US denies role as Venezuela’s Maduro blames ‘assassination’ attempt on Colombia

Screengrab taken from a handout video released by Venezuelan Television (VTV) showing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (C), his wife Cilia Flores (L) and military authorities reacting to a loud band during a ceremony to celebrate the 81st anniversary of the National Guard in Caracas on August 4, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 05 August 2018
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US denies role as Venezuela’s Maduro blames ‘assassination’ attempt on Colombia

  • Seven soldiers were wounded by the alleged attack using explosive-laden drones during a military parade in Caracas

CARACAS: The United States on Sunday denied involvement as Nicolas Maduro blamed the opposition and Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos for an alleged “assassination” attempt on the Venezuela president.
Venezuela’s far-left government said seven soldiers were wounded by the alleged attack using explosive-laden drones during a military parade in Caracas on Saturday.
Maduro pointed the finger at outgoing Colombian President Santos and “the ultra-right wing,” a term he uses to describe domestic opposition, as a mysterious rebel group claimed responsibility.
US national security adviser John Bolton insisted there was “no US government involvement” and even suggested that the incident could have been “a pretext set up by the regime itself.”
Venezuela has already reacted to Saturday’s events with a series of arrests as Attorney General Tarek William Saab, who was also present at the parade, warning: “There will be a ruthless punishment.”
Saab said the names of those arrested would be revealed on Monday.
Once safely entrenched back in the presidential palace, Maduro barked out a defiant message to his detractors in a national address.
“Justice! Maximum punishment! And there will be no forgiveness,” he warned, sparking fears of an anti-opposition offensive in a country already reportedly holding some 248 political prisoners.
“I am fine, I am alive, and after this attack I’m more determined than ever to follow the path of the revolution,” added the successor to the late author of Venezuela’s socialist revolution, Hugo Chavez.
State television images showed Maduro looking up disconcertedly in the middle of a speech, having heard a bang, before members of the country’s National Guard lined up in the parade suddenly scattered.
“It was an attack to kill me, they tried to assassinate me,” Maduro said.
Communication Minister Jorge Rodriguez said there was “an explosive charge... detonated close to the presidential podium” and in several other spots along the parade held in central Caracas. Saab told CNN he saw a drone filming the event explode.
No drones could be seen in the television broadcast, which showed bodyguards jumping in front of Maduro to protect him with flexible ballistic shields. The broadcast was quickly cut.
Meanwhile, a policeman who requested anonymity told AFP that drones may have been released from a nearby apartment that suffered a fire after one exploded. However, other accounts attributed the fire to the accidental explosion of a gas cylinder.
Late on Saturday, a civilian and military rebel group calling itself the “National Movement of Soldiers in T-shirts” claimed responsibility in a statement passed to US-based opposition journalist Patricia Poleo, who read it on her YouTube channel.
“We cannot tolerate that the population is suffering from hunger, that the sick do not have medicine, that the currency has no value, or that the education system neither educates nor teaches, only indoctrinating communism,” said the statement, accusing the regime of having “made public office an obscene way to get rich.”
Maduro, though, blamed neighboring Colombia: “I have no doubt that the name Juan Manuel Santos is behind this attack.”


British PM May tries to break Brexit deadlock by winning more EU concessions

Updated 57 min 4 sec ago
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British PM May tries to break Brexit deadlock by winning more EU concessions

  • Only two months left till UK is supposed to leave the EU, but no final agreement on how exists yet
  • May will make a statement in the parliament Monday afternoon to present her plans on Brexit

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday will try to crack the deadlock over Brexit by setting out proposals in parliament that are expected to focus on winning more concessions from the European Union.
With just over two months left until the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on March 29 there is no agreement in London on how and even whether it should leave the world’s biggest trading bloc.
After her Brexit divorce deal was rejected by 402 lawmakers in the 650-seat parliament last week, May has been searching for a way to get a deal through parliament.
Attempts to forge a consensus with the opposition Labour Party failed so May is expected to focus on winning over 118 rebels in her own party and the small Northern Irish party which props up her government with concessions from the EU.
In a sign of just how grave the political crisis in London has become, the Daily Telegraph reported that May was even considering amending the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which ended 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland.
The Daily Telegraph said EU sources cast May’s plan a non-starter as a renegotiation of such a significant international treaty would require the consent of all the parties involved in Northern Ireland.
May told British ministers she would focus on securing changes from Brussels designed to win over rebel Conservatives and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, The Times said.
May will make a statement in parliament around Monday afternoon and put forward a motion in parliament on her proposed next steps on Brexit, though some lawmakers are planning to wrest control of Britain’s exit from the government.
After May’s motion is published, lawmakers will be able to propose amendments to it, setting out alternatives to the prime minister’s deal.
Parliament is deeply divided over Brexit, with different factions of lawmakers supporting a wide range of options including leaving without a deal, holding a second referendum and seeking a customs union with the EU.
Ever since Britain voted by 52-48 percent to leave the EU in a referendum in June 2016, London’s political class has been debating how to leave the European project forged by France and Germany after the devastation of World War Two.
While the country is divided over EU membership, most agree that the world’s fifth largest economy is at a crossroads and that its choices over Brexit will shape the prosperity of future generations for years to come.
Supporters of EU membership cast Brexit as a immense mistake that will undermine the West, smash Britain’s reputation as a stable destination for investment and slowly weaken London’s position as one of the world’s top two financial capitals.
Brexit supporters cast leaving as a way to break free from a union they see as a doomed German-dominated experiment in unity that is fast falling behind the leading economic powers of the 21st century, the United States and China.