost of borrowing. (Not to mention that the whole premise of Venezuela as a “security threat” is absurd.) And the US government has also directly pressured financial institutions not to do business with Venezuela.
For all of these reasons, it is clear that Washington’s goal in Venezuela is currently the same as it has been for almost all of the past 15 years. Shannon’s support for dialogue is almost certain to turn out the same as previous diplomatic thaws in the past: a brief and insincere interlude. President Obama initiated the longest period (about five months) of calm US-Venezuela relations ― since the US-backed military coup of 2002 ―between March and July last year. It soon became clear that this was only because the Cubans ― with support from the rest of the region ― made it a condition of progress in their own negotiations for opening relations with the US. This was something that Obama wanted for his legacy. But as Venezuela’s National Assembly elections approached, the Obama administration went back to its regime change strategy, supporting an international campaign to delegitimize Venezuela’s elections. (This turned out to be unnecessary, since the opposition won in a landslide.)
The Venezuelan opposition pursued a “strategy of military takeover” for the first four years of the Chávez government, including the 2002 military coup. But since 2004, they have been divided on whether to pursue change through legal means. Whenever they had people in the streets supporting a violent or extralegal overthrow ― as in 2002–03, 2013, or 2014 ― the US government has taken their side. Washington has also led various campaigns to delegitimize the Venezuelan government, a vital part of any extralegal “regime change” strategy.
But for the moment, Pope Francis has altered everyone’s calculations. It is not good optics for the hard-line Venezuelan opposition to condemn the pope. And the Obama administration cannot exert the kind of pressure on the Vatican that it does on, e.g., European governments to support its sanctions against Russia, or various unpopular military adventures. Also, the international media cannot marginalize or ignore the pope in the way they do the rest of the hemisphere’s governments, e.g., when these governments resist Washington’s support for regime change in Venezuela, Honduras, and other countries.
The pope is likely to look at the Venezuelan crisis in a pragmatic way, rather than through the lens of Washington’s imperial and ideological imperatives. There is a divided government in Venezuela, with the chavistas controlling the presidency and to a large extent the judiciary. The fractious opposition controls the National Assembly. Until the next presidential election, there is no way to resolve the political conflict except through dialogue and negotiation.
Pope Francis can be a pragmatic diplomat, but he has certain principles and is not easily intimidated. He is likely to understand that Venezuela’s divided government is a result of a divided country. From 2003, when the Chávez government got control of the national oil industry, until 2014, the large majority of the population experienced enormous gains in their living standards. That is why, in December of last year, in the elections for National Assembly, the ruling PSUV still got more than 40 percent of the vote ― despite inflation running at 180 percent and widespread shortages of basic consumer goods.
A big part of the gains of the Chávez era have been lost in the past nearly three years, and especially over the past year. But the governing party still has a political base that remembers worse poverty and exclusion, if not worse shortages, in the pre-Chávez era. They do not see the political opposition, which is a right-wing political movement that has always represented the upper classes, offering solutions that will make their lives better.
The Vatican will therefore likely seek negotiation and compromise on both sides of the political divide. This poses a unique challenge to Washington and some of its closest allies in Venezuela.
Caracas – Venezuela’s national government has agreed to release five jailed opposition activists in a goodwill gesture as part of its official talks with the country’s opposition.
The liberation of the prisoners is the first concrete agreement to emerge from the Vatican-mediated dialogue, initiated Sunday with representatives of four opposition parties.
On Monday evening, opposition mayor Carlos Ocariz took to social media to announce the negotiated release, confirming the freed prisoners as Andrés Moreno, Marco Trejo, Carlos Melo, Ángel Coromoto Rodríguez, and Andrés Leon– all arrested for their participation in violent protests or for the incitement of political violence.
As former security chief to opposition National Assembly President Ramos Allup, Ángel Coromoto Rodríguez, was arrested in May for allegedly bankrolling anti-police violence during opposition protests, while Melo was detained on August 31 for the possession of explosives. Similarly Moreno and Trejo were both arrested in late September after creating a video calling for the rebellion of the armed forces.
The longest-serving inmate amongst the group is Andres Leon, who was arrested during the deadly 2014 street violence known as the “guarimbas”. He was granted house-arrest on health grounds in June last year.
The announcement comes just three days ahead of an anti-government march on the Miraflores Presidential Palace, called by the opposition for this coming Thursday.
Opposition leaders had previously hinted that they would be willing to consider calling off the demonstration depending on the progress of the talks, which they say are contingent on the release of their activists from jail.
Nonetheless, the government’s gesture appears to have done little to dissuade the MUD leadership from going forward with the controversial march– despite the violence unleashed by their supporters during protests last week.
“The release of the political prisoners is important, but not sufficient,” MUD Secretary Jesus Chuo Torrealba told reporters.
On Tuesday morning, the MUD opposition coalition also retweeted a message from legislator Freddy Guevara insisting that Thursday’s march would “still go ahead”. Guevara is a lawmaker for the ultra-right Popular Will party, which is currently boycotting the talks.
The coalition has been deeply divided over the decision to partake in official negotiations with the government, with proponents describing the top-level talks as just “one more terrain of struggle” amongst many.
Meanwhile, the government has hailed the move as a sign of its willingness to negotiate with the opposition in a bid to ease tensions in the politically polarised country.
“We, who have been permanently waiting for opposition sectors to (commit to) dialogue, salute the fact that it has finally taken place,” Venezuela’s foreign minister, Delcy Rodriguez, told press at the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday.
The opposition has stated that it will not negotiate on its demands for a presidential recall referendum this year or on the release of all of its activists from jail, regardless of their crime. The MUD has yet to release an official statement confirming the status of Thursday’s march.
A Venezuelan policeman died after being shot during an opposition protest late Wednesday in the province of Miranda, Minister of the Interior and Justice Nestor Reverol said, adding there were two other officers injured.
Reverol stated that the officer was shot after the police tried to disperse an opposition march to preserve public order on the Panamerican highway in San Antonio de los Altos, adding that two suspects were in custody.
“There are two people detained for questioning, and an order will be issued to begin investigations to clarify this murder,” said Reverol.
The wounded officers were taken to a private clinic, where Jose Alejandro Molina Ramirez died, shot in the abdomen and arm. Medouza Dany Daniel Briceno was shot in one hand, Davis Jose Laya Ayala was hit in one arm and Miguel Antonio Cuevas Pirela had a wound on his face from a blunt object, but all were out of danger, the doctors informed.
Reverol said the right-wing opposition was responsible for the death of officer Molina. He also confirmed that four policemen were injured in Zulia state during the protests.
“The officer killed is Jose Alejandro Molina Ramirez who was shot in the abdomen and arm.”
The right wing had called for a “Taking of Venezuela” march Wednesday, provoking clashes that led to more than a hundred injuries.
Despite some factions of the opposition agreeing to talks with the government, some of the splintered right wing have refused dialogue and instead called for a national strike on Friday and a more provocative march to the Miraflores presidential palace on Nov. 3.
Miranda’s governor is right-wing leader Henrique Capriles, who denied that opposition forces had agreed to talks with the socialist government Tuesday and has been instrumental in calling for street demonstrations and the ouster of President Nicolas Maduro.
“This needs to keep growing so that the government understands once and for all that we’re doing this for real,” said two-time presidential loser Capriles.
The National Assembly, that is in contempt of the constitution, voted Tuesday to start an impeachment process against Maduro, even though any actions it takes have been declared nulled by the Supreme Court in the country.
Crowds at the protests where the officer was shot chanted “This government is going to fall!”
Clashes also broke out in the western town of San Cristobal that was an epicenter of violence during 2014 anti-Maduro protests that left at least 40 people dead.
Venezuela’s opposition-led National Assembly has voted for impeaching President Nicolas Maduro accusing him for violating democracy. The anti-government vote came after the Supreme Court blocked the parliament’s plan to hold a referendum to try and recall President Maduro. The Venezuelan socialist government has dismissed the move as meaningless.
Lajos Szaszdi, a Latin America expert, told Press TV that President Maduro has the support of the Supreme Court, the security forces and people, as a result of which the National Assembly would not be able to remove President Maduro from power.
The executive branch of the government “has the upper hand” in the division of power in Venezuela; therefore, President Maduro will be able to survive attacks by the opposition, Szaszdi said.
The analyst went on to say that the president of Venezuela has control over police, security and military forces and “of course, there is a broad base of supporters,” and “there is no danger for his hold on power.”
The Supreme Court will not accept any anti-government resolution issued by the National Assembly of Venezuela until the parliament invalidates three opposition lawmakers who are being accused of having bought votes in the last general elections, he added.
“The opposition is desperate,” Szaszdi argued, adding that the opposition is trying to resort to “extreme measures,” but people, the armed forces and the Supreme Court would support President Maduro.
The desperation of the opposition has increased after the National Electoral Council put a stop to the opposition-driven plebiscite against Maduro when four state courts called the signature-gathering process fraudulent.
The Venezuela’s government, which is facing economic difficulties and all-out pressure from the opposition legislators, has said the country is the victim of an international plot against Socialism, led by the United States.
Selective Assassinations of Chavistas by paramilitaries, renegade police and criminal gangs continue
The assassination of followers of the late President Chavez continues to increase at a steady pace. From 2013 – when President Maduro was democratically elected – to the present, many local political leaders, public servants, journalists, bodyguards of left wing politicians, military personnel and operatives of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) have been unfortunate enough to fall into the opposition’s murderous claws.
The ultra-right wing opposition that currently has control of the National Assembly continues with its aim of resurrecting the Fourth Republic in Venezuela. With opposition figures such as the governor of Miranda state, Capriles Radonski, telling his supporters “to take their anger to the streets” and Voluntad Popular’s Leopoldo Lopez whose plan called “The Exit” sparked violent street protests by paid thugs from February to June 2014 costing 43 lives, we can see that unconstitutional political means to gain power are at play here.
Added to these actions by the ultra right wing are assassinations of body guards of revolutionary leaders that are simulated as a robbery or violent street crime, then the right wing media plays its part by putting it all down to “insecurity” caused by an inept government.
The links established between fascist leaders in Venezuela such as Leopoldo Lopez and ex-Metropolitan Mayor Antonio Ledezma with ex-Colombian President and enemy of Bolivarianism, Alvaro Uribe, since 2009 have resulted in political, economic and media support for the paramilitary gangs that have been infiltrating Venezuela since about 2005. These gangs expanded into the country from the western Colombo-Venezuelan border and reached the center of the country, including Caracas, in a few short years.
Political and legal support was lent by right wing parties such as Voluntas Popular and Alianza Bravo Pueblo. Economic support came from drug trafficking, contraband and a small sector of business; and finally support by electronic media that are financed from abroad such as La Patilla, NTN24 (both financed from Colombia) and Sumarium owned by the Vecchio-Lopez families. (Carlos Vecchio is now exiled in the US and Leopoldo Lopez is serving 14 years in jail). There were also other minor support groups from other political parties of the right such as UNT, Accion Democratica and Primero Justicia.
With the paramilitaries in place, there were various objectives: the political demobilization and demoralization of militant Chavistas in the popular areas (barrios); and take out of circulation valuable revolutionary cadres either by making them disappear or eliminating them physically. The right wing media would then step in and report on these events with the purpose of destroying the memory and reputation of the murdered comrades.
The aim of practicing this kind of politics is to create indignation, fear and anger in the population that lives in the shadow of such insecurity. For this reason each brutal homicide is dealt with immediately and sensationally by the opposition media. The idea is to have some sensational aspect of any given case covered on a daily basis to maintain the fear factor.
Let us not forget that since 2013 the whole population has been subject to the effects of a fourth generation war – a combination of selective assassinations as described above and an economic war making life increasingly difficult. Foods were hoarded, hidden or smuggled to Colombia creating shortages of basic goods and the resulting huge lines as people stood to buy food.
This, the fear factor plus frustration at not being able to buy basic subsidized goods plus induced galloping inflation, was all blamed on an inept President and his ministerial team, day-in day-out, by the local and international media who all combined to encourage voters to either abstain or switch to supporting the opposition. The latter had promised to “make the lines vanish” if they won control of the National Assembly on December 6 last year. They did win but the lines got worse … and according to the media this is still the fault of the government even though 86% of food distribution is in the hands of the private sector.
Of course, the “make the lines vanish” electoral promise was conveniently never mentioned again by the private media.
To achieve the goal of sensationalizing homicides and sowing fear and discord in the population, the opposition media has a team of “info-mercenaries” who in many cases have contacts with corrupt ranks of the security forces and therefore have access to the gory details before any investigation has even started. Such “inside” or “advance” information is illegal under Venezuelan law. There are also journalists that act in concert with the armed gangs especially in the case of “hits” against security personnel, as there is a higher economic incentive if the details are published in the media.
After the recent intervention of the police headquarters in the opposition-run municipality of Chacao in Caracas, it was discovered that this police force had been behind several high profile killings such as that of retired General Felix Velasquez and revolutionary journalist Ricardo Duran.
Obviously the Mayor of Chacao who is the Commander-in-Chief of this police force did not know anything about the activities in his own police headquarters. The opposition is never involved in these murders even though the police forces they control are never above suspicion. At present 4 policemen are awaiting trial for the assassination of General Velasquez and 14 more for the killing of Duran.
On repeated occasions President Maduro has stated that these assassinations “form part of a non-conventional war that is being waged against the country – and not just now but for many years. Criminal violence emerges when the right wing does not achieve its objectives”.
There follows a list of the revolutionaries and public servants murdered in contract killings due to the politics of violence of the ultra right wing:
In addition to these politically motivated and contract killings by paramilitaries, police and paid thugs in the streets, there are at least 15 professional bodyguards of high-level Chavistas who have been assassinated from 2013–2016.
All the cases mentioned have proven to be contract killings and have been resolved or are under investigation.
It is worth highlighting the fact that no international human rights organization or any NGO affiliated to the US or Spain – countries that are supposedly democratic and believe in the freedom of expression – have taken any interest or made declarations condemning the persecution and assassination of Chavistas. All they have done is attack the government of President Maduro insinuating that it is he who is violating human rights!
Thus, we have a twisted situation where cases of murdered Chavistas are glossed over and no mention of the violation of their human rights is ever made. And on the other hand, the darling of the international right wing, Leopoldo Lopez, is allegedly having his human rights violated because his iPod was removed from his jail cell.
This is the late Eduardo Galeano’s “Upside Down World!”
© Copyright 2016 by AxisofLogic.com
The ominous calls came as courts temporarily froze the referendum process to investigate thousands of fraudulent signatures submitted in the first phase.
Leader’s from Venezuela’s opposition appeared to call for a coup against President Nicolas Maduro, after the country’s Supreme Court ruled that the presidential recall referendum would be temporarily suspended due to fraud committed in the first phase of the process.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles said Friday that President Maduro is “in disobedience of the constitution” and called on both the National Assembly and Armed Forces to “make a decision” and have people “respect the constitution.”
The former Venezuelan presidential candidate also said Maduro had vacated his position as president, prompting fears that a coup might be looming.
“Maduro did not only leave the country, he left his position,” Capriles said during Friday’s press conference.
“Maduro declared himself in disobedience, he does not respect the Constitution, and today he left the country, and will leave everything.”
Maduro left Venezuela for various OPEC and non-OPEC countries Thursday to help establish a stable price for oil, which has negatively affected the South American country’s economy.
Capriles, head of Justice First and one of the leaders of the opposition MUD coalition, also called on the nation’s armed forces to intervene.
“Hopefully the armed forces will have people respect the constitution,” he said.
The MUD leader also demanded the government repeal the decision to suspend the signature collection process for the recall referendum and called on opposition members to “take the streets of Venezuela.” Toward the end of his speech, Capriles denied he wanted a coup to oust Maduro and said he does not want to incite violence.
“We don’t want a coup in the country,” said Capriles, “A coup has (already) happened to the people and we have to restore constitutional order.“
Henry Ramos Allup, the president of the National Assembly, also spoke during the press conference and said the National Assembly he leads supports all the decisions and the message promoted by Capriles.
Ramos Allup also called on the Venezuelan Armed Forces “to analyze the abuses to the constitution” allegedly carried out by the government. He also said they were offering a constitutional way out for Maduro through the recall referendum in order to prevent “a violent way out” in the future.
The legislator said a delegation from the assembly will travel to the Organization of American States, or OAS, to demand the OAS apply the so-called Democratic Charter against his country, something the opposition has been requesting for months.
“Venezuelans have always been stronger than its leaders,” he said, before he cast doubt on Maduro’s nationality, suggesting he may actually be Colombian—a common allegation that has no basis.
The National Electoral Council, or CNE, said the decision to postpone the recall referendum process came after the MUD committed the criminal offense of presenting more than 600,000, about 30 percent, of signatures deemed irregular. Among the invalid signatures were almost 11,000 from deceased Venezuelans.
The Supreme Court also declared invalid all acts of the National Assembly after it swore in three legislators who had previously been suspended over irregularities when they were elected.
Caracas – Venezuela’s Supreme Court (TSJ) issued a ruling Tuesday ordering the country’s the public prosecution to reopen investigations into the case of a law student disappeared in 1966.
Andres Pasquier Suarez, a law student at the Central University of Venezuela, was detained by Venezuela’s national guard on October 10, 1966 and subsequently handed over to the now defunct Armed Forces Information Service.
According to military records, the youth was transferred two days later to the Urica Anti-Guerrilla Camp from which he never returned.
A Maracaibo military tribunal charged with investigating the incident declared the case closed on March 15, 1968, finding that “no crime has been committed in any moment”.
Writing on behalf of the high court, TSJ President Gladys Gutierrez struck down the prior ruling as “contrary to the elemental principles of law and justice”, concluding that the military court had failed to conduct an impartial investigation of the disappearance.
The justice ordered the public prosecutor’s office to reopen the investigation and identify those responsible as mandated under article 19 of Venezuela’s Law to Prosecute Crimes, Disappearances, Tortures, and Other Human Rights Violations for Political Reasons during the Period 1958-1999.
Over the last 17 years, numerous inquiries have brought to light the magnitude of human rights violations committed under Venezuela’s pacted, two-party system known as the Fourth Republic.
This past July, the country’s official Truth and Justice Commission revealed that it had registered a total of 11,043 cases of torture, assassinations, and political disappearances between 1958 and 1998.
The U.S. Democratic Party showed its true colors in a new ad that the Venezuelan government blasted as “racist arrogance” that puts the late Hugo Chavez in the same category as fascist dictators Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler in an effort to cast Republican presidential rival Donald Trump as a dictator-in-waiting.
The Spanish-language ad, aimed at U.S. Latino voters ahead of the Nov. 8 election, features comments by Trump that Clinton should be jailed and his vow to sue media that spread “purposely negative, horrible and false” articles.
“Remind you of anyone?” the video asks before flashing images of the popular socialist Venezuelan leader Chavez.
The clips are selectively edited to portray Chavez as authoritarian but deliberately fail to mention that Chavez and his Bolivarian Revolution won support at the ballot box in over a dozen elections which former Democratic President Jimmy Carter called “the best in the world.”
“It is an expression of racist arrogance and irrationality from a party that does not serve its constituents,” Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said in a statement late Wednesday.
“Chavez is a leader who transcended our time for his democratic nature, his fight for the poor and universal feeling for humanity,” she added.
The video also compares Trump and Chavez, who died in 2013, with European dictators Mussolini and Hitler, and concludes by urging voters to “protect” U.S. democracy. The ad was paid for by the Democratic National Committee in support of Clinton, and was not made by her campaign.
The clip nonetheless serves to show that the U.S. Democratic Party, despite efforts to portray their party as more reasonable than their Republican counterparts, are not beneath manipulation to help their candidate get elected.
The U.S. Department of State, under the leadership of then-Secretary of State Clinton, publicly praised the results of the 2012 Venezuelan presidential elections that saw Hugo Chavez re-elected to a third term.
In statements to the press, then-State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said they “congratulated the Venezuelan people for the high turnout and for the generally peaceful manner in which the election was carried out.”
But while Clinton publicly welcomed improved relations with Venezuela as secretary of state, she privately ridiculed the country and continued to support destabilization efforts.
Venezuela, whose economy is heavily dependent on oil exports and has suffered due to the dramatic drop in the price of oil, has been the subject a vicious media campaign which has portrayed the country as being on the brink of collapse. The ad is an effort to piggyback off that negative press to win support from the Latino community.
However, the effort may backfire as Venezuela’s socialist government enjoys support throughout Latino communities in the United States and even reached out directly to low-income people in the United States through discounted home heating oil.
In the Democratic Party primary race, both Clinton and her opponent Bernie Sanders also tried to tie Chavez into the race, with the latter calling the Venezuelan leader a “dead communist dictator.”
Forty years ago, on October 6, 1976, Cubana Flight 455 on its way from Barbados to Jamaica was bombed shortly after takeoff, killing 73 people, including the national fencing team of Cuba.
In what was immediately seen as a terrorist act, most in the international community joined Cuba in denouncing the horrific act.
In 2011, declassified CIA documents showed that one of the key figures in this terrorist attack was Luis Posada Carriles, a right-wing Cuban who had fled the island after the Cuban Revolution of 1959.
The documents revealed that it was Posada Carriles, now 88, who had planned the 1976 bombing. He had already gained experience terrorizing the Cuban people as a participant in the failed CIA-orchestrated Bay of Pigs assault in 1961.
Peter Kornbluh, author of the book, “Back Channel to Cuba,” and a former researcher at the National Security Archive of George Washington University, said in 2011 that the declassified documents “again brings up the issue of how an international terrorist like Luis Posada Carriles can live happily ever after in Miami.”
This point demonstrates that the Oct. 6 anniversary should not only be remembered, it should be reflected upon.
The 1976 attack highlights U.S. imperialism’s decades-long war of sabotage against the Cuban Revolution. Despite a thawing in U.S.-Cuba relations, this war has not subsided.
A free man, Posada Carriles moved to Venezuela in the early 80’s where he was eventually jailed for his acts of terror against Cuba. But he escaped in 1985 and resumed plotting against Cuba and its leader, Fidel Castro.
In this period, he was also instrumental in plotting against the revolutionary government of the Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua, working as a coordinator for the contras who were fighting a war backed by the U.S. government.
Posada Carriles bragged to the New York Times in 1998 that he had been responsible for the 1997 hotel bombings targeting Cuba’s tourist industry that killed an Italian tourist, saying the man just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Posada Carriles later recanted his story.
The New York Times wrote in 1998, “Mr. Posada was schooled in demolition and guerrilla warfare by the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1960s. In a series of tape-recorded interviews … Posada said the hotel bombings and other operations had been supported by leaders of the Cuban-American National Foundation. Its founder and head, Jorge Mas Canosa … was embraced at the White House by Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton.”
The CANF recieved millions of dollars of U.S. tax-payer money to carry out its dirty war against Cuba for decades, according to declassified documents.
Posada Carriles was again arrested in 2000 for possession of explosives in Panama and charged with plotting to assassinate the Cuban leader at the Peoples’ Summit taking place at the University of Panama. Soon after he went into hiding.
When Posada Carriles resurfaced in Miami in 2005, the U.S. government refused to extradite him to Cuba or Venezuela to face judicial proceedings for his crimes.
In early 2011, Posada Carriles was finally put on trial in El Paso, Texas—not for his many terrorist acts—but for immigration fraud and obstruction of a proceeding.
He was charged with lying to an immigration judge about his involvement in the 1997 bombings and about how he entered the U.S. in 2005.
U.S. prosecutors presented evidence that Posada Carriles played a major role in carrying out bombings in Cuba. Many expected convictions on at least some of these charges but the jury dumbfounded prosecutors with a complete acquittal.
Ricardo Alarcon, a long-time Cuban leader and at the time, the president of the national assembly, told AP, “The stupid and shameful farce is over.”
Venezuela’s government also denounced the trial as “theater,” saying Washington continued to harbor a mass murderer.
Alarcon had intimate and deep knowledge of the farce that is the U.S. judicial system. He had been a leading advocate of the Cuban Five and a principle strategist for their freedom.
The Cuban Five were Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez. They were arrested by the U.S. government in Miami in 1998 and falsely accused of committing espionage conspiracy against the U.S. and other related charges.
They were convicted in a federal court in 2001 and spent over 15 years in jail, labeled by the U.S. government and media as terrorists.
But the Five were in fact counter-terrorists, heroes who were willing to sacrifice their lives, leave their beloved families and homeland to protect Cuba from U.S. aggression. They worked to stop terror and aimed to defend Cuba from the kind of aggression Posada Carriles and his CIA cohorts carried out.
The Five reflect a spirit of justice and peace and to this day—having returned to their beloved country—continue to inspire all those who yearn for a better world.
As long as the likes of Posada Carriles are free to walk the streets of Florida, Cuba must do everything it can to defend itself from U.S. terror.
As long as the U.S. continues to occupy Guantanamo, the Cuban Revolution must be ready to defend itself, despite President Barack Obama’s dubious declarations.
A Salon magazine article in 2008 raised this question: “The coddled ‘terrorists’ of South Florida: Anti-Castro Cuban exiles who have been linked to bombings and assassinations are living free in Miami. Does the U.S. government have a double standard when it comes to terror?”
The answer is yes—a thousand times yes.
Russia is prepared to join efforts aimed at resolving Venezuela’s internal political standoff if necessary, Russian Ambassador to Venezuela Vladimir Zaemsky told Sputnik.
“We welcome efforts of various politicians to help reach a mutual understanding between the various political groups in Venezuela and we hope that such steps eventually would lead to a positive result. We are ready to join this if it is deemed necessary,” Zaemsky said.
Venezuela has been embroiled in a political crisis with opposition staging regular protests and launching a campaign to remove President Nicolas Maduro, blaming him for an economic crisis in Venezuela, a country suffering from shrinking GDP, shortages of goods and rising inflation. According to the ambassador, the political crisis cannot be settled without preventing the attempts of some of Venezuela’s neighbors, the West, global media and non-governmental organizations to interfere in the internal affairs of the country.
“Russia believes that the political resolution of Venezuela’s problems should be found by the Venezuelan people itself… It must meet constitutional norms and national laws. Destructive meddling from abroad is unacceptable, no one can impose ‘color [revolution] scenarios’ based on notorious radical tactics to destabilize the situation,” Zaemsky said.
Venezuela has been in a state of an economic emergency since January. Up to 96 percent of Venezuela’s budget depends on oil revenues amid the ongoing slump in oil prices. Venezuela’s opposition hopes to hold a recall referendum to remove Maduro from power.
In August, Maduro pledged to act much tougher than his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in case of the coup attempt in the country.
A group of 29 countries called for the Venezuelan government and opposition to engage in renewed national dialogue Thursday, amid calls for more US sanctions against the South American country.
Led by the right-wing government of Paraguay, the international group including the US and UK called on President Nicolas Maduro to “ensure the full respect of human rights, due process, the separation of powers and the consolidation of a representative democracy”.
Issued during a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, the statement also called for the Venezuelan government to ensure the organisation of a presidential recall referendum.
Venezuela condemned the declaration as “interventionist”, while its regional allies drew support outweighing the Paraguayan statement.
A call from Cuba for respect for state sovereignty drew the support of 88 countries.
Maduro described the outcome of the UNHRC meeting as a “great victory” for Venezuela.
“To their 29 votes, we got 88,” he said.
The fiery session Thursday was the latest in a series of jabs at Venezuela over the course of the meeting. When the UNHRC forum began on September 13, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein lashed out at Maduro’s government over “allegations of repression of opposition voices, arbitrary arrests and excessive use of force against peaceful protests”.
A major anti-government rally two days later drew thousands of opposition supporters to the streets of Caracas and other major Venezuelan cities, with no signs of widespread police crackdowns or repression. Another large rally is scheduled to take place on October 12.
More International Setbacks, Possible Sanctions
The controversy at the UNHRC followed weeks of bad news for Venezuela’s international relations. Earlier this month Venezuela was barred from its position as president of the South American trade bloc Mercosur, while Maduro’s hosting of a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement failed to draw more than a handful of international allies.
Then on Wednesday, US lawmakers issued renewed condemnation, and calls for new sanctions on Caracas.
On Tuesday, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution calling for the release of “political prisoners” in Venezuela.
“This resolution states in no uncertain terms that President Maduro’s shameful and rampant corruption in Venezuela must end,” said Florida Representative and former chairperson of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Schultz herself faced allegations of corruption earlier this year, after whistle-blower website Wikileaks released documents that appeared to show Schultz and other leading party officials failed to maintain impartiality during the Democratic primaries.
CNE Head Targeted by Rubio
The day after the House issued its latest Venezuela resolution, long time anti-Venezuela campaigner Senator Marco Rubio called on President Barack Obama to authorise sanctions on government officials including the head of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena.
Rubio claimed Lucena and other top officials have “committed significant acts of violence or human rights abuses”.
Lucena herself has no oversight over Venezuela’s security forces, which have been accused of human rights abuses. Nor has she directly been involved in the arrest of opposition political figures such as Leopoldo Lopez, who was imprisoned in 2015 after a Venezuelan court found him guilty of inciting a wave of deadly violence.
As head of the CNE, Lucena has been criticised by opposition supporters, who say her organisation has dragged its feet on preparing for a presidential recall referendum, which could lead to Maduro being forced from power early. CNE officials have responded to the complaints by arguing the opposition itself has slowed the referendum by allegedly including bogus signatures in a preliminary petition that was required to prompt a recall vote.
Last week, the CNE confirmed the referendum would not be possible until next year, dashing opposition hopes of forcing new elections. The timing of the referendum is significant: if it takes place before January 10, 2017, Maduro could be forced from office, and snap elections held. If the referendum is held after this cut off point, Maduro will simply be replaced by his vice-president for the rest of the normal presidential term.
The CNE’s handling of the referendum has also been criticised by the US, prompting backlash from the Maduro administration.
In a bid to ease tensions, the US and Venezuela are expected to hold new diplomatic talks in the coming weeks.
According to a report from the Associated Press this week, the talks will include Venezuelan officials and a US Department of State official. The official was named as Thomas Shannon, the state department’s current undersecretary of state for political affairs.
No further details of the meeting have been released, though another recent meeting between Venezuelan officials and US Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly focused on the detention of Joshua Holt.
A US national, Holt was detained by the Venezuelan military in June, under allegations of stockpiling firearms in the home of his wife in Venezuela. Holt’s relatives have denied the allegations.