US government shutdown compromises Miami airport operations

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In this file photo taken on June 2, 2016, travelers go through the TSA PreCheck security point at Miami International Airport. (AFP)
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This image shows the passenger area of the Miami International airport Terminal G on January 11, 2018 one day before it closes. (AFP)
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This image shows the passenger area of the Miami International airport Terminal G on January 11, 2018 one day before it closes. (AFP)
Updated 12 January 2019
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US government shutdown compromises Miami airport operations

  • There is no sign of a compromise to end the shutdown so far: Trump is insisting on funding for a wall on the border with Mexico, but opposition Democrats are not budging

MIAMI: The international airport in Miami has been forced to shut down one of its terminals early for three days due to a shortage of security agents sparked by the partial US government shutdown now in its 21st day.
From Saturday through Monday, Terminal G — one of six at the airport — will close at 1:00 p.m. (1800 GMT).
“Flights that were previously scheduled to depart from Concourse G this Saturday, Sunday and Monday will be relocated either to Concourse F or Concourse H,” airport spokesman Greg Chin told AFP.
At issue is a lack of agents from the US Transportation Security Administration, who are seen as “essential” federal workers and hence are still on the job — but without pay until the shutdown ends.
Agents are reportedly staging “sickouts” — calling in sick in a silent protest at their situation. According to The Miami Herald, absenteeism among the Miami airport agents has more than doubled since the shutdown began.
“Right now, there’s approximately some 40 employees that are calling in sick from TSA,” meaning that “this terminal doesn’t have the manpower to accommodate all the passengers,” airport spokesman Jack Varela told AFP.
“The airport, the airlines, TSA, customs we are all doing everything possible to make the passengers happy,” Varela said.
Democratic congressman Bennie Thompson, the new chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told the TSA chief in a letter this week that it was “only reasonable to expect officer call outs and resignations to increase the longer the shutdown lasts.”
“No employee can be expected to work indefinitely without pay,” Thompson said.
With the shutdown soon to drag into its fourth week, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association has reportedly filed a lawsuit against the administration of US President Donald Trump, alleging that members have been “unlawfully” deprived of their wages.
There is no sign of a compromise to end the shutdown so far: Trump is insisting on funding for a wall on the border with Mexico, but opposition Democrats are not budging.


Venezuela accuses US of trying to engineer coup

Updated 1 min 57 sec ago
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Venezuela accuses US of trying to engineer coup

  • Venezuela’s Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez accused Pence of having ordered “terrorists” to carry out acts of violence during Wednesday’s protest
CARACAS: Venezuela’s vice president on Tuesday accused her US counterpart of “openly calling for a coup d’etat” ahead of a mass street protest announced by the opposition for Wednesday.
“Yankee go home! We won’t let them interfere in the affairs of the homeland,” Delcy Rodriguez said in televised remarks.
Her comments came in reaction to American Vice President Mike Pence, who had earlier posted a video on Twitter in which he branded Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro “a dictator with no legitimate claim to power.”
“As the good people of Venezuela make your voices heard tomorrow, on behalf of the American people, we say: estamos con ustedes. We are with you,” Pence tweeted.
Venezuela’s Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez accused Pence of having ordered “terrorists” to carry out acts of violence during Wednesday’s protest.
The row came 24 hours after a group of soldiers rose up against Maduro at a command post in the north of Caracas and published a video on social media calling for the public to come out and support them.
They surrendered after the command post was surrounded by police and military units, with 27 people arrested.
But their voices were heard, according to the non-governmental Social Conflict Observatory, which said on Tuesday that anti-Maduro protests were recorded in at least 30 different locations around the capital.
Jorge Rodriguez said the mutinous soldiers had confessed to handing out some of the weapons they stole on Monday from a command depot to opposition activists “so they can carry out acts of violence, (cause) injuries and deaths during the protest.”
And he said they did so as they were following Pence’s orders.
Most of the protests took place in socially disadvantaged areas and some involved the blocking of streets and burning of garbage.
Police used tear gas to disperse some of the crowds, including in the northern Cotiza neighborhood where the group of soldiers made their stand.
The unrest, which lasted in some places until Tuesday morning, was a small taste of what may come on Wednesday when protesters are set to mobilize behind National Assembly president Juan Guaido.
The opposition deputy has branded Maduro a “usurper” and wants to establish a transitional government leading to elections.

The smell of pepper spray lingered in the air on Tuesday following clashes between protesters and law enforcement in the northern Los Mecedores neighborhood.
“Maduro out! That’s what the people were shouting. It was awful,” 60-year-old Dinora de Longa told AFP.
“The police were shooting and there was tear gas everywhere. I had to put my grandchildren in the bathroom. This won’t solve anything.”
One protest, in which people pelted cars with stones, took place on the motorway linking Caracas to the neighboring port of La Guaira, where the capital’s airport is located.
The anti-Maduro movement has gained traction since the former bus driver was sworn in for a second term as president on January 10.
Maduro won highly controversial elections in May that were boycotted by the opposition and dismissed as a fraud by the European Union, United States and Organization of American States.
The opposition accuses Maduro of running an authoritarian regime and acting unconstitutionally.
In 2016 he lost control of the National Assembly, enabling the opposition to challenge his leadership, but the loyalist-dominated Supreme Court stripped the legislature of its powers in 2017.
The National Assembly has been powerless since then but Guaido, who became president of the body earlier this month, has risen to the challenge of taking on Maduro’s iron grip on power.

Wednesday’s protest date of January 23 is significant because it marks 61 years since the fall of Marcos Perez Jimenez’s dictatorship.
The regime has responded by announcing its own demonstration in support of Maduro.
It will be the first major street movement since 125 people were killed during civil unrest between April and July 2017.
Venezuela is suffering the worst economic crisis in its modern history with poverty rising and the country gripped by four years of recession.
Basic necessities such as food and medicine have been in short supply, while spiraling inflation — predicted to reach a mind-boggling 10 million percent this year — has crippled the currency.
The crisis was sparked by a fall in the global oil price in 2014, a commodity Venezuela is almost entirely reliant upon.
Its crude production has dropped to barely a third of its level a decade ago.