Venezuelan crisis deepens amidst heavy clashes | Daily News

Venezuelan crisis deepens amidst heavy clashes

Anti-government protesters clash with security forces near La Carlota military base in Caracas.
Anti-government protesters clash with security forces near La Carlota military base in Caracas.

With the Venezuelan Opposition bringing increased pressure on President Nicolas Maduro calling for public protests and strikes to topple the government, the situation is fast leading to a policy clash between the US and Russia, similar to the time of the Cold War between the US and the USSR.

The political crisis in Venezuela deepened this week with the US-backed Opposition Leader Juan Guaido calling for the Venezuelan military to come out against President Maduro on April 30. A video showed him backed by some military personnel and a key opposition figure Leopoldo Lopez, who had been in house arrest in Caracas, standing behind him. President Maduro called the move a coup against the Venezuelan government, after it was seen he still had the support of the Venezuelan military, and called the Guaido move an attempted coup with US support.

In the second day of action – May Day – Juan Guaido told supporting crowds they were entering the final stages of their effort to oust the country’s president. “If the regime thought we had reached maximum pressure, they cannot even imagine,” he told cheering supporters in eastern Caracas. “We have to remain in the streets.” But the crowds around him were smaller. President Maduro also addressed thousands of supporters the same day and promised to defend the government. Although Guaidó has been courting the public sector for weeks, winning their support is seen as difficult, with his failure to get support from the military, and government workers facing job losses if they join protests.

The US support for the latest move to oust the Maduro regime was clear with statements supportive of Guaido’s calls for the military to support the Opposition coming from the US President Donald Trump on Tweet, and also Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and public statements in Washington by National Advisor John Bolton.

President Trump has since threatened to impose a complete embargo on Cuba if its troops did not leave Venezuela. “Hopefully, all Cuban soldiers will promptly and peacefully return to their island,” he tweeted.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Pompeo said the US was determined to see Mr. Maduro depart and be replaced by Mr. Guaido, and that “Military action is possible. If that’s what’s required, that’s what the United States will do.”

Russia was quick to respond warning the US not to become more directly involved in events in Venezuela. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Secretary of State Pompeo by phone on Wednesday that further “aggressive steps in Venezuela would be fraught with the gravest consequences”, and condemned US “interference” in Venezuela’s internal affairs as a breach of international law.

US National Security advisor John Bolton told the media “This is our hemisphere,” “It’s not where the Russians ought to be interfering. This is a mistake on their part. It’s not going to lead to an improvement of relations.” It is a recall of the Monroe Doctrine, which says the US has control over all America, including the South, which has not been a decisive factor in recent decades. As the situation worsens UN Secretary General António Guterres has appealed for both sides in Venezuela to avoid violence, while the EU has called for “utmost restraint to avoid the loss of lives and an escalation in tensions”.

So far one woman has been shot dead and over 100 people injured in clashes between supporters of Mr. Guaido and the Security Forces. The confrontation between Juan Guaido, chairman of the National Assembly who has declared himself Interim President and President Maduro continues, with Venezuela facing continued crises on food and medicine shortages, power outages, huge failures and US sanctions on the essential oil industry.

Guaido has been recognized as the interim president by more than 50 countries in South America, the US and Canada, and the European Union. The confrontation in Venezuela continues with Maduro largely dependent on support of the military.

Spain - Socialists win

The Socialist Workers Party of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez won the snap election Sunday, amidst strong political polarization, obtaining the majority of seats in the 350 seat Congress, while not having an overall majority.

The win is seen as a strong endorsement of Sánchez’s left-wing policies, which have included a pension overhaul and raising the minimum wage by 22 percent in 2019. He said “This demonstrates the support the whole country has done in defense of democracy,” and “It doesn’t want to go back. It wants a country that advances.”

The Socialist party will be able to form a governing coalition with the far-left, anti-austerity Podemos faction, and it will probably gather the necessary 176 seats by joining forces with a number of Basque regional parties.

While the Socialists had the major victory the election also saw the extreme right wing Vox party win 24 seats to become the first far-right party to enter the Spanish Parliament since the country’s transition to democracy in the late 1970s. But it had been expected to win nearly twice that many seats. The right wing Popular Party with an anti-Catalan, anti-immigrant hard-line performed as poorly winning 66 seats — a major defeat for a party that has governed Spain on and off since the transition to democracy.

While the issue of Catalan separatism was strong in the Spanish election there was also a strong support for democracy, and opposition to right wing moves mainly highlighted by the Vox strong on anti-immigrant, anti-feminist and anti-Catalan. The right wing parties fared worse than expected in the polls.

Indian Polls

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi compared the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka to attacks in India, during an election rally in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.

“Recently, we have seen what happened in Sri Lanka. The same situation was here before 2014 in India. How can we forget those days when in the country every other day there was a terrorist attack,” he said, referring to blasts that took place in Ayodhya and neighbouring Faizabad more than a decade ago.

He accused the main opposition Congress Party and the state’s regional parties of pandering to their vote bank in the Muslim community, and not holding those responsible for terror attacks accountable, in the fourth phase of the national poll.

Ayodhya has been a tinder box of religious tension for decades over the demands from Hindu activists for the construction of a temple on a site where a mosque previously stood. The city has since become the symbol of communal rhetoric in Indian politics with the ruling BJP publicly stating its goal was to build the temple and honour one of their most revered Hindu gods, Ram. More than 70 constituencies are in play in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Bihar. Poll analysts see Rajasthan as a bellwether state with the opposition Congress Party hoping to capitalize on its success during the 2018 state elections.

Uttar Pradesh could also prove difficult for the BJP, being home to India's “leather belt” -- an industrial cluster of tanneries that provides direct and indirect employment to hundreds of thousands of local people, but threatened with tough pollution control measures by the BJP-led state government.

There is heavy polling and increasing rivalry in West Bengal with the ruling Trinamool Congress Party (TCP) strongly opposed to the BJP and Prime Minister Modi. There has been sporadic violence in the state.

Three more phases are due in the polls in the coming weeks, with the next phase scheduled for May 6. While the signs are that Modi and the BJP will obtain a majority, it could be well below what it obtained in 2014, possibly giving an opportunity for a Congress-led coalition alliance.

UK – Brexit

As the Brexit negotiations with the European Union remain stalled, Theresa May has admitted she could agree to stay in a Customs Union with the EU, a major Labour Party demand.

This is strongly opposed by many in her own Conservative Party (Tories), where the majority of those seeking an exit from the EU seek an ‘independent policy’ on international trade. This move could lead to further Cabinet resignations and crises within the Tories, who are increasingly opposed to Theresa May’s leadership.

What is seen as her climb down follows her commitment to somehow taking the lead in getting the UK out of the European Union. Her government has lost three votes in the House of Commons, which rejected her agreement with the EU on Brexit. The Labour proposal for a Customs Union with the EU was also defeated in the Commons, with the Conservatives repeatedly voting against it.

Theresa May remains opposed to the other Labour demand for a second referendum on Brexit. If she agrees only to the Customs Union, there will also be strong opposition from the Labour Party and against any move by leader Jeremy Corbyn to support such a move.

UK politics remains badly divided over Brexit and overall national policies. Earlier this week UK had its main Local Government elections, where the Tories are expected to suffer much defeat, with further threats to May’s leadership of the party and the country.

n Japan's new emperor, Naruhito (59), ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne, replacing his father, Akihito, who abdicated, becoming the 126th Emperor of Japan, in an unbroken line that stretches back 14 centuries. This week’s abdication was the first in more than 200 years, since Emperor Kokaku stepped down in 1817. This begins the new era of “Reiwa’ or harmony.

n Julian Assange, the founder, director of Wikileaks has been sentenced to 50 weeks in prison by the Westminster Magistrates court for violation of his visa conditions, when he spent 7 years in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. It is reported the US has already made the request for his extradition for trial on an alleged downloading of classified information. This information led to the exposure of major war crimes by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan.

India's Lok Sabha elections 2019 in full swing.


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