Things That Matter

Venezuelan Politics Are In Turmoil As Maduro’s Military Blocked The Opposition From Entering Parliament

It is sometimes hard to keep up with the roller coaster that are current Venezuelan politics. Since opposition leader Juan Guaido self-proclaimed as Interim President in his capacity as head of the National Assembly, international actors have recognized him as the leader of the South American nation while on the ground political power keeps resting on the socialist government led by Nicolas Maduro. Now a new development has maintained the status quo when it seemed that Guaido would get a boost in his political influence and power and present a bigger challenge to the Maduro regime that some, including most US politicians, call a “dictatorship”. Guaido was set to be re-elected as head of Congress but he was blocked from entering the building by security forces. 

Maduro’s government snatched the National Assembly from opposition leader Juan Guaido and las cosas se pusieron color de hormiga.

The Venezuelan government has now used its security forces to stop Guaido from being re-elected as Head of Congress. As Reuters reports from Caracas: “Troops with riot shields blocked opposition leader Juan Guaido from entering parliament for what was expected to be his re-election as head of Congress, at one point pulling him off the compound’s iron railings after he tried to push past security forces”. Because Guaido could not be elected, Maduro’s party, the Socialist party, handed the post to Luis Parra, who has recently faced corruption allegations. 

However, an alternative vote was held at the headquarters of a newspaper that is favorable to the opposition, and Guaido was re-elected.

National Assembly President Juan Guaido swears himself in as President of the National Assembly with opposition lawmaker votes at the newspaper El Nacional’s headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrea Hernandez Briceño)

So now there are two de facto Heads of Congress in a country that is deeply divided in political issues and is facing economic challenges that seem insurmountable. The opposition’s tally shows that 100 out of 167 legislators voted for Guaido. 

World powers are divided over Venezuela and that is a worrying sign, the United Nations is growing increasingly worried.

As if the tension over Iran wasn’t enough to get many thinking that the world is on the verge of a major military clash, Venezuela is another hotspot of geopolitical tension. While the European Union, the United States and most Latin American countries have condemned Maduro’s forceful cling to power, Chine, Russia and Cuba remain supportive of his regime. Venezuela has rich oil reserves and sits at a key location in the Southern Hemisphere.

Things could get ugly very quickly. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo congratulated Guaido on winning a second term as Head of Congress: “Venezuela’s political parties came together in a resounding display of unity to support Juan Guaido’s re-election. No regime thugs, no jail cells, and no bribery or intimidation can subvert the will of the Venezuelan people.”

But regardless, things in Caracas remain tense and opposition legislators are being stopped at checkpoints around Congress. As reported by Sputnik News, the United Nations is worried at the recent developments and has said through its spokesperson: “The Secretary-General is following with concern the events surrounding the election of the president of the National Assembly, which make urgently needed dialogue even more difficult to achieve. The Secretary-General calls on all actors to take immediate steps to lower tensions and to work towards a peaceful and sustainable solution to the political crisis”. 

The United States has condemned the move and congressmen have used harsh words.

The United States has long had an antagonistic relationship with the socialist regime in Venezuela first led by Hugo Chavez and then by Nicolas Maduro. The most recent development in the convoluted political landscape in Venezuela has been received with harsh words by US congressmen.

For example, congressman Albio Sires (D-NJ), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security and Trade, released the following statement: “Having dismantled every other democratic institution in Venezuela, yesterday the Maduro dictatorship tried to seize the country’s last vestige of democracy, the National Assembly. Maduro’s months-long effort to bribe legislators to vote against Juan Guaidó failed, so he used force as a last resort to block assembly members from entering the chamber and re-electing Juan Guaidó as their leader.”

US politicians still recognize Juan Guaido as the Interim President.

The statement continued its condemnation of Maduro’s effort to maintain the status quo: “Yesterday’s action changed nothing; it merely revealed the Maduro dictatorship’s desperation to cling to power at any cost. I will continue to work with my colleagues and the legitimate government of Venezuela, led by Interim President Juan Guaidó, to support the Venezuelan people in their continued effort to restore democracy. The need for free, fair, and fully democratic elections in Venezuela has never been more urgent.”

The U.S. Offers To Lift Crippling Sanctions Against Venezuela In New Plan, But There’s A Major Catch

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The U.S. Offers To Lift Crippling Sanctions Against Venezuela In New Plan, But There’s A Major Catch

Anadolu Agency / Getty

The coronavirus isn’t stopping the United States from continuing its maximum pressure campaign on Nicolás Maduro’s regime in Venezuela. 

For well over a year, Venezuela has suffered from a massive political crisis. President Nicolas Maduro clings to power as a growing number of foreign countries (including the U.S.) recognize his main competitor, Juan Guaidó, who has declared himself interim-President.

But as the country struggles to confront a growing Coronavirus pandemic, the international community is imploring the Trump administration to ease sanctions of the struggling nation. Many are concerned over its spread amid a collapsing health care system and a deep economic crisis, aggravated by U.S. sanctions and low oil prices.

The Trump administration is prepared to lift crippling sanctions on Venezuela in support of a new proposal to form a transitional government.

Credit: Kenneth Rapoza / Getty

However, getting both Maduro and Guaidó to buy into the plan – let alone millions of Venezuelans – will be an immense challenge. Nicolás Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó would both have to step aside in favor of a five-person governing council, according to U.S. officials familiar with the plan.

Under the “democratic transition framework”, all political prisoners would be released, and all foreign – mostly Cuban – forces would leave. A five-member council would be selected, with two members chosen by the opposition, two by Maduro’s Socialist party, and the fifth member picked by the other four.

“The hope is that this set-up promotes the selection of people who are very broadly respected and known as people who can work with the other side,” the US special representative for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, told the Associated Press.

The U.S. has long pushed for regime change in Venezuela and this could be a major step towards achieving this policy.

“The United States has long been committed to finding a solution to the manmade crisis in Venezuela,” the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said.

“The urgency for this has become all the more serious in light of the Maduro regime’s failure to adequately prepare for and address the global Covid-19 pandemic. This framework demonstrates our commitment to helping Venezuela fully recover and ensures that the voice of the Venezuelan people is respected and included.”

The plan would mean the end of the Maduro regime and the likely withdrawal of his largest competitor.

Credit: Elizabeth Melimopoulos / Getty

Since early 2019, Venezuela has been in the throes of a political crisis with two clashing sides vowing to take back control of the country. Millions of people have poured into the streets in support of one side or the other – often resulting in violent flare ups that have left thousands dead.

But could the promise of zero sanctions against a struggling economy be enough to make the plan work?

Credit: @carmses_in / Twitter

The US and EU would then lift sanctions on the current leadership. Broader sanctions on the country’s oil business would be lifted after all foreign forces had left the country. All sanctions would be lifted after free elections, to be held within six to 12 months.

“The basic outline is simple: We call for a transitional government that would govern for nine to 12 months and hold free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections,” U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams told reporters Tuesday. “The United States will recognize the result of a free and fair election no matter which party wins.”

The proposal comes five days after the U.S. indicted Maduro and top members of his government and army for drug trafficking and money laundering.

The Department of Justice indicted Maduro and many of his right-hand men on a range of charges, all but guaranteeing they will not be part of any potential democratic transition in Venezuela down the line.

The indictment for crimes ranging from drug trafficking to corruption to narcoterrorism puts the spotlight on the horrendous acts Maduro and his associates have allegedly perpetrated.

In addition to giving the U.S. additional leverage over Maduro, the indictment also acts as an incentive for the 14 individuals charged along with him — and others close to him — to cooperate with U.S. authorities.

The plan has his critics on both sides of the aisle.

Skeptics of the plan said it provided few incentives for the incumbent officials to give up power, days after they were charged with serious offences and multimillion-dollar rewards put on their heads.

The ultimate focus must be on alleviating the suffering of the Venezuelan people, and though it will not be eased by these recent actions alone, the only way forward is to address the root causes of the crisis, starting with Maduro.

Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno “Jokes” Women Report Rape Only When Assailants Are Ugly

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Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno “Jokes” Women Report Rape Only When Assailants Are Ugly

THE GUARDIAN / INSTAGRAM

It’s a tale as old as time and one with a well-overdue expiration date.

Once again, victims– namely women– of sexual assault are being shamed into silence because of jokes that have not been well thought out. This time, Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno is the mouth behind the quip that deserves no laughs.

In a recent speech delivered in the city of Guayaquil, Moreno claimed women-only complain about assaults when the perpetrator is unattractive.

Speaking to investors in the port city, Moreno appeared to defend men accused of harassment saying “at times, with harassment, they torment ugly people. That is to say, that the harassment is when it comes from an ugly person,” he went onto add that “if the person looks good according to the standards, they tend not to think necessarily that it is harassment.”

Fortunately, the responses to Moreno’s disdainful comments were quick, unforgiving, and loud.

Women’s rights activist groups and other organizations quickly lambasted the already controversial president for his snide and noxious comments.

In a tweet posted to her Instagram account, Ecuador’s governing party congresswoman Soledad Buendía condemned Moreno, writing on Twitter that the president’s comments “justifies and reproduces violence against women. You can’t joke about harassment, rape, femicide, trafficking, sexual exploitation … Nothing justifies expressions that revictimize us!”

According to the Guardian, the Women for Change organization were quick to join in the conversation.

“It is not that everything now looks to women like harassment, it is that to machos like you it has never seemed bad to harass!” the organization tweeted.

Soon after the backlash hit, Moreno attempted to apologize.

In a tweet posted to his account, Moreno wrote an apology saying “In my comment about harassment, I did not intend to minimize such a serious matter as violence or abuse. I apologize if it was understood that way. I reject violence against women in all its forms!”

According to a comparative analysis published in the 2008 book Violence Against Women, 32.4% of Ecuadorian women interviewed aged 15-49 stated they had been physically or sexually abused by a current or former partner. Clearly, this is no laughing matter.