Venezuelan army moves to block aid shipments, sparking US anger

Venezuela’s army had to choose between “a dictatorship that does not have an iota of humanity, or to side with the constitution” from which he takes his legitimacy, opposition leader Juan Guaido. (File/AFP)
Updated 07 February 2019
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Venezuelan army moves to block aid shipments, sparking US anger

  • Mike Pompeo said Venezuela’s military was deliberately blocking the aid with trucks and shipping containers “under Maduro’s orders”
  • Maduro, 56, has repeatedly accused the United States of fomenting a coup

CARACAS: Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido warned the army of its responsibilities on Wednesday after soldiers blocked a key border bridge, sparking angry demands from the United States to allow desperately needed humanitarian aid to enter the country.
Venezuela’s army had to choose between “a dictatorship that does not have an iota of humanity, or to side with the constitution” from which he takes his legitimacy, Guaido said in an interview on Colombian radio.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Venezuela’s military was deliberately blocking the aid with trucks and shipping containers “under Maduro’s orders.”
“The Maduro regime must LET THE AID REACH THE STARVING PEOPLE,” Pompeo said in a tweet.
Guaido claims that up to 300,000 people face death if the aid is not delivered, following years of economic crisis and shortages of basic food and medicines.
Tanker trucks and shipping containers were moved into position late Tuesday on the Tienditas bridge, a key crossing point on the border with Colombia.
The 35-year-old National Assembly chief — who stunned Venezuelans when he proclaimed himself president on January 23 — is trying to force Maduro from power, set up a transitional government and hold a new presidential polls.
He has claimed legitimacy from the constitution as National Assembly leader, on the grounds that Maduro’s re-election last May, boycotted by most of the opposition, was “illegitimate.”
Venezuela’s powerful military — which despite a few defections has remained loyal to Maduro — is seen as key to the outcome of the socialist leader’s power struggle with his young rival.
In a bid to tip the balance, the US said it was prepared to exempt Caracas’ army top brass from punitive sanctions if they recognized Guaido.
US National Security Adviser John Bolton said Washington “will consider sanctions off-ramps for any Venezuelan senior military officer that stands for democracy and recognizes the constitutional government of President Juan Guaido.”
“If not, the international financial circle will be closed off completely,” Bolton said on Twitter, urging the officers to “make the right choice.”
Guaido has been recognized by more than 40 countries since declaring himself interim president on January 23.
However, several countries including Italy and Greece have so far blocked an EU bid for tougher action against Maduro’s socialist regime.
Guaido held talks with EU representatives in Caracas earlier Wednesday “to consolidate their support for the democratic transition” adding that he would send a delegation to holdout state Italy to present his “action plan to relaunch democracy.”
Maduro disclosed Monday that he sent Pope Francis a letter seeking help in mediating the country’s crisis. The pope told journalists Tuesday that this would require agreement from both the government and the opposition.
Guaido backed the idea on Wednesday, saying the Argentine pope could bring his “great moral authority” to bear on Maduro to convince him to leave power.
Maduro, who is supported by Russia, China, Turkey, Cuba and Iran, has refused all humanitarian aid shipments to Venezuela, which he says would open the way to allow a US military invasion.
Maduro dismissed the need for aid on Wednesday as a “political show.”
“Imperialism does not help anyone in the world,” he told Russia Today.
In Geneva, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was doubling its resources to cope with the crisis, where food and medicine shortages have pushed 2.3 million people to flee since 2015.
Maduro, 56, has repeatedly accused the United States of fomenting a coup. And on Wednesday he called for the collection of 10 million signatures against what he called “Trump’s interventionist action.”
The US, which has not ruled out a military intervention in crisis-wracked Venezuela, was the first to recognize his rival as acting president, followed by a dozen Latin American countries.
Latin American and EU states have formed a “Contact Group” on Venezuela which will meet in the Uruguayan capital Montevideo on Thursday.
Russia has slammed what it called interference in the oil-rich but now poor Latin American country, saying it was an attempt to “legitimize usurped power.”
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the EU of trying to “topple the government by violence and ruse.”
Guaido has nevertheless ramped up pressure on the regime with a series of mass protests, the next of which is scheduled for February 12.
His fledgling alternative administration will hold talks in Washington on February 14 on responding to “the largest hemispheric humanitarian crisis in modern history.”


Sixteen states sue Trump over border wall emergency

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, right, accompanied by Gov. Gavin Newsom, said California will probably sue President Donald Trump over his emergency declaration to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP)
Updated 17 min 12 sec ago
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Sixteen states sue Trump over border wall emergency

  • The complaint added that the Department of Homeland Security had violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to evaluate the environmental impact of the wall in California and New Mexico

SAN FRANCISCO: Sixteen US states sued President Donald Trump’s administration Monday over his decision to declare a national emergency to fund a wall on the southern border with Mexico, saying the move violated the constitution.
The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in California, said the president’s order was contrary to the Presentment Clause that outlines legislative procedures and the Appropriations Clause, which defines Congress as the final arbiter of public funds.
The move had been previously announced by Xavier Becerra the attorney general of California who said his state and others had legal standing because they risked losing moneys intended for military projects, disaster assistance and other purposes.
Several Republican senators have decried the emergency declaration, saying it establishes a dangerous precedent and amounts to executive overreach.
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Virginia are party to the complaint seeking an injunction.
“Use of those additional federal funds for the construction of a border wall is contrary to Congress’s intent in violation of the US Constitution, including the Presentment Clause and Appropriations Clause,” the complaint said.
It added that Trump had “veered the country toward a constitutional crisis of his own making.”
“Congress has repeatedly rebuffed the president’s insistence to fund a border wall, recently resulting in a record 35-day partial government shutdown over the border wall dispute,” the document read.
“After the government reopened, Congress approved, and the president signed into law, a $1.375 billion appropriation for fencing along the southern border, but Congress made clear that funding could not be used to build President Trump’s proposed border wall.”
The complaint added that the Department of Homeland Security had violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to evaluate the environmental impact of the wall in California and New Mexico.
Friday’s declaration enables the president to divert funds from the Pentagon’s military construction budget and other sources.