Venezuela’s Guaido courts Russia; powers divided on Maduro

Venezuela's National Assembly head and self-proclaimed "acting president" Juan Guaido, seen at the National Assembly in Caracas on January 29, 2019, is urging Russia and China to switch their support to his side. (AFP / Yuri Cortez)
Updated 01 February 2019
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Venezuela’s Guaido courts Russia; powers divided on Maduro

  • Russia and China are backing the floundering government of President Nicolas Maduro
  • The US and most of Venezuela's neighbors want Maduro out

CARACAS: Global jostling intensified on Thursday between countries that want Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in power and those trying to force him to resign, as opposition leader Juan Guaido made overtures to his rival’s allies Russia and China.
Guaido told Reuters he had sent communications to both powers, which are Venezuela’s top foreign creditors and support Maduro in the UN Security Council despite worries about the cash-strapped country’s ability to pay.
The 35-year-old leader argued that Russia and China’s interests would be best served by switching the side they back in Venezuela, an OPEC member which has the world’s largest oil reserves but is in dire financial straits.
“What most suits Russia and China is the country’s stability and a change of government,” Guaido said. “Maduro does not protect Venezuela, he doesn’t protect anyone’s investments, and he is not a good deal for those countries.”
The intense pressure is led by the United States, which along with most other countries in the Western Hemisphere recognizes Guaido as the country’s legitimate interim president, arguing that Maduro stole his second-term election.
The United States on Monday imposed sweeping sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm, aimed at pressuring Maduro to step down.
A former union leader, bus driver and foreign minister, the 56-year-old Maduro, who first took office in 2013, has faced waves of protests in recent years as he presided over hyperinflation and chronic food shortages. Some 3 million Venezuelans have left the country. A UN expert on Thursday warned that the US oil sanctions could worsen the humanitarian crisis.


Death toll from Indonesia floods, mudslides rises to 89

This photo taken on March 7, 2019 shows residents walking along a flooded road in Dayeuhkolot village in Bandung, West Java province. (AFP)
Updated 36 min 49 sec ago
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Death toll from Indonesia floods, mudslides rises to 89

  • The lack of heavy equipment is hindering rescue efforts
  • Authorities are still looking for 74 missing residents

JAYAPURA, Indonesia: The death toll from flash floods and mudslides triggered by torrential downpours in Indonesia’s easternmost province has risen to 89, with dozens of others missing, officials said Tuesday.
Floodwaters and landslides destroyed roads and bridges in several areas of Papua province’s Jayapura district early Sunday, hampering rescue efforts.
National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the worst-hit area from the flooding was Sentani subdistrict, where tons of mud, rocks and trees from a landslide on a mountain rolled down to a river that burst its banks, sweeping away residents.
He said 89 bodies had been pulled from the mud and wreckage of crumpled homes by Tuesday. Another 159 people were injured, including 84 who were hospitalized, many with broken bones and head wounds.
The number of dead is expected to rise as rescue workers comb through affected areas.
More than 1,600 rescuers, including soldiers and police, faced difficulties on Tuesday in clearing huge piles of debris due to shortages of heavy equipment, said Papua military spokesman Col. Muhammad Aidi.
“We face difficulties removing debris and the bodies under rubble as we don’t have enough excavators,” Aidi said, adding that rescuers were searching for 74 people reportedly missing and feared dead.
Nugroho said about 7,000 residents were displaced from their homes, with more than 400 houses and other buildings damaged and thousands of others submerged.
Seasonal downpours cause frequent landslides and floods that kill dozens each year in Indonesia, a chain of 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near fertile flood plains.