Showing posts with label Venezuela. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Venezuela. Show all posts

April 17, 2019

After All The Lying About Venezuela’s Starvation, Its President Finally Allows Outside Food Deliveries






Red Cross workers distributing water containers and purification tablets in Caracas.CreditCreditMeridith Kohut for The New York Times

 By Anatoly Kurmanaev and Ana Vanessa Herrero

CARACAS, Venezuela — After denying for years that Venezuelans were suffering a humanitarian crisis, the government allowed the Red Cross to send in 24 tons of medical equipment on Tuesday, marking the beginning of a large-scale relief campaign intended to ease malnutrition and the spread of disease in the crisis-stricken country.

An airplane landed in Caracas’s international airport transporting the first in a series of planned shipments of medical supplies and power generators for hospitals that are intended to eventually help 650,000 Venezuelans, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The material is expected to be distributed in the coming days.

Despite the enormity of the population’s need, the delivery of humanitarian aid has become a political battle between the president, Nicolás Maduro, and Venezuela’s opposition. 

On Tuesday, the president of the Red Cross in Venezuela said the aid should not become embroiled in a political dispute, and asked for the cooperation of politicians.
Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, center, had in the past turned away offers of basic medication and food, saying his was not a nation of “beggars.” 

Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, center, had in the past turned away offers of basic medication and food, saying his was not a nation of “beggars.”CreditAriana Cubillos/Associated Press
“It will be distributed in conformance with the fundamental principles of our movement, especially neutrality, impartiality and independence,” Mario Villarroel, president of the Venezuelan Red Cross, said of the supplies. “Don’t allow the politicization of this great achievement.”

The agency estimates its Venezuelan campaign could become its biggest relief effort since the beginning of civil war in Syria.

A recent United Nations report found about a quarter of the country’s population is in dire need of food and basic supplies — and the need is expected to grow. The International Monetary Fund estimates the Venezuelan economy will shrink by 25 percent this year as infrastructure continues to crumble.

Around 5,500 Venezuelans flee the country daily in what has become one of the world’s biggest refugee crises, according to the United Nations. 

The arrival of the aid shipment constitutes an about-face by Mr. Maduro’s government, which for years had denied the existence of a humanitarian crisis despite the nation having endured the deepest economic depression in modern history among countries not at war.

As Venezuela’s revenues have plummeted, control over aid supplies became one of the main political disputes between Mr. Maduro and a parallel government set up by Juan Guaidó. Mr. Guaidó, a leader of the opposition and of congress, invoked an article of Venezuela’s Constitution in late January and claimed the country’s leadership after pointing out widespread irregularities in the elections that gave Mr. Maduro a second term.

Patients with chronic diseases, such as those who rely on dialysis in clinics like this one in San Cristóbal, Venezuela, have been particularly affected by the shortage of medical supplies. 

                     

Patients with chronic diseases, such as those who rely on dialysis in clinics like this one in San Cristóbal, Venezuela, have been particularly affected by the shortage of medical supplie. 

In February, an ambitious plan by the opposition, led by Mr. Guaidó, to bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela from neighboring countries degenerated into bloody skirmishes as the trucks ran into blockades set up by security forces loyal to Mr. Maduro.

Mr. Guaidó had hoped the plan would at once bring some relief to Venezuelans, strengthen his credibility as the country’s new leader, and convince troops to turn against Mr. Maduro rather than use force to keep food and medication beyond the reach of a needy population.

Although some military officials did cross the lines to join Mr. Guaidó, it was a trickle, not the sea change the opposition had envisioned. The blockade largely succeeded, with little aid entering the country.

Since then, the crisis has been compounded by the impact of American sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry. The measures are aimed at weakening Mr. Maduro and forcing him to cede power to Mr. 

Guaidó, who has the support of the United States and about 50 other countries, but the pain they inflict is felt first by the population. 

Mr. Maduro’s decision to accept the Red Cross aid has hobbled this parallel effort to deliver supplies that was mounted by the opposition. Still, it was celebrated by Mr. Maduro’s opponents as a victory brought about by their persistence.

“Today, the first shipment of humanitarian aid arrived for our people,” Henrique Capriles, a leading figure of the opposition, posted on Twitter. “It’s a reality thanks to the pressure of Venezuelans and the support of our interim president Juan Guaidó and the legitimate National Assembly.”

March 13, 2019

NO Food Before Now No Lights~~This Will End Badly in Venezuela~






Venezuela has been in the grip of a crippling blackout for four days — and the humanitarian situation there is growing increasingly dire.
Signs of the crisis are everywhere you look in the Venezuelan capital. "Drive around Caracas, and you see long lines of cars waiting for hours at the few gas stations still operational," NPR's Philip Reeves reported from the city.
"Motorists park on highways, cell phones aloft, searching for a signal. The rich have taken refuge in luxury hotels. The poor stand in lines in the street," Reeves added.

The power outage has affected water pumps in some Caracas neighborhoods, meaning that people are waiting to fill water bottles at public locations such as springs. Schools and public offices remained closed on Monday, according to Reeves.
The precarious humanitarian situation is worsening as the country remains in a political stalemate. The crisis pits embattled President Nicolás Maduro against opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who took the oath of office at a rally in January and is backed by the U.S. and dozens of other countries that recognize him as Venezuela's rightful leader. Much of the country was plunged into darkness Thursday, reportedly after major problems coming from the country's primary hydroelectric power plant, Reeves said. It's not clear whether the issue is with the plant itself or the transmission lines leading from it, according to Reuters. 
Maduro's government has said the outage is the result of sabotage by the U.S., though it hasn't provided evidence to back that claim. "While the promoters of hate, death and violence delight in their destabilization plans, President Nicolás Maduro has ordered a deployment of ministers to ensure the Venezuelan people are attended to," Information Minister Jorge Rodríguez said in a televised address, as Reuters reported.
Meanwhile, the opposition has said the blackout is the result of years of incompetence that has caused the power grid to deteriorate.

"The regime at this hour, days after a blackout without precedent, has no diagnosis," Guaidó told reporters on Sunday, as Reuters reported.
Residents in some areas have seen sporadic restoration of power — while people in other places are growing more desperate and angry. It's a harrowing situation for anyone counting on electricity for health needs.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the independent health watchdog Codevida said that "15 dialysis patients have died as a result of the blackout and some 10,000 more were at risk if they continue without treatment."
Venezuela is struggling with hyperinflation, and many people had trouble obtaining basic necessities even before the latest political crisis. Now there are reports of looted supermarkets in Caracas. Images taken by a photographer for Reuters show a worker using a flashlight to inspect a supermarket that was hit in the capital.
Another photo, from Bloomberg, shows a long row of people lying facedown in the street after they were detained for alleged looting in the Santa Cruz del Este neighborhood of Caracas. Their hands are bound behind them, and their shirts are pulled over their heads to cover their faces as security officials stand over them. "The food we had in our refrigerators has spoiled. Businesses are closed. There's no communication, not even by cell phone," 49-year-old Ana Cerrato told Reuters. "We need help! We are in a humanitarian crisis!"
It's a crisis that, as Cerrato noted, is taking place with very limited communication. As the Journal reported, Internet-usage tracker NetBlocks said just 12 percent of Venezuela's Internet network was connected as of Monday.
Some Venezuelans are bracing for the worst.
"This is going to end ugly. It's going to be ugly at the end," designer Nela Garcia told Reeves over the weekend. "My daughter that is now living here, she has a kid. And she's pregnant. ... She's always worried. Now we don't have light. We don't have water. So it's very hard to live here with all these, you know, situations."

February 26, 2019

With The Help of Trump Venezuela Has a Good Chance of Becoming Libya in The Caribbean




Image result for civil war in venezuela
The Telegraph
                              





The risk of war in Venezuela is rising dangerously. For Americans who had come to think of President Trump invading Venezuela as something of a punch line, a rude awakening could be in the works.
On Saturday, Venezuela’s serially appalling regime crossed a number of new red lines in its crusade to keep food and medicine from reaching desperately hungry and sick people, setting fire to trucks carrying humanitarian aid and deploying paramilitary gangs to kill Venezuelans who went to the border to try to force the aid in. The regime allowed those gangs to shoot into the territory of both its big neighbors: Colombia and Brazil. The clashes moved military action to dislodge the Venezuelan regime from fringe speculation to serious policy discussion.
Here’s what Americans need to know about this prospect. Venezuela is, in many ways, a failed state. Much of the territory is lightly governed, if at all. The official Venezuelan state devotes the bulk of its time and energy to stealing the nation’s oil resources and repressing its political opponents, leaving little room to worry about the basics of governance.
As a result, vast swaths of Venezuela are controlled not by President Nicolás Maduro’s government but by a baffling proliferation of armed nonstate actors that include powerful prison gangs, Colombian guerrillas from the ELN or from splinter groups of the disbanded FARC, various ideologically infused “colectivos” — in effect, paramilitary groups subscribing to a vaguely Marxist ideology and allied with the government. These groups make a handsome living from any number of illegal activities: trafficking cocaine, illegal gold mining, extortion, human trafficking, smuggling — you name it.
Travel around Venezuela and you soon realize it’s these groups, and not the official Chavista state, who are effectively in charge of much of the territory. In many places, they live in a sort of uneasy, tacit alliance with the military — they buy weapons from them, passing on kickbacks and handling the dirty work the soldiers would rather not do.
The official armed forces, by contrast, are a mess. Obsessed with the specter of military plots, Maduro spends more time spying on his own troops than leading them. Cuban agents oversee the entire military establishment, running a counterintelligence force that systematically listens in on officers’ communications and will arrest and torture you at any sign of dissent. The actual soldiers, for their part, are mostly an afterthought: There’s often not quite enough to eat in mess halls, and conditions certainly impact readiness and morale. Training has been kept below the bare minimum for years, due to budget problems. It’s not much of a fighting force. And yet, if the United States does go on the offensive, it’s clear it’s the Venezuelan military they’ll target first. Dysfunctional as it is, the armed forces have fixed installations — radar positions, air force bases, barracks — that could be targeted by a cruise-missile-guidance system.
The paramilitary gangs who actually control the territory, for their part, operate from civilian quarters. No U.S. military plan would be able to target them, even if it set out to do that.
The best hope for Venezuela’s future is that its dysfunctional military forces manage to break free from the Cuban counterintelligence machine and rebel against the dictatorship. If they were better led, the armed forces would have some chance to subdue the lawless nonstate actors who’ve ended up in control of Venezuela. But cowed by the intensive spying they’re subjected to, Venezuela’s generals are unlikely to rebel against Maduro unless they calculate U.S. military action is genuinely imminent. 
To break the logjam in Caracas, then, the threat of U.S. military action could be enormously helpful. But here’s the tricky part: Actual U.S. military action to destroy the Venezuelan military would be a catastrophe. It would remove the one actor that might eventually be able to regain control over the country and deliver it instead into the hands of a wild variety of criminal gangs. Libya in the Caribbean.
The best solution now, then, is a strategy designed to convince Venezuela’s generals that, unless they topple Maduro in short order, they’ll be bombed out of existence — a message that should be delivered by people who understand actually bombing them out of existence would be a disaster. What the United States needs to do, in other words, is bluff. Credibly. But with sufficient restraint to prevent the unmitigated disaster an actual war would bring.
It’s a delicate, demanding task. And we need to trust the Trump administration to pull it off without a misstep.
God help us all.

February 24, 2019

Venezuela's Soldiers Leave Their Post At The Border-This is Just One Day Of Many Bad Ones to Come



                                   
Soldiers from the Venezuelan national guard have left their posts ahead of an opposition-led effort to bring aid into the country, Colombia's migration agency said. 

 In a separate development, Venezuelan troops have fired tear gas at people looking to cross into Colombia to work. 
Tensions have been rising over a row about the delivery of humanitarian aid.
President Nicolás Maduro said the border with Colombia is partly closed to stop aid being delivered. 


But self-declared interim president Juan Guaidó has vowed that hundreds of thousands of volunteers will help bring in the aid deliveries, which include food and medicine, on Saturday.
What's the latest?

Local media report people jumping the barricades to cross the border at the Venezuela-Colombia border, while opposition MPs have posted defiant messages on social media denouncing the use of force.

The BBC's Orla Guerin, on the Colombia border, said Venezuelans were begging soldiers to be allowed to cross. 

Reporters at the scene have announced Mr Guaidó's arrival at the Tienditas bridge on the Colombian side of the border. He was accompanied by the country's president, Iván Duque.
Mr Guaidó urged the military to allow aid trucks to enter, calling on them to "put themselves on the side of the people".


Venezuela-Colombia border turns violent
Media captionVenezuela-Colombia border turns violent
He confirmed that "various members" of the national guard had left their posts at the Simon Bolivar International Bridge to oversee the humanitarian aid delivery. 

Those who do not allow aid to pass are "deserters" who "betray" the Venezuelan people, he added. 
Three have abandoned post at this bridge, while another did so at the Paula Santander International Bridge in Ureña, in the south west of the country. 

Venezuela crisis - in nine charts
Genuine aid or a Trojan horse?

"We want to work!" people chanted as they faced riot police at the Ureña border bridge. 
Activists there were joined by 300 members of the "Women in White" opposition group who marched in defiance of Mr Maduro's attempts to close the border. 

Meanwhile, a top ally of President Maduro has suggested the government would allow Venezuelans to accept aid "at their own risk", but that no foreign soldiers would "set foot" inside Venezuela. 
Earlier on Saturday, two people were killed by Venezuelan forces near the border with Brazil. 

"Why are you serving a dictator?"
Guillermo Olmo, BBC Mundo, Ureña, Venezuela

It's been a difficult day here on the Venezuelan side.
We found locals getting angry because they found the border was closed - these people normally make a living across the border. Then it turned ugly in Ureña.

We witnessed protesters lunging to break one of the barriers but the National Guard started firing tear gas and pellets.

People were shouting at the National Guard asking them why, in their words, they were serving a dictator and not serving their own people.

We had to run away to avoid being hurt but there is still a lot of tension in the air, with a heavy military presence everywhere.
How did we get to this point? 
Humanitarian aid has become the latest flashpoint in the ongoing standoff between Mr Maduro and Mr Guaidó. 

Mr Guaidó, who is the leader of the country's opposition-dominated National Assembly, last month declared himself the country's interim leader.

He has since won the backing of dozens of nations, including the US. He has called the rule of President Nicolás Maduro constitutionally illegitimate, claiming that Mr Maduro's re-election in 2018 was marred by voting irregularities.

Venezuela is in the grip of a political and economic crisis. The country's inflation rate has seen prices soar, leaving many Venezuelans struggling to afford basic items such as food, toiletries and medicine.
Mr Guaidó insists that citizens badly need help, while Mr Maduro says allowing aid to enter is part of a ploy by the US to invade the country.
About 2.7 million people have fled the country since 2015. 


Media captionBattle of the concerts held on either side of the Venezuela-Colombia border.

BBC

February 18, 2019

180 Tons of Food Arrives in Columbia on US Military Planes from Miami

By 


Military planes with humanitarian aid sent by the United States headed out of Miami for Cúcuta, Colombia on Feb. 16, 2019, as part of the efforts in responding to the humanitarian crisis that exists in Venezuela. 

February 6, 2019

Living in Venezuela is Hard But Living in Venezuela As LGBT is Beyond Hard





When Wuilly Arteaga, a Venezuelan violin virtuoso, took to the streets to join the anti-government protests with just his instrument, he was beaten and arrested. But that didn't deter him. It made him even more determined to use his music to help bring freedom to his country. For more stories profiling pioneers of science and tech innovation, subscribe to Freethink at https://www.youtube.com/freethinkmedia





Venezuela's shrinking economy has sparked an exodus of LGBT people as the economic crisis has put the brakes on the country's growing tolerance toward its gay and trans community, activists Reuters.
Not that Venezuela was ever an easy place to be different.
For years, Daniel Arzola endured homophobic abuse from his neighbors in Maracay, a city in the north of Venezuela.
Homophobic slogans were daubed on the walls of his house and he was shouted at in the street.
"One day, a group of neighbors tied me with old cables to an electric pole and they threw fireworks at me," he told Reuters from Chile. "They also put out some cigarettes on my body, while others destroyed all the drawings that I brought with me."
Eventually, Arzolo, a 29-year-old artist, was forced to flee his native Venezuela for Chile.
"My answer to all this was to try to ignore them, but you can't ignore it forever," he said.
Arzola's story is not unique, but things may be getting worse.
"The impact of the crisis on LGBT+ people is evident," said Tamara Adrian, a lawyer and politician living in Caracas, Venezuela's capital. "As a vulnerable population, they do suffer the consequences of the crisis much worse."
There are no official figures on the number of gay or trans migrants, but according to the United Nations' refugee agency, three million people have fled Venezuela, with the majority heading for neighboring Colombia.
Over the past three years, the Venezuelan economy has shrunk by a third, resulting in what has been described as the worst economic crisis to hit the country in its history.

FILE - People wait outside a supermarket to buy government subsided food in Caracas, Venezuela, Nov. 18, 2016.
FILE - People wait outside a supermarket to buy government subsided food in Caracas, Venezuela, Nov. 18, 2016.
The turmoil has pushed gay rights to the bottom of the pile of priorities, with funding for many organizations and resources either reduced or cut entirely, a number of LGBT Venezuelans told Reuters.
A government limit on the sale of food has also penalized same-sex couples.
Under the government's family food bag scheme, same-sex couples were excluded.
"For this scheme, a census of families was ordered," Quiteria Franco, general coordinator at Union Afirmativa de Venezuela, told Reuters from Venezuela's capital Caracas. "This measure affected families made up of same-sex couples, because they were not counted as they are not considered families."
Transgender people are also struggling to find food supplies because the Venezuelan government does not issue identity documents that recognize their gender identity.
"Supermarkets were forced to install biometric reading machines so that each buyer could be identified and know how many products they have bought and when to avoid hoarding," Franco said.
"This system of buying and selling affected trans people, due to the incongruence between their gender identity and the legal identity reflected in their identity document."
The economic crisis has also led to a spike in human trafficking, with trans people particularly at risk.
There has been a rise in "human trafficking of trans women, as well as of biological women and young men, forced into sex work in Spain, Panama, Colombia, Dominican Republic and other countries," Adrian said.
A better life
Adrian Ynfante from Altagracia de Orituco, a town in the north of Venezuela, left his hometown in search of a better life in Colombia.
"Venezuela is a hard country. The culture [toward LGBT people], instead of improving, is getting worse every day," Ynfante, a transgender man, told Reuters from Colombia. "Living in Venezuela is now so complicated, but even more so for LGBT+ people."
With the country's health infrastructure stretched to a breaking point by the economic turmoil, a lack of drugs and medical supplies has particularly affected those living with HIV — both gay and straight.
According to the United Nations, there were 120,000 people living with HIV in Venezuela in 2016.
"The complex economic situation has greatly impacted UNAIDS work in the country," said Regina Lopez De Khalek, Venezuela's country manager for the UNAIDS program. "The health ministry has been limited in acquiring antiretroviral drugs, supplies for diagnostic and control tests, as well as condoms and other supplies."
Coming home
A resolution to the economic and political turmoil in Venezuela may be a long way off, but many LGBT migrants have found that their situation is often not much better in their host countries.
"In Colombia, you can't find a lot of opportunities when you're a migrant," Ynfante said. "And even less so if you're a transgender person."
"I have thought about [returning to Venezuela]," he added. "But the answer is no."
Arzola in Chile is also closely monitoring events back home.
"The situation in the country is much worse than when I left," he said. "Venezuela is a wound that does not close, but it keeps opening every day."

January 29, 2019

Hope For Venezuela? There is a ray Breaking thru Named Juan Guaidó





JOHN OTIS // NPR
In less than a month, Juan Guaidó has risen from obscure, junior lawmaker to self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela and the most serious threat yet to the authoritarian government of Nicolás Maduro. 
Guaidó, who defied Maduro by taking the oath of office on Wednesday, claims to lead a transitional government that will call free elections and return Venezuela to democracy. The 35-year-old was immediately recognized as Venezuela's legitimate leader by the United States, Canada and most Latin American nations and received widespread support from European countries.
In a speech Friday to cheering supporters at an outdoor plaza in Caracas, Guaidó proclaimed: "We have awakened from the nightmare, brothers and sisters." 
Maduro, who has led Venezuela into food shortages, hyperinflation and political repression during six years in office, is refusing to budge. His ruling Socialist party controls nearly all government institutions. On Thursday, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López declared that the nation's powerful armed forces — widely considered to be propping up the government — recognize Maduro as Venezuela's true president.  But at least for now, Guaidó is breathing new life into an opposition movement that had been deeply demoralized by internal power struggles and government repression.
"Thirty days ago, the opposition was demobilized and fractured with no leadership," said Michael Penfold, a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. "But that's not the case anymore. Guaidó represents a sparkle of hope."
"I think Guaidó is delivering exactly what the opposition wanted at this point, which is a bold, risk-taking response," said Javier Corrales, a Venezuela expert and professor of political science at Amherst College. 
A youthful-looking industrial engineer, Guaidó, got his start in politics by organizing student protests against the late Hugo Chávez, who ushered in Venezuela's socialist revolution two decades ago. In 2013, Chávez died of cancer and was succeeded by Maduro.
As a member of the Popular Will party, Guaidó in 2015 won a seat to the National Assembly – Venezuela's legislature – amid an opposition sweep of congressional elections. But that momentum quickly stalled. 
Anti-government demonstrations were crushed by security forces while an effort to remove Maduro through a recall election was vetoed by the government. The opposition's most charismatic leaders were arrested, forced into exile or stripped of their right to run for public office. Last year, Maduro won another six-year term in a presidential election widely considered a sham by international observers. 
Still, the opposition was determined to challenge Maduro's grip on power. It hatched an audacious plan to coincide with the start this month of what many view as Maduro's illegitimate second term. Guaidó became its leader.
Partly because more prominent politicians have been sidelined, the National Assembly in early January named Guaidó as its president. Venezuela's constitution states that the head of the National Assembly takes over should the presidency become vacant, as the opposition claims it has under Maduro. 
After consulting with U.S. and Latin American officials, according to the Associated Press, the opposition organized nationwide street marches on Wednesday and held a make-shift outdoor ceremony where Guaidó took the oath of office and launched his parallel government. 
In what amounted to his inaugural speech, Guaidó called on military officers to withdraw their support from Maduro. 
"It has to be the Venezuelan people, the armed forces, and the international community that allow us to assume power, which we will not let slip away," Guaidó told cheering supporters in what amounted to his inaugural address. 
At least one high-ranking military official, Col. José Luis Silva, who serves as military attaché at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, has heeded Guaidó's call. "As the Venezuelan defense attaché in the United States, I do not recognize Mr. Nicolás Maduro as president of Venezuela," Silva said in an interview Saturday with el Nuevo Herald
Guaidó lacks any control over government ministries but he is more than just a figurehead. Analysts say that swelling international support for him, coupled with Maduro's diplomatic isolation, strengthens Guaidó's claim to the presidency. 
Frank Mora, who heads the Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University, said Guaidó's swearing-in ceremony could become a watershed moment, similar to the 2010 episode in Tunisia when an angry fruit vender set himself on fire and helped ignite the Arab Spring.
Alternative leadership in Caracas has also opened the door for the Trump administration to squeeze the vital flow of petrodollars to the Maduro government — which counts on oil for 95 percent of its export earnings. 
One option would be to send the proceeds from purchases of Venezuelan oil to foreign accounts that could be set up and controlled by Guaidó's governing team, said Francisco Rodríguez, a former economic advisor to Venezuela's National Assembly. He said that diverting oil funds to Guaidó would have a "huge impact" on the Venezuelan economy and put more pressure on Maduro to leave office. 
"The pieces are starting to fit together for a peaceful transition in Venezuela," said Benjamin Scharifker, a leading Venezuelan intellectual and an opposition activist. 
But Guaidó also faces new risks.
Earlier this month, he was briefly detained by security forces and fears are growing that he could be arrested. At Friday's rally, Guaidó acknowledged that possibility but told supporters that if he were ever kidnapped, they should press ahead with nonviolent protests.

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