Friday, March 8, 2013

Venezuela: Maduro Sworn in as Interim President

Vice President Nicolás Maduro was sworn in on Friday night as the interim leader replacing recently deceased President Hugo Chávez.

“I accept this (presidential sash) though it truly belongs to Chávez,” said Maduro shortly after receiving the oath of office in the ceremony held in the federal legislative chambers.  He vowed to continue the Bolivarian Revolution policies espoused by the leader who died on Tuesday after battling cancer for approximately two years.

"I swear by the most absolute loyalty to comrade Hugo Chavez that we will fulfill and see that it's fulfilled the constitution ... with the iron fist of a people ready to be free," Maduro said.

Although Maduro claimed that he respected the U.S. he warned that the “imperialist elites who govern the United States will have to learn to live with absolute respect with the insurrectional people of the ... Latin and Caribbean America.”

Maduro also blasted the Venezuelan opposition, most of who opted to skip the ceremony in protest.  He urged Chavistas to avoid being “provoked by those who have come out today to act crazily despite your pain.” 

Hours before the ceremony, former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles accused the Venezuelan Supreme Court of endorsing “constitutional fraud” by permitting Maduro to be sworn in.

"I tell you clearly, Nicolas, I am not going to speak of the times you lied to the country, shamelessly…The people have not voted for you, boy," the Miranda state governor said.

In his first action as interim president, Maduro named Science and Technology Minister Jorge Arreaza, Chavez' son-in-law, as the next vice president.  Maduro also requested Venezuelan electoral officials to “immediately” organize new, constitutionally mandated presidential elections. 

Daily Headlines: March 8, 2013

Argentina: An Argentine court convicted former president Carlos Menem for illegally selling weapons to Croatia and Ecuador during the 1990s.

* Brazil: The price of sugar hit a four-month high due to the possibility that Brazilian sugar growers will increase ethanol production.

* Panama: Mariano Rivera, who has a record 608 saves, is expected to soon announce his retirement from professional baseball.

* Puerto Rico: Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla endorsed a proposal that would grant drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants.

Online Sources - Bloomberg, BBC News, USA TODAY, Huffington Post

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Hugo Chávez to be Embalmed, Displayed at Venezuelan Museum (UPDATED)

The body of recently deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez will be embalmed and placed on display at a planned museum according to interim leader Nicolás Maduro.

Chávez’ body will be preserved “so that it may be forever exhibited to the public at the Museum of the Revolution”, declared Maduro to the press at the Fuerte Tiuna military base where Chávez has lied in state on Thursday. The former Vice President compared what will happen to Chávez’ remains with the preserved corpses of famed revolutionary figures Vladimir Lenin and Ho Chinh Minh.

Maduro also said that Chávez would lie in state for an additional seven days before being moved to its final resting place, which is currently under construction.  

“We want the whole world to see him without any limitations”, Maduro mentioned after hundreds of thousands of Chavistas put up with hot weather and waits of up to ten hours in order to pay their respects to the former president.

“Comandante — rest in peace. We'll carry on your fight,” said one mourner who also praised Chávez’ “powerful connection” to Venezuela’s impoverished classes.

Daily Headlines: March 7, 2013

* Colombia: Nobel literature laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez claimed that he was “very happy” to be celebrating his 86th birthday on Wednesday.

* Haiti: Ex-President Rene Preval is being questioned behind closed doors by a judge investigating the 2000 murder of journalist Jean Dominique. 

* Mexico: Mexican telecom tycoon Carlos Slim topped Forbes magazine’s list of more than 1400 billionaires that excluded drug capo Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán.

* Brazil: A news study concluded that “disarmament campaigns launched in 2004” have helped stabilize the number of gun deaths over the past decade.

Video Source – YouTube via user Evandro Motta (Excerpt from a documentary on famous Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez.)

Online Sources- GlobalPost, Miami Herald, Reuters, The Guardian

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Multitude Mourns Deceased Venezuelan President

Hundreds of thousands of mourners gathered in the streets of Caracas on Wednesday to witness the funeral procession of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

As seen in the above video, some Chavistas along the funeral route are carrying Venezuelan flags and clad in red clothes, a color popularized by Chávez during the fourteen years of his presidency.

"Chavez gave us everything," reportedly said one mourner interviewed on state-run television.

Several senior government figures including Interim President Nicolás Maduro and congressional chief Diosdado Cabello are heading the procession of Chávez’ casket from a military hospital to the Fuerte Tiuna Military Academy. Bolivian president Evo Morales, a staunch Chávez ally, has also taken part in the procession.

Prior to the procession, a twenty-one-gun salute was held in honor the president who died on Tuesday while a visibly distraught Elena Frías de Chávez wept over the casket of her son.

“Chávez al Panteón, junto con Simón,” shouted some of his followers in reference to the Panteón Nacional mausoleum where Chávez might be buried near the remains of Latin American independence icon Simón Bolívar.

The presidents of Uruguay and Argentina are among those leaders from around Latin America that have arrived in Venezuela for a state funeral that is planned for this Friday.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Dies (UPDATED)

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez died on Tuesday at the age of 58 according to the Venezuelan government.

An "emotional" Vice President Nicolás Maduro announced that the cancer-stricken leader passed away at 4:25 PM local time.  The declaration was made at a news conference where he was flanked by several senior government officials.

Earlier in the day Maduro said that the president was facing his "most difficult hours."

Chávez had been diagnosed with cancer nearly two years ago and he went through four surgeries to treat the disease including the most recent one last December 11th. He had not been seen publicly since that surgery except for a group of photos where he was convalescing with his daughters.

"One of the most visible, vocal and controversial leaders in Latin America, the former army paratrooper won the presidency in 1998 and had most recently won another six-year presidential term in October 2012," according to a BBC News article.

More updates to come...

Update (6:00 PM): In his speech reporting Chávez' death, Maduro called on the Venezuelan people "of all ages to be watchdogs of peace."  Yet he also announced the "special deployment" of police and troops in order to "guarantee the peace" throughout the country.

According to the New York Times, "Mr. Chávez’s supporters wept and flowed into the streets in paroxysms of mourning. "

As a result of Chávez death legislative chief Diosdado Cabello is constitutionally obligated to organize a new presidential election to be held within thirty days.  That election could pit Maduro, who Chavez selected as his successor, against defeated presidential candidate Henrique Capriles.  (A poll taken last month showed Venezuelans back Maduro over Capriles 50% to 39%).

Update (6:30 PM):  Among the reactions by leaders throughout the Americas to Chávez' death was that by Bolivian president Evo Morales, one of Chávez' closest allies in the Americas  He will supposedly travel tonight to Caracas and pay his respects to the recently deceased Venezuelan leader.

Other messages of condolence have emerged from leftist and conservative presidents throughout the region.  Peruvian president Ollanta Humala and Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto each issued brief message of condolence to Chávez' family and solidarity with the Venezuelan people while Argentine president Cristina Kirchner suspended all of her public activities.

Colombian Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín highlighted how Chávez was a "strong supporter for the peace process" between the Colombian government and the FARC guerillas.

Regarding reactions in social media outlets,  Chávez' death was reportedly mentioned on Twitter over a million times within an hour of the announcement of his passing away.

Update (9:00 PM): U.S. President Barack Obama expressed his country's "support for the Venezuelan people" and the White House's "interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government".

"As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights," read the letter that was published on Tuesday evening.

The White House statement comes hours after the State Department replied to the Venezuelan government, which expelled two diplomats accused of plotting against the Chávez administration.  

"We reject the allegations by the Venezuelan government against Air Force attaché David DelMonaco and...Devlin Kostal",  read a State Department communiqué.

Diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Venezuela during Chavez' time in the presidency have been uneasy at best and acrimonious at worst.  But as mentioned in The Guardian, "Washington quietly engineered a diplomatic opening with Caracas last November after a lengthy standoff during which ambassadors were withdrawn".

Speaking of Washington, there were reactions among several of Chavez' more ardent critics in Congress.  Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen expressed her hope that Venezuela will have the "opportunity to emerge from this oppressive regime and regain their democracy and human rights."  Striking a less diplomatic tone was Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, who  gave a "good riddance" to the late Venezuelan leader.

Note: More updates can be read below the page break.

Venezuela Expels U.S. Diplomats for Conspiring Against Gov't

The Vice President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, accused two U.S. diplomats of trying to drum up support for a plot against the government of the South American country.

Maduro claimed in a live speech on Tuesday that a U.S. Air Force attaché sought members of the Venezuelan military for proposed ”destabilization projects” against the government. Maduro alleged that official, who the U.S. embassy identified as David Delmonaco, of conspiring to create an “anti-Venezuela climate”.

Delmonico is reportedly en route to Washington while the second diplomat has been ordered to leave Venezuela within the next 24 hours.

Maduro warned that the Venezuelan government is “collecting evidence” of others “flying the malevolent flag” against the Chávez regime.

Shortly after Maduro’s remarks, U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell urged the Venezuelan government to follow the country’s constitution and “hold new elections” if President Hugo Chávez is too ill to lead.

“Those elections are to be free and fair but we have not reached that situation,” Ventrell said.

Maduro also accused Venezuela’s “historic enemies” of causing the cancer that first infected President Hugo Chávez in 2011.  (In December of that year Chávez raised the possibility that a cancer “conspiracy” hit him and other Latin American presidents.)

Daily Headlines: March 5, 2013

* Venezuela: Cancer-stricken President Hugo Chávez is in a "very delicate" condition and battling a “new and severe” respiratory infection according to a Venezuelan government statement.

* Cuba: Are prisoners at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay going on a “widespread hunger strike”?
* Uruguay: Legendary soccer coach Luis Cubilla, who led Paraguayan club Olimpia to a pair of Copa Libertadores titles, died at the age of 72.

* Argentina: Alicia Castro, Argentina's ambassador to Britain, declared next week's referendum in the disputed Falklands Islands as “illegal” and is a publicity stunt.

Video Source – YouTube via euronews

Online Sources- Reuters, Vancouver Sun, NTDTV, PRESS TV