$100 million in humanitarian aid pledged to crisis-hit Venezuela

Venezuela is plagued by hyperinflation and major shortages of basic goods. (File/AFP)
Updated 15 February 2019
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$100 million in humanitarian aid pledged to crisis-hit Venezuela

  • Guaido and Maduro have been locked in a battle over allowing aid into the country
  • The money will go directly to aid collection centers set up on the borders with Colombia and Brazil and on the Caribbean island of Curazao

CARACAS: Twenty-five countries have pledged $100 million in aid to Venezuela, a top US official said Thursday, as the crisis-hit country’s Supreme Court took aim at oil executives appointed by the opposition.
Venezuela is plagued by hyperinflation and major shortages of basic goods, and two men — opposition leader Juan Guaido and President Nicolas Maduro — are vying for control of the country.
The United States is among more than 50 countries that have recognized Guaido as interim president, but Maduro — backed by the country’s military as well as Russia, China and dozens of other states — has so far refused to relinquish his office.
US national security adviser John Bolton made the announcement on the aid pledged to Venezuela following an Organization of American States conference on assisting the country.
“Today, 25 countries, united at the OAS-hosted Conference on Humanitarian Assistance in Support of Venezuela pledged $100 million in humanitarian assistance,” Bolton tweeted.
According to David Smolanksy, coordinator of an OAS working group on migration and refugees from Venezuela, the money will go directly to aid collection centers set up on the borders with Colombia and Brazil and on the Caribbean island of Curazao.
At the opening of the conference in Washington, Guaido’s representative in the United States, Carlos Vecchio, said the priority is to get aid into Venezuela on February 23 — a month after Guaido declared himself Venezuela’s interim president.
Guaido and Maduro have been locked in a battle over allowing aid into the country, and the military reinforced a blockade on Thursday at the border with Colombia, where the opposition leader has vowed to bring in desperately-needed goods.
AFP journalists saw several new freight containers blocking the road that connects the town of Urena in Venezuela to Cucuta in Colombia, where tons of US aid has been piling up for a week.
Venezuela is enduring the biggest economic crisis in its modern history, with hyperinflation predicted to hit 10 million percent this year according to the International Monetary Fund.
On Wednesday, the opposition-controlled National Assembly — which is headed by Guaido — appointed executives to form new boards for Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA and its US-based affiliate Citgo.
Venezuela’s Supreme Court took aim at the move the following day, ordering that the new appointees face criminal prosecution.
The high court — which is packed with Maduro loyalists — ruled that the executives were named by a legislature whose decisions are “null,” and that the appointees should face prosecution for crimes including “usurpation,” “corruption,” “organized crime” and “terrorism.”
The Supreme Court decision set in motion the process of extraditing the accused, most of whom are in the United States, and freezing their accounts.
Guaido celebrated the appointments as a “step forward in the reconstruction of PDVSA,” but Maduro had warned that those accepting “illegal” appointments would face justice.
The United States, which is leading the push to topple Maduro, has sanctioned key regime financial assets including the Citgo subsidiary, and President Donald Trump has refused to rule out military action against the leftist leader.
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Bosnians welcome UN verdict against Karadzic

Updated 21 March 2019
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Bosnians welcome UN verdict against Karadzic

  • ‘He should never be allowed to go free,’ Bosnian diplomat tells Arab News
  • Families of victims who traveled to The Hague hailed the verdict

JEDDAH: Former Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, widely known as the “Butcher of Bosnia,” has had his sentence for genocide and war crimes increased to life in prison.

He was appealing a 2016 verdict in which he was given a 40-year sentence for the Srebrenica massacre in the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

More than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in the town of Srebrenica by Bosnian-Serb forces in July 1995. Karadzic, 73, was also found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

The UN court said the 40-year sentence did not reflect the trial chamber’s analysis on the “gravity and responsibility for the largest and greatest set of crimes ever attributed to a single person at the ICTY (the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia).”

The ruling by the judges on Wednesday cannot be appealed, and will end one of the highest-profile legal battles stemming from the Balkan wars.

Karadzic showed almost no reaction as presiding Judge Vagn Joensen of Denmark read out the damning judgment.

The former leader is one of the most senior figures tried by The Hague’s war crimes court. His case is considered as key in delivering justice for the victims of the Bosnian conflict, which left more than 100,000 people dead and millions homeless.

Joensen said the trial chamber was wrong to impose a sentence of just 40 years, given what he called the “sheer scale and systematic cruelty” of Karadzic’s crimes. Applause broke out in the public gallery as Joensen passed the new sentence.

Families of victims who traveled to The Hague hailed the verdict. Mothers, some elderly and walking with canes, wept with apparent relief after watching the ruling read on a screen in Srebrenica.

Halim Grabus, a Bosnian-Muslim diplomat based in Geneva, told Arab News that the verdict “will act as a deterrent against the criminals responsible for the genocide of Muslims during the 1992-1995 war. He (Karadzic) should never be allowed to go free. He deserves maximum punishment.”

Grabus was in Bosnia during the war, and witnessed the scorched-earth policy of Karadzic and his fellow generals.

Grabus said it was not possible in today’s world to expect total justice, “but the verdict is important for the victims and survivors of Karadzic’s genocidal politics and ideology of hate.” 

A large majority of Serbs “continue to justify what he did, and continue to carry forward his hateful campaign against Bosnian Muslims,” Grabus added.

“Many of the killers of Muslims during the Bosnian war are still roaming free. They need to be arrested and brought to justice.”

Ratko Mladic, a Bosnian-Serb wartime military commander, is awaiting an appeal judgment of his genocide and war crimes conviction, which earned him a life sentence. Both he and Karadzic were convicted of genocide for their roles in the Srebrenica massacre.