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.”

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Donald Trump Refused To Condemn His White Supremacists Pals And In fact, Told Them To ‘Stand By’

Things That Matter

Donald Trump Refused To Condemn His White Supremacists Pals And In fact, Told Them To ‘Stand By’

Spencer Platt / Getty

Last night’s first presidential debate of the 2020 election gave us about as much optimism and assurance of safety as his past four years in office. Particularly because when it came to the moments when our current president was given a chance by moderator Chris Wallace to condemn white supremacists and “militia” groups while also demanding that they stand down as opposed to inciting violence, he refused.

Even if you’ve yet to watch Tuesday night’s debates, you’ve undoubtedly heard that throughout the night Donald Trump acted like a child who had never once been taught by a teacher to wait his turn to speak. Or, to simply answer a question. Shockingly, Trump stuck to this approach in one of the most critical aspects of the debates that could have gained him followers or at least assuaged Americans and their fears about his leadership and morality.

When it came to the moment when he was asked to condemn white nationalists and militia groups Trump pussyfooted around then gave a pretty damning response.

During last night’s debate when asked to denounce those groups, Trump gave non-committal answers.

When asked by debate moderator Chris Wallace asked if he was willing and ready to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and tell them to stand down during the current and ongoing demonstrations taking place across the country, Trump told one group to “stand back and stand by.”

What’s more, he asserted that violence at the protests was not being instigated by conservatives.

“Sure,” Trump responded. “I’m willing to [tell them to stand down] but I would say almost everything I see is from the left-wing, not from the right wing. I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace.”

“Say it. Do it. Say it,” Biden urged Trump in response to his non commital answers.

“Who would you like me to condemn?” Trump shot back, turning his attention to Wallace. “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what. I’ll tell you what. Somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem.”

The Proud Boys are a far-right men-only organization that has been spotted at multiple 2020 Trump campaign rallies wearing black and yellow polo shirt uniforms.

The group promotes and often engages in political violence.

This is why Trump’s non-committal responses like “Sure” to requests from Wallace and Biden to condemn these groups are worrisome. Even more so why, when pressed by Wallace and Biden who pointed out repeatedly that “sure” is not the same as actually doing so was so troubling as well. Moreover, it’s important to note that Trump’s response to “I would say almost everything I see is from the left-wing, not from the right-wing” is another “all lives matter” kind of way to denouncing white supremacist groups.

Of course this is not the first time the president has defended the actions of white supremacists.

In August, Trump refused to condemn the actions of his supporters in Portland, Oregon, and Wisconsin who used pepper spray to attack demonstrators. In the past, Trump has also defended Kyle Rittenhouse, a shooter who attempted homicide in Kenosha, Wisconsin at a BLM protest, saying that he had been “very violently attacked.”

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Pretty Damning: Trump Paid $750 in Federal Income Tax — He Even Wrote-Off That Sad Comb Over

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Pretty Damning: Trump Paid $750 in Federal Income Tax — He Even Wrote-Off That Sad Comb Over

BILL PUGLIANO / GETTY

After four long years, we finally know why Trump didn’t want to release his tax returns: abominably, he thought his terrible haircuts and adult age children were worthy of write-offs. Oh yeah… and the year he was elected he only paid $750.00.

Long before his 2016 presidential election bid, Trump dodged calls to reveal his tax returns. At the time of his bid, however, he refused to take part in a 40-year tradition carried out by presidential nominees to release tax returns to the public. During his initial run, Trump falsely claimed that he was unable to release his returns publicly while they were under audit, and throughout his presidency, he has avoided sharing them despite grand jury subpoenas. Fortunately, thanks to a piece published by The New York Times, they’re finally getting a chance to see the light of day.

On Sunday, The New York Times published the first of several reports examining Trump’s tax information.

In 2016, Trump became the first president since 1976 to not release his tax records. The decision promptly roused dismay and questions about whether the records carried “undisclosed conflicts of interest that may impair his ability to make impartial policy decisions.”

According to NYT’s latest exposé, Trump (a man who has long boasted about his wealth and has also claimed a net worth of billions of which he has also declared to be self-acquired) paid a mere total of $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017.

While the Times report did not cover 2018 and 2019 tax filings, the newspaper looked into 18 years of Trump’s tax returns. They also looked into his business dealings as far back as 2000 and found that in 10 of those years, the president of the United States failed to pay any income taxes “largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.”

The Times also revealed that Trump “racks up chronic losses that he aggressively employs to avoid paying taxes” despite millions in income and property. In a statement for the piece, Alan Garten an attorney for the Trump Organization claimed to the Times that “most, if not all, of the facts, appear to be inaccurate.” NoteL the Times underlined that Garten appeared to be “conflating income taxes with other federal taxes.”

According to the article, beginning in 2010, Trump had been given a $72.9 million tax refund from the IRS.

The Times article explains in detail how Trump has managed to handle his business and categorize his wealth. The paper found that most often, Trump claimed his expenses as deductions from his tax bill chalking them up to business expenses. These include nearly $70,000 in hairstyling costs for his time on NBC’s “The Apprentice” over $300,000 for landscaping of the Mar-a-Lago Club and $95,000 written off for hair and makeup done for his daughter Ivanka. That’s right, the president wrote off his own adult children.

Addressing the report, the Times noted that they would not include the actual tax documents in its coverage to avoid outing its sources.

“We are publishing this report because we believe citizens should understand as much as possible about their leaders and representatives — their priorities, their experiences and also their finances,” Times editor Dean Baquet wrote in an editor’s note. “Every president since the mid-1970s has made his tax information public. The tradition ensures that an official with the power to shake markets and change policy does not seek to benefit financially from his actions.”

In response to the reports, Trump called the story “fake news” during a White House press conference on Sunday.

Speaking about the piece, Trump bemoaned that the IRS “does not treat me well.” “It’s totally fake news. Made-up, fake,” he continued. “We went through the same stories, people you could’ve asked me the same questions four years ago. I had to litigate this and talk about it. Totally fake news… Actually, I paid tax, and you’ll see that as soon as my tax returns — it’s under audit,” Trump went onto explain. “They’ve been under audit for a long time. The IRS does not treat me well. … They don’t treat me well; they treat me very badly. You have people in the IRS, they treat me very, very badly…But they’re under audit. And when they’re not, I would be proud to show you, but that’s just fake news.”

It’s important to note that even an audit could not prevent Trump from releasing his tax records to the public.

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