Maduro creates military unit to protect public service installations

Handout photo released by the Venezuelan Presidency's press office showing Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (L) during a meeting with military commanders in the framework of the planning of "Civic Military Exercises" to take place in the weekend, at Miraflores Presidential palace in Caracas, on March 15, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 16 March 2019
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Maduro creates military unit to protect public service installations

  • The socialist leader accused the opposition of concocting a plan “to accompany the blackout with general violence,” claiming it was neutralized

CARACAS: Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro created a military unit on Friday charged with protecting basic installations and services such as electricity and water just over a week after the country was hit with a massive blackout.
Maduro blamed that on a cyberattack directed by the United States but critics say the government was at fault for failing to maintain infrastructure.
Speaking on television and radio, Maduro said the “Command for the Defense of Basic Strategic Services” would be tasked with ensuring “security, operability and maintenance.”
Its officers would be responsible for guaranteeing both “physical and cybernetic” security of infrastructure and maintenance of equipment.
Maduro repeated his claim that the blackout, which lasted almost a week, was due to “successive attacks” against the country’s major hydroelectric facility at Guri in Bolivar state, “directed” by US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton.
The blackout hit on March 7 and paralyzed the entire country.
The government announced on Tuesday that power was back on in practically the whole country but western regions still reported cuts.
The socialist leader accused the opposition of concocting a plan “to accompany the blackout with general violence,” claiming it was neutralized.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido launched a challenge to Maduro’s leadership in January by declaring himself acting president.
He has since been recognized by more than 50 countries, led by the US.
He said the blackout was caused by burning vegetation that damaged equipment.
Maduro accused him of “sabotage,” although experts doubt that version of events.
Venezuela has been in recession for more than four years and is suffering from an economic crisis.
An estimated 2.7 million people have left the country as poverty soared leaving shortages of food and medicines.


Bulgaria seizes 288 kilos of heroin in truck from Iran

Updated 18 April 2019
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Bulgaria seizes 288 kilos of heroin in truck from Iran

  • Two men — the Iranian truck driver and a Turkish man, who was allegedly to receive the drugs in Bulgaria — were detained and indicted for drug trafficking

SOFIA: Bulgarian customs officials confiscated more than 288 kilo (635 pounds) of heroin hidden on a truck from Iran, prosecutors announced Thursday.

The haul is the biggest amount of heroin seized at Bulgaria’s borders this year, the customs agency said.

Two men — the Iranian truck driver and a Turkish man, who was allegedly to receive the drugs in Bulgaria — were detained and indicted for drug trafficking, the Haskovo regional prosecution said in a statement. They risk jail terms from 15 to 20 years, it added.

The drugs were placed in 144 packages hidden inside the floor and ceiling of a spray painting machine transported inside the truck.

It was found when the vehicle was X-rayed upon entering Bulgaria from Turkey at the southeastern Kapitan Andreevo border checkpoint on Sunday, but the seizure was only announced on Thursday.

Bulgaria, which lies on the so-called Balkan drugs route from the Middle East to Western Europe, has seen a several-fold increase in heroin seizures over the past three years.

In 2018, the customs agency confiscated a total of 994 kilos of heroin at the country’s borders, a rise of 13 percent from 2017.