Maduro blasts US for ‘stealing’ billions and offering ‘crumbs’

Handout picture released by the Venezuelan Presidency showing Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (C), Venezuelan Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino (C-L) and Venezuelan Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez (C-R) during the closing ceremony and balance of military exercices in Caracas, on February 15, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 16 February 2019
0

Maduro blasts US for ‘stealing’ billions and offering ‘crumbs’

  • The country is in the midst of an economic crisis that has left millions in poverty and facing shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicine

CARACAS: President Nicolas Maduro hit out at the United States on Friday for “stealing” billions of dollars and offering “crumbs” in return as humanitarian aid, as Washington sanctioned five officials close to the Venezuelan leader.
Tons of US aid is piling up in Colombia close to the border with Venezuela as opposition leader Juan Guaido has vowed to defy Maduro’s efforts to block the supplies from entering the country.
“It’s a booby trap, they’re putting on a show with rotten and contaminated food,” said Maduro, speaking at an event in the southeastern town of Ciudad Bolivar.
“They’ve stolen $30 billion and are offering four crumbs of rotten food,” added the beleaguered socialist leader, referring to the United States.
Later Friday, Maduro asked the military to prepare for a “special deployment” to reinforce the border with Colombia — and make it “impregnable.”
“I am not exaggerating. In the White House, Donald Trump and Ivan Duque announced plans for war against Venezuela,” he said, referring to a meeting on Wednesday in which President Donald Trump reiterated that “all options” were on the table with regard to Venezuela.
The country is in the midst of an economic crisis that has left millions in poverty and facing shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicine.
Guaido, who is recognized by 50 countries as the interim president, accuses Maduro of causing economic hardship through mismanagement.
Among those countries is Costa Rica, whose foreign affairs ministry on Friday gave three Maduro-appointed diplomats “60 calendar days” to leave the country.
Maduro meanwhile blames Venezuela’s woes on US sanctions.
The 56-year-old, the hand-picked successor to socialist firebrand Hugo Chavez, branded it the “war of the oligarchy.”
US sanctions mostly target regime individuals and state oil company PDVSA, the government’s main source of income, but the US Treasury announced Friday that it was imposing sanctions on five intelligence and security officials close to Maduro.

Those targeted are “aligned with illegitimate former President Nicolas Maduro, who (continues) to repress democracy and democratic actors in Venezuela,” a Treasury Department statement said.
Among the five men is Manuel Quevedo, described by the Treasury as the “illegitimate” president of PDVSA.
Humanitarian aid has become a key issue in the power struggle between Maduro and Guaido.
The opposition leader, who last month declared himself acting president, has promised to bring in the aid on February 23.
Maduro refuses to let it in. And his loyal military has barricaded a border bridge between Venezuela and Colombia.
The socialist leader insists the aid is just a cover for a planned US military invasion, while Guaido says 300,000 people could die without the desperately-needed aid.
Speaking on Friday, Maduro said six million families had benefitted from subsidized food boxes and claimed to have bought 933 tons of medicines and medical supplies from China, Cuba and Russia, his main international allies.
“We paid for it with our own money because we’re beggars to no one,” he said.
Guaido accuses Maduro of being a “usurper” over his controversial reelection last year in polls widely branded as fraudulent.
Maduro says the 35-year-old National Assembly speaker is a puppet to the US, which is trying to secure access to Venezuela’s gold and vast oil reserves — the largest in the world.
He said Guaido’s challenge to his authority is “treason.”
“The worst thing is stimulating the imperial madness of an extremist Ku Klux Klan government in the White House,” said Maduro.
US national security adviser John Bolton announced on Thursday that 25 countries had “pledged $100 million in humanitarian assistance.”
A US defense official said Friday that the American military will transport some 200 tons of humanitarian aid for Venezuela to Colombia in the coming days.


11 people reported killed in gun attack at bar in Brazil

Policemen are seen at a site where, according to local media, an armed group entered and opened fire at a bar, killing and wounding its patrons, in Belem, Para state, Brazil May 19, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 44 min 38 sec ago
0

11 people reported killed in gun attack at bar in Brazil

  • Brazil hit a record high of 64,000 homicides in 2017, 70% of which were due to firearms, according to official statistics

RIO DE JANEIRO: A gang of gunmen roared up to a bar in Belem city in Brazil’s northern Pará state and opened fire, killing six women and five men Sunday afternoon, media reports said. State officials would confirm only that “a massacre” occurred but gave no details.
The G1 news website said police reported that seven gunmen were involved in the attack, which also wounded one person. The news outlet said the attackers arrived at the bar on one motorcycle and in three cars.
A Pará state spokeswoman, Natalia Mello, said only: “A massacre is confirmed.” State communications officials stopped answering phone calls. Military and civil police in Pará state also did not answer phone calls or respond to emails.
In late March, the federal government sent National Guard troops to Belém to reinforce security in the city for 90 days.
Brazil hit a record high of 64,000 homicides in 2017, 70% of which were due to firearms, according to official statistics.
Much of Brazil’s violence is gang related. In January, gangs attacked across Fortaleza, bringing that city to a standstill with as commerce, buses and taxis shut down.
Rio de Janeiro, the country’s second biggest city, experiences daily shootouts between rival gangs and also between police and criminals, battles that often result in the deaths of innocent bystanders. Fogo Cruzado, a group that monitors shootings in the Rio metropolitan area, says there were 2,300 shootings in Rio and its suburbs during the first 100 days of this year.
Killings attributed to police gunfire in Rio de Janeiro state have reached a record high, rising 18% in the first three months, in a spike partly attributed to a campaign of a zero tolerance for criminals being pushed by state leaders.
One of new President Jair Bolsonaro’s main campaign promises was that he would loosen Brazil’s strict gun laws, arguing that because criminals are well-armed with illegally obtained guns, “upstanding citizens” should have the right to defend themselves with legally bought guns. Bolsonaro has made good on that campaign promise with two presidential decrees that make buying guns easier, though federal prosecutors are seeking to get the courts to block that move.