Struggle for control of Venezuela returning to the streets

1 / 2
This handout photo released by the Venezuelan Presidency press office shows President Nicolas Maduro (R) attending military excercices at the Bolivarian National Guard Command in Macarao, Caracas, on February 1, 2019. (AFP)
2 / 2
This handout photo released by the Venezuelan Presidency press office shows President Nicolas Maduro (C) attending military excercices next to Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino (L), at the Bolivarian National Guard Command in Macarao, Caracas, on February 1, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 02 February 2019

Struggle for control of Venezuela returning to the streets

  • Maduro remains dug in, blaming the White House for openly backing what he calls a coup to remove him from power and exploit his country’s vast oil wealth

CARACAS, Venezuela: Momentum is growing for Venezuela’s opposition movement led by lawmaker Juan Guaido, who has called supporters back into the streets for nationwide protests Saturday, escalating pressure on embattled President Nicolas Maduro to step down.
A defiant Maduro’s socialist government has called on its own loyalists to flood the streets waving flags to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Bolivarian revolution launched by the late Hugo Chavez.
The dueling demonstrations will play out amid a political standoff in its second week of heightened tensions — and with the potential to spark violent clashes between the opposition and security forces.
Guaido has turned down offers from the presidents of Mexico and Uruguay to negotiate with Maduro. In a letter Guaido urged both presidents to back Venezuela’s struggle, saying to remain neutral aligns them with Maduro.
“At this historical moment that our country is going through, to be neutral is to be on the side of the regime that has condemned hundreds of thousands of human beings to misery, hunger and exile — including death,” he said.
Guaido declared himself interim president last week before tens of thousands of cheering supporters and vowed to end Maduro’s “dictatorship.” His claim to the presidency is backed by the United States and some two dozen other nations.
The opposition seeks to usher in a transition by holding democratic elections, Guaido said in the letter to Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez and Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
The United States has also rejected the offers from Mexico, Uruguay and the Vatican to mediate a dialogue.
Vice President Mike Pence on Friday met with exiled Venezuelans in Miami, reassuring them the Trump administration would continue to weaken Maduro.
“This is no time for dialogue,” Pence said at a church, prompting loud cheers from the Venezuelan exiles. “It is time to end the Maduro regime.”
President Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton tweeted Thursday that Maduro and his top advisers should retire to “a nice beach somewhere far away from Venezuela.” Bolton’s talk turned tougher Friday in an interview with conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt in which he warned that it could be a beach area more like Guantanamo.
Later Friday, Bolton tweeted that Washington would send humanitarian aid to Venezuela despite Maduro’s refusal to accept such assistance. The comment came after Guaido said he would defy the aid ban and receive convoys of medicine into Venezuela with the help of neighboring nations.
“Pursuant to the request of Interim President Juan Guaido, and in consultation with his officials the US will mobilize and transport humanitarian aid_medicine, surgical supplies, and nutritional supplements for the people of Venezuela. It’s time for Maduro to get out of the way,” Bolton’s tweet said.
Maduro remains dug in, blaming the White House for openly backing what he calls a coup to remove him from power and exploit his country’s vast oil wealth. He retains support from powerful allies, including Russia and China, but is growing increasingly isolated as more nations back Guaido.
Maduro on Friday continued a show of might as commander-in-chief that has seen him crisscross Venezuela to oversee military exercises as he vows to defend his socialist government no matter the cost.
“We’re in a historic battle,” Maduro told several hundred troops standing in formation around armored vehicles. “We’re facing the greatest political, diplomatic and economic aggression that Venezuela has confronted in 200 years.”
The military’s top leadership is backing Maduro, though analysts warn that rank-and-file troops frustrated by their country’s economic and humanitarian crisis may not share that unwavering loyalty.
The opposition’s street protests planned for Saturday are the second such mass action this week. Guaido led a peaceful demonstration Wednesday with residents stepping out of their homes and workplaces for two hours. Last week, street protests turned violent in days of unrest that killed nearly three dozen people in clashes with government security forces.
Meanwhile, a prominent opposition lawmaker called on a group of European Union and Latin American countries to support Maduro’s ouster — without negotiations.
An “international contact group” announced Thursday by the EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, “should help to cease the usurpation of power by Maduro and establish a transitional government until new elections,” said Francisco Sucre, who heads the international committee of the opposition-led National Assembly.
“There is no possible discussion here. Maduro has to leave,” Sucre told The Associated Press in Madrid, where he wrapped up a three-day European tour to enlist support for Guaido.
The European Parliament has called on the EU’s member states to recognize Guaido as interim president. The socialist government of Spain, which has strong historic, cultural and economic ties to Venezuela, has said it will do so on Monday if Maduro doesn’t call a general election by Sunday.
“Power is evaporating from Maduro’s hands with the passing of the hours,” Sucre said. “We have been contacted by diplomats across Europe who are ready to take a step forward, but they are waiting for the right moment.”
Meanwhile, California-based Chevron Corp. said its operations in Venezuela will continue normally for the “foreseeable future” despite newly imposed US sanctions on Venezuelan state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA.
Chevron has four joint-venture operations for exploration and production with PDVSA, as the Venezuelan company is known. The Trump administration has banned US companies from doing business with PDVSA but allowed a six-month grace period for those with ongoing operations in the South American country.
“For the foreseeable future, we feel like we can maintain a good stable operation and a safe operation on the ground in Venezuela,” Chevron CEO Michael Wirth said Friday in a conference call with Wall Street analysts.
Chevron’s refining operations in the US are well-prepared to handle an expected disruption of Venezuelan crude supply due to the sanctions, Wirth said, adding that Chevron had a contingency plan in anticipation of the sanctions and has alternate sourcing.


Military promises Pakistani doctors gear to fight virus

Updated 07 April 2020

Military promises Pakistani doctors gear to fight virus

  • Some of the doctors said they were mistreated by police and that some of their colleagues were beaten
  • The health ministry’s spokesman, Kianoush Jahanpour, said 27,039 people have recovered so far while 3,987 remain in critical condition

QUETTA, Pakistan: Pakistan’s military promised Tuesday that dozens of doctors who were briefly jailed for protesting a lack of protective equipment needed to treat the growing number of coronavirus cases will get the equipment they need.
The 47 doctors protested in Quetta, the capital of southwestern Baluchistan province, on Monday, when they were detained. They were released later the same day, according to provincial spokesman Liaquat Shahwani.
An army statement on Tuesday said the “emergency supplies of medical equipment, including PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) are being dispatched to Quetta.”
However, some of the doctors said they were mistreated by police and that some of their colleagues were beaten. The physicians declined to give their names, fearing reprisals.
Two doctors have died after contracting the new virus in Pakistan, which has recorded 4,004 cases and 54 deaths. Many of the cases have been traced to pilgrims returning from neighboring Iran. Pakistani authorities have imposed a countrywide lockdown until April 14.
In Iran, authorities struggling to battle the virus announced Tuesday they would expand testing to asymptomatic people, but didn’t say how many test kits they have available or provide other details.
Iran’s Health Minister Saeed Namaki said that with active screening of such cases, there are expectations the virus and COVID-19, the illness it causes, can be brought under control by mid-May.
“With this step, we will go after people without symptoms,” said Namaki, adding this would require a large number of tests. He didn’t elaborate. The health ministry said searching for asymptomatic cases would be combined with restrictions on both city and intercity travel and quarantine.
Iran is facing the worst outbreak in the region. Iran’s state TV said Tuesday the new coronavirus has killed another 133 people, pushing the country’s death toll to 3,872 amid 62,589 confirmed cases.
The health ministry’s spokesman, Kianoush Jahanpour, said 27,039 people have recovered so far while 3,987 remain in critical condition.
There are nearly 109,000 confirmed cases across the Middle East, with more than 4,600 fatalities.
In Egypt, the Ministry of Religious Endowments, which oversees mosques nationwide, called off all celebrations and late-evening prayer services for Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar. The holiday, when devout Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, begins April 23. Mosques and churches have already closed for prayer to curb the spread of the virus in the Arab world’s most populous country. There is also a nightly curfew but the government has resisted a harsher lockdown.
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on Tuesday sought to reassure the jittery public a day after officials reported 149 new infections, bringing the case count to 1,320 and 85 fatalities in the biggest single-day jump so far.
“So far, the situation is under control,” he said in televised comments. “The goal is to minimize the damage caused by the pandemic.”
The Egyptian military, at the forefront of the country’s fight against the virus, said it set up four field hospitals with more than 500 beds to help treat virus patients.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild to moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. But for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia and lead to death.
At a retirement home ravaged by the coronavirus in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, another resident died, the eighth so far there. Dozens of the home’s resident’s have been infected and relatives have been staging angry protests outside the premises in recent days.
Overall, more than 9,000 have been infected in Israel and 60 have died, the vast majority elderly and many in assisted living facilities.