Brazil’s Bolsonaro pledges action to ‘restore democracy’ in Venezuela

(L-R) Brazilian foreign minister Ernesto Araujo, exiled Venezuelan supreme court justice Miguel Angel Martin, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Organization of American States representative Gustavo Cinosi during a meeting with members of the Venezuelan opposition in Brasilia on January 17, 2019. (Brazilian presidency press office handout via AFP)
Updated 18 January 2019
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Brazil’s Bolsonaro pledges action to ‘restore democracy’ in Venezuela

BRASILIA: Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday he would do all he could to “to re-establish order and democracy” in Venezuela, while his foreign minister met with Venezuelan opposition leaders.
The right-wing government of Bolsonaro on Saturday said it recognized Juan Guaido, a Venezuelan opposition leader who is head of the congress, as the rightful president of Venezuela — even though Guaido himself has not proclaimed himself president.
Socialist President Nicolas Maduro began a new term last week under a cloud of international criticism by governments around the world, who have described him as an illegitimate leader whose policies have plunged Venezuela into its worst ever economic crisis.
“We will continue doing everything possible to re-establish order, democracy and freedom there,” Bolsonaro said in a video, in which he stood next to the head of the opposition-appointed Supreme Court in exile, Miguel Angel Martin.
“We asked the people of Venezuela to resist and have faith, because I believe a solution is coming soon,” Bolsonaro said in the video issued by his office.
Guaido, a lawmaker from the hard-line Popular Will opposition party, said last week he was prepared to assume the presidency on an interim basis and call elections, but would only do so with support of the armed forces.
Since taking office Jan. 1, Bolsonaro has stepped up criticism of Maduro’s government, the United States’ biggest ideological foe in Latin America.
Also at the meeting was a representative for Luis Almagro, the secretary general of the Organization of American States who has said Venezuela should be suspended from the regional forum.
Bolsonaro’s foreign minister Ernesto Araujo spent the morning huddled with a group of Venezuelan opposition leaders, led by the exiled former mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, to analyze the situation and Guaido’s readiness to take over as acting president, a Brazilian foreign ministry statement said.
Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The meeting also discussed ideas for “concrete action” to re-establish democracy in Venezuela, the statement said, without giving further details.
The opposition leaders said 300,000 people were starving and more than 11,000 newborn babies were dying each year due to the lack of medicine in what they called a “silent genocide perpetrated by the Maduro dictatorship,” the statement said.
Maduro, who says that a US-directed “economic war” is trying to force him from power, has so far had consistent support from the armed forces at home.


Manafort ‘brazenly violated the law’ for years, says US special counsel Mueller

Updated 24 min 14 sec ago
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Manafort ‘brazenly violated the law’ for years, says US special counsel Mueller

  • Prosecutors said that “upon release from jail, Manafort presents a grave risk of recidivism”
  • Manafort is already facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison in a separate tax and bank fraud case
WASHINGTON: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort committed crimes that cut to “the heart of the criminal justice system” and over the years deceived everyone from bookkeepers and banks to federal prosecutors and his own lawyers, according to a sentencing memo filed Saturday by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office.
In the memo, submitted in one of two criminal cases Manafort faces, prosecutors do not yet take a position on how much prison time he should serve or whether to stack the punishment on top of a separate sentence he will soon receive in a Virginia prosecution. But they do depict Manafort as a longtime and unrepentant criminal who committed “bold” crimes, including under the spotlight of his role as campaign chairman and later while on bail, and who does not deserve any leniency.
“For over a decade, Manafort repeatedly and brazenly violated the law,” prosecutors wrote. “His crimes continued up through the time he was first indicted in October 2017 and remarkably went unabated even after indictment.”
Citing Manafort’s lies to the FBI, several government agencies and his own lawyer, prosecutors said that “upon release from jail, Manafort presents a grave risk of recidivism.”
The 25-page memo, filed in federal court in Washington, is likely the last major filing by prosecutors as Manafort heads into his sentencing hearings next month and as Mueller’s investigation approaches a conclusion. Manafort, who has been jailed for months and turns 70 in April, will have a chance to file his own sentencing recommendation next week. He and his longtime business partner, Rick Gates, were the first two people indicted in the special counsel’s investigation. Overall, Mueller has produced charges against 34 individuals, including six former Trump aides, and three companies.
Manafort’s case has played out in stark contrast to those of other defendants in the Russia investigation, such as former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who prosecutors praised for his cooperation and left open the possibility of no jail time.
Manafort pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy arising from his Ukrainian political consulting work and his efforts to tamper with witnesses. As part of that plea, he agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s team, a move that could have helped him avoid a longer prison sentence. But within weeks, prosecutors say he repeatedly lied to investigators, including about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, a business associate who the US says has ties to Russian intelligence. That deception voided the plea deal.
The sentencing memo comes as Manafort, who led Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign for several critical months, is already facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison in a separate tax and bank fraud case in Virginia. Mueller’s team endorsed a sentence of between 19.5 and 24.5 years in prison in that case.
Prosecutors note that the federal guidelines recommend a sentence of more than 17 years, but Manafort pleaded guilty last year to two felony counts that carry maximum sentences of five years each.
Prosecutors originally filed a sealed sentencing memo on Friday, but the document was made public on Saturday with certain information still redacted, or blacked out.
In recent weeks, court papers have revealed that Manafort shared polling data related to the Trump campaign with Kilimnik. A Mueller prosecutor also said earlier this month that an August 2016 meeting between Manafort and Kilimnik goes to the “heart” of the Russia probe. The meeting involved a discussion of a Ukrainian peace plan, but prosecutors haven’t said exactly what has captured their attention and whether it factors into the Kremlin’s attempts to help Trump in the 2016 election.
Like other Americans close to the president charged in the Mueller probe, Manafort hasn’t been accused of involvement in Russian election interference.