Maduro reveals secret meetings with US envoy

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. (AP)
Updated 15 February 2019
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Maduro reveals secret meetings with US envoy

  • Venezuela is plunging deeper into a political chaos triggered by the US demand that Maduro step down a month into a second term that the US and its allies in Latin America consider illegitimate

CARACAS, Venezuela: President Nicolas Maduro has invited a US special envoy to Venezuela after revealing in an AP interview on Thursday that his foreign minister recently held secret talks with the US official in New York.
A senior Venezuelan official said the second of two meetings took place Feb. 11 — four days after the envoy, Elliott Abrams, said the “time for dialogue with Maduro had long passed,” and as the Trump administration publicly backed an effort to unseat the embattled Venezuelan president. The official spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to discuss the talks.
Even while harshly criticizing Donald Trump’s confrontational stance toward his socialist government, Maduro said he holds out hope of meeting the US president soon to resolve a crisis over America’s recognition of opponent Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader. 
Maduro said that while in New York, his foreign minister invited Abrams to come to Venezuela “privately, publicly or secretly.”
“If he wants to meet, just tell me when, where and how and I’ll be there,” Maduro said without providing more details. He said both New York meetings lasted several hours.
There was no immediate US comment.
Venezuela is plunging deeper into a political chaos triggered by the US demand that Maduro step down a month into a second term that the US and its allies in Latin America consider illegitimate. His opponent, the 35-year-old Guaido, burst onto the political stage in January in the first viable challenge in years to Maduro’s hold on power.
As head of the congress, Guaido on Jan. 10 declared himself interim president, saying he had a constitutional right to assume presidential powers from the “tyrant” Maduro. He has since garnered broad support, calling massive street protests and winning recognition from the US and dozens of nations in Latin America and Europe who share his goal of removing Maduro.
The escalating crisis is taking place against a backdrop of economic and social turmoil that has led to severe shortages of food and medicine that have force millions to flee the once-prosperous OPEC nation.
At turns conciliatory and combative, Maduro said all Venezuela needs to rebound is for Trump to remove his “infected hand” from the country that sits atop the world’s largest petroleum reserves.
He said US sanctions on the oil industry are to blame for mounting hardships even though shortages and hyperinflation that economists say topped 1 million percent long predates Trump’s recent action.
“The infected hand of Donald Trump is hurting Venezuela,” Maduro said.
The sanctions effectively ban all oil purchases by the US, which had been Venezuela’s biggest oil buyer until now. Maduro said he will make up for the sudden drop in revenue by targeting markets in Asia, especially India, where the head of state-run oil giant PDVSA was this week negotiating new oil sales.
“We’ve been building a path to Asia for many years,” he said. “It’s a successful route, every year they are buying larger volumes and amounts of oil.”
He also cited the continued support of China and especially Russia, which has been a major supplier of loans, weapons and oil investment over the years. He said that backing from Vladimir Putin runs the risk of converting the current crisis into a high-risk geopolitical fight between the US and Russia that recalls some of the most-dangerous brinkmanship of the Cold War.
Amid the mounting pressure at home and abroad, Maduro said he won’t give up power as a way to defuse the standoff.
He called boxes of US-supplied humanitarian aid sitting in a warehouse on the border in Colombia mere “crumbs” after the US administration froze billions of dollars in the nation’s oil revenue and overseas assets.
“They hang us, steal our money and then say ‘here, grab these crumbs’ and make a global show out of it,” said Maduro. “With dignity we say ‘No to the global show.’ Whoever wants to help Venezuela is welcome, but we have enough capacity to pay for everything that we need.”
Opponents say the 56-year-old former bus driver has lost touch with his working-class roots, accusing him of ordering mass arrests and starving Venezuelans while he and regime insiders — including the top military brass — line their pockets through corruption.
But Maduro shrugged off the label of “dictator,” attributing it to an ideologically-driven media campaign by the West to undermine the socialist revolution started by the late Hugo Chavez.
He said he won’t resign, seeing his place in history alongside other Latin American leftists from Salvador Allende in Chile to Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala who in decades past had been the target of US-backed coups.
“I’m not afraid,” he said, adding that even last year’s attack on him with explosives-laden drones during a military ceremony didn’t shake his resolve. “I’m only worried about the destiny of the fatherland and of our people, our boys and girls....this is what gives me energy.”


British Airways flight ends up in wrong city

Updated 25 March 2019
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British Airways flight ends up in wrong city

  • Passengers found out about the mishap when the pilot said the plane was coming in to land in Edinburgh
  • After the crew realized the mistake, the plane was refueled and flown to Dusseldorf

LONDON: A British Airways plane flew by mistake from London to Edinburgh instead of Dusseldorf in Germany on Monday.
Passengers only found out about the mishap when the pilot said the plane was coming in to land in Edinburgh, which is around 500 miles (800 kilometers) from Dusseldorf.
After the crew realized the mistake, the plane was refueled and flown to Dusseldorf, landing in Germany with a delay of more than three and a half hours.
“We are working with WDL Aviation, who operated this flight on behalf of British Airways, to establish why the incorrect flight plan was filed,” a spokesman said.
Twitter user Son Tran, who said he was on the plane, said: “While an interesting concept, I don’t think anyone on board has signed up for this mystery travel lottery.”
Another passenger, Sophie Cooke, told the BBC that the wait in Edinburgh “became very frustrating.”
“The toilets were blocked and they ran out of snacks. It was also really stuffy,” Cooke said.