Venezuela’s Maduro calls extension of parliament ‘unconstitutional’



FILE PHOTO: Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro speaks at the closing session of Venezuela’s Constituent National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela December 18, 2020. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

December 29, 2020

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday said a move by the opposition-controlled National Assembly to extend its term into next year was “unconstitutional,” and called on the South American country’s justice system to “do its work.”

The National Assembly, overseen by opposition leader Juan Guaido, has declared Dec. 6 parliamentary elections in which allies of Maduro’s ruling socialists won a majority as “illegitimate”, and over the weekend voted to prolong its mandate.

Venezuela’s mainstream opposition parties boycotted the vote on the basis that they would not be free and fair. Maduro, who calls Guaido a U.S.-backed puppet seeking to oust him in a coup, has said the electoral conditions were as transparent as when the opposition won a majority in the parliament in 2015.

“In the face of unconstitutional claims to self-proclaim term extensions that are not warranted, we trust that the justice system will do its job with an iron fist,” Maduro said in a state television appearance with members of the military.

The parliament’s move to extend its term comes as dozens of legislators facing criminal investigation for alleged crimes like treason have fled the country. Others have expressed unwillingness to continue serving in congress due to what they describe as persecution the government.

Guaido labels Maduro a corrupt dictator who has overseen the economic collapse of the once-prosperous OPEC nation.

Guaido is recognized by dozens of Western democracies that have questioned the legitimacy of Maduro’s 2018 re-election vote as Venezuela’s rightful leader, due to his position as the National Assembly’s speaker.

(Reporting by Mayela Armas; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Michael Perry)





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Bolivia Government Says Won’t Invite Maduro To Arce Inauguration


Bolivia’s outgoing interim government will not invite Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro to the inauguration of new socialist leader Luis Arce, the foreign ministry said on Thursday.

Maduro was a close ally of former Bolivian president Evo Morales, who preceded Arce as head of the Movement for Socialism (MAS) party.

But he won’t be at Arce’s November 8 inauguration as interim president Jeanine Anez’s conservative government doesn’t recognize him as Venezuela’s rightful leader, backing opposition figure Juan Guaido instead.





Nicolas Maduro (left) and Luis Arce (right) took part at a regional conference in Lima in 2011 before either was elected president
 AFP / ERNESTO BENAVIDES

The ministry said the Arce administration had asked to invite Maduro and Morales, who currently lives in exile in Argentina, to the La Paz ceremony but that it “will not extend such invitations.”

Morales, who spent almost 14 years in power before resigning amid protests at his controversial reelection to an unconstitutional fourth term a year ago, has already confirmed he will not return to Bolivia until November 9.

When Anez took power, she broke off relations with Maduro’s government, which had been very close to the Morales regime during the 14 years when both countries were run by socialist leaders.

Arce’s administration did not comment on the decision.





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White House labels Venezuela’s Maduro cocaine ‘kingpin’ over alleged drug trafficking ties


The White House on Wednesday called out Venezuela and almost two dozen other nations as “major drug transits” or “drug-producing countries,” in an effort to tackle the ongoing drug trade in the U.S. – an issue Trump has attempted to curtail since he took office.

The Justice Department in March already indicted Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro for his alleged involvement in a decades-long narco-terrorism and international cocaine trafficking conspiracy scheme. A $15 million bounty has been placed on Maduro for information that could lead to the arrest of the socialist.

The United States no longer accepts the validity of Maduro’s presidency, instead recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who declared himself the true president of Venezuela in 2019.

VENEZUELA’S MADURO CALLS TRUMP A ‘RACIST COWBOY’ AFTER BEING INDICTED ON DRUG TRAFFICKING CHARGES

“The most complicit kingpin in this Hemisphere is the Venezuelan dictator, Nicolas Maduro,” The White House said in a statement. “He joined a multitude of other regime cronies who are either under U.S. indictment or were sanctioned for drug crimes by the Department of the Treasury.”

Maduro, along with Venezuelan National Assembly member Diosdado Cabello Rondón, were accused of conspiring with Colombian rebels and military members “to flood the United States with cocaine” and use the drug trade as a “weapon against America,” according to the DOJ indictment from March.

Maduro responded to the March indictments by calling Trump a “racist cowboy,” and warned the U.S. against attempting any sort of invasion.

“Donald Trump, you are a miserable human being,” Maduro said during a televised address.

US SEIZURE OF IRAN FUEL BOUND FOR VENEZUELA WAS LARGEST CONFISCATION OF ITS KIND EVER, DOJ CONFIRMS

“If one day the imperialists and Colombian oligarchy dare to touch even a single hair, they will face the Bolivarian fury of an entire nation that will wipe them all out,” he added.

Maduro has not yet commented on the U.S.’s most recent attempts to target the socialist country but faces additional international challenges as United Nations’ investigators accused the president and other top officials on Wednesday of crimes against humanity.

The Human Rights Council found that the socialist government wasdirectly responsible for extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and illegal detentions of thousands of victims that opposed the regime.

Venezuela is a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) which means the findings found in the U.N. report could be utilized by the ICC to prosecute Maduro and other senior leaders.

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Maduro is already under increased pressure by the U.S., along with other nations who support Guaidó’s presidency, but with the recent findings they could expect to see increased international sanctions which have already crippled Venezuela’s economy.

Maduro believes the U.S. is trying to overthrow him in order to exploit the massive oil reserves Venezuela contains.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 



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Pompeo to visit Brazil border as U.S. ramps up pressure on Maduro



U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during the third annual U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue at the State Department in Washington, U.S., September 14, 2020. REUTERS/Erin Scott/Pool

September 15, 2020

BRASILIA (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit the Brazilian city of Boa Vista near the border with Venezuela on Friday to meet with Venezuelan migrants, U.S. and Brazilian officials said on Tuesday, as Washington steps up pressure to oust its leftist President Nicolas Maduro.

His Sept. 17-20 trip will also take in Venezuela’s other neighbors Colombia, Suriname and Guyana to meet their leaders, the State Department said.

It comes at a time when international efforts to advance democratic change in Venezuela appear to have stalled and Maduro has asserted his grip on power despite political and economic upheaval that drove 5 million Venezuelans to flee the country.

The trip will “highlight the United States’ commitment to defend democracy,” the State Department said. In Boa Vista, Pompeo will visit “Venezuelan migrants fleeing the manmade disaster in Venezuela,” it said in a statement.

Pompeo will make a 3-hour-20-minute stop in Boa Vista on Friday afternoon to visit a triage center for receiving Venezuelan migrants and meet with Brazil’s Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo, the Brazilian government said.

The border with Venezuela has been closed since March 18 due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the flow of migrants crossing into Brazil has dropped from an average of 600 a day to a handful of Venezuelans who walk along cross-country trails.

U.S. sanctions targeting Venezuela’s oil industry have slashed Caracas’ crude exports to the lowest in decades, but they have failed to loosen Maduro’s grip on power – something that has frustrated President Donald Trump, officials say.

With November’s presidential election approaching, Washington is preparing to toughen its stance, especially with more sanctions targeting Venezuela’s oil and gold industries.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Washington and Anthony Boadle in Brasilia; Editing by Richard Chang)





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Venezuela opposition negotiated Maduro overthrow plan with security firm: report



Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro holds a document during a virtual news conference in Caracas, Venezuela May 6, 2020. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS

May 8, 2020

CARACAS (Reuters) – Members of Venezuela’s opposition in October negotiated a $213 million deal with a small Florida security company to invade the country and overthrow President Nicolas Maduro, according to a document published by the Washington Post on Thursday.

Venezuelan authorities this week arrested more than a dozen people, including Americans who work for the company, Silvercorp USA, as part of a bungled incursion that has served as a public relations victory for Maduro’s struggling government.

The two captured Americans appeared on state television in Venezuela on Wednesday and Thursday, saying they had been tasked by Silvercorp with taking control of the airport in Caracas in order to fly out Maduro. Both will be tried in Venezuela’s civilian courts, Maduro said.

The document deals a blow to the credibility of opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has vehemently denied any links to Silvercorp or involvement in the attempt to remove Maduro by force.

Guaido, the president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, argues that Maduro is usurping power after rigging a 2018 election. Guaido is recognized by dozens of countries as Venezuela’s rightful leader.

The plan described in the 42-page document offers minute tactical details ranging from which land mines to deploy and what riot gear to use, but offers no explanation of how a small group of commandos could overpower hundreds of thousands of security forces who remain loyal to the ruling Socialist Party.

On Thursday, state television aired a video with captured American Airan Berry, who said the objectives of the mission were to control specific targets such as intelligence service Sebin and military intelligence group DGCIM and to “get” Maduro.

Maduro in an interview on Thursday said informal channels of communication between Caracas and Washington had gone dead since the failed incursion.

“There have always been links, since May 3 they’ve been cut off,” Maduro said in the interview on the Telesur television network. “They’re mute. Total silence.”

The document published by the Washington Post said, “Service Provider Group will advise and assist Partner Group in Planning and executing and operation to capture/detain/remove Nicolas Maduro (heretoafter “Primary Objective”), remove the current Regime, and install the recognized Venezuelan President Juan Guaido.”

Reuters was unable to immediately confirm the authenticity of the document https://context-cdn.washingtonpost.com/notes/prod/default/documents/6241a047-6222-4269-8c50-2c9e3c7c9cf5/note/d836cf76-031f-4978-a4da-18a081752b94, which the Washington Post said had been provided by Venezuelan opposition officials.

Guaido’s press team did not respond to a request for comment.

Guaido adviser Juan Rendon, whose signature also appears on the document, said in a telephone interview that he negotiated the agreement, but that Silvercorp’s chief executive, Jordan Goudreau, went ahead with it even though Rendon had cut ties with him in November.

“He went out on his own,” Rendon said.

Reuters was unable to obtain comment from Goudreau, who has publicly described leading the operation.

Two main opposition parties, First Justice and Popular Will – which Guaido is affiliated with – on Thursday said in a statement that “the democratic forces do not promote or finance guerrillas, outbreaks of violence or paramilitary groups,” reiterating calls for a transition government.

The logos of six other parties, including Democratic Action and A New Era, which have significant representation in the National Assembly, appear on the document.

(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth and Sarah Kinosian; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Leslie Adler)





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US Charges Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro With Drug Trafficking


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The Trump administration on Thursday charged Nicolás Maduro and 14 other high-ranking Venezuelan officials with narcoterrorism, drug trafficking, corruption, and other crimes, accusing them of using cocaine as a “weapon” to “flood the US.”

Two federal indictments unsealed Thursday allege that Maduro and former and current officials in his regime partnered with dissidents of FARC — a violent rebel group in Colombia — for 20 years to engage in drug trafficking, causing “tons of cocaine to enter and devastate American communities.”

The Department of Justice alleged that Maduro and other officials “expressly intended to flood the United States with cocaine in order to undermine the health and wellbeing of our nation.”

“Maduro very deliberately deployed cocaine as a weapon,” US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said Thursday. “As alleged, the defendants betrayed the Venezuelan people and corrupted Venezuelan institutions to line their pockets with drug money.”

The US government is offering a reward of up to $15 million for information leading to Maduro’s arrest.

Sitting foreign leaders normally enjoy diplomatic immunity in other countries, but the US and dozens of other nations recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate president. The indictments against Maduro call him the “former president.”

The sweeping indictments against Maduro are the highest escalation of US efforts to topple Maduro’s socialist government, a month after Trump called him “an illegitimate ruler” and a “tyrant” whose “grip on tyranny will be smashed and broken,” during his State of the Union address.

Maduro’s regime is “awash with criminality and corruption,” Attorney General William Barr said Thursday.

The indictments allege that Maduro and his officials led and managed a drug-trafficking organization called the “Cartel of the Suns.”

The cartel “sought to not only enrich its members and enhance their power, but also to flood the United States with cocaine and inflict the drug’s harmful and addictive effects on users in the United States,” the Justice Department said.

Barr addressed the decision to charge Maduro during the coronavirus pandemic, saying that Venezuelans were “suffering,” and accused Maduro’s government of blocking essential supplies.

Barr said the best way to support the people of Venezuela would be to “rid the country of this corrupt cabal.”



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