Friday, April 19, 2013

Venezuela: Spectator Interrupts Presidential Inauguration (Updated)

Update (10:05 PM): The man who briefly interrupted the inauguration of Veneuelan president Nicolás Maduro on Friday is allegedly no stranger to barging into pubic events.

Twenty-eight-year-old Yendrick Sánchez will reportedly be charged with "crimes established within the Venezuelan judicial code" after he leaped onto the stage where Maduro was giving his inaugural address.  

Sánchez has been described by several Venezuelan media sources as a "spontaneous man" who, along with his cousin Juan Salas, are infamous for intruding in high profile events.  Sánchez interrupted Spanish musician Alejandro Sanz in a 2008 peace concert along the Venezuela-Colombia border while at the 2007 Miss Venezuela pageant he took the tiara as the winner was being crowned.

On April 10th, Sánchez targeted opposition figure Henrique Capriles during a campaign event by taking away his microphone and proclaiming him as "the next president of Venezuela" before being led away by security.

Following the inauguration ceremony, Maduro presided over a military parade and then affirmed that he will serve as a "commander of the armed forces...with the legacy of the commander Hugo Chávez". 
Capriles, meanwhile, tweeted that Maduro did not provide "a single proposal or solution to the problems of our country" in his inauguration speech.
Update (5:55 PM): Nicolás Maduro was inaugurated was sworn in as Venezuelan president in a ceremony marked by an apparent lapse in security.

A man clad rushed the stage and grabbed the microphone where Maduro was speaking and momentarily interrupted the proceedings.

"Nicolas, my name is Yohendri.  Please help me," exclaimed the man clad in a red shirt (a color popular among followers of the late President Hugo Chávez) before he was taken away by security personnel.

"He could have shot me here," said an irate Maduro who later mentioned that he will "talk with the youth" regarding "whatever desperation he has."

Daily Headlines: April 19, 2013

* Guatemala: Judge Carol Patricia Flores annulled the genocide trial of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt on the grounds of a technicality though it’s unclear if a higher court will overrule her decision.

* South America: A rematch of last year’s Copa Libertadores final between current titleholders Corinthians of Brazil and Boca Juniors of Argentina is among the matches in the round of 16 in this year’s competition.

* Argentina: Pope Francis sent a message of support to the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, an Argentine group that for the past thirty-six years has protested the thousands of disappearances during the Dirty War period.

* U.S.: Sal Castro, a California social studies teacher and activist who played a key role in 1960s Chicano student walkouts, died at the age of 79.

Video Source – YouTube via user telesurenglish (Note that this video was posted shortly before a Guatemalan judge annulled the genocide trial of ex-strongman Efraín Ríos Montt).

Online Sources- Huffington Post, Christian Science Monitor,, Catholic Culture

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Venezuela: Maduro and Capriles Continue Post-Election Accusations

Political tensions remain high in Venezuela as government officials and Henrique Capriles continued their post-electoral war of words.

Capriles accused the government of plotting to infiltrate an opposition rally that was supposed to take place later today.

“I have made the decision: we will not mobilize tomorrow, and I ask all my supporters to accept that,” Capriles said Tuesday. “He who goes out (on the streets) is on the side of violence and is playing the government’s game.”

the runner-up of Sunday’s presidential election mentioned at a press conference that the opposition was “disposed to open a dialogue so this crisis can be resolved in the coming hours.”

Capriles also reiterated his demands of a full recount of the election, which was won by Nicolás Maduro by roughly 265,000 votes, and presented evidence of alleged voter fraud perpetrated by the Maduro regime.

Senior government officials replied by accusing Capriles of instigating violent incidents that left at least seven people dead and over sixty injured.

“These tragic events where caused by the irresponsible attitude of the ex-candidate representing the extreme right who lost and refuses to accept reality,” declared Information Minister Ernesto Villegas.

Foreign Affairs Minister Elias Jaua said that Capriles is “generating baseless chaos” and has not provided a “single concrete element” proving voter fraud.

Daily Headlines: April 17, 2013

* Mexico: Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, the architect behind Mexico’s iconic Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Estadio Azteca, died yesterday on his 94th birthday.

* Guatemala: "Are we animals that they can do anything to us?" said one of the over one hundred eyewitnesses to the horrors of war who have testified at the genocide trial of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt.

* Haiti: The International Organization for Migration found that the number of people displaced by a January 2010 earthquake has decreased from about 1.5 million to just over 320,000.

* Brazil: Some seven hundred indigenous Brazilians have barricaded themselves in Congressional offices to protest a bill that would reportedly give legislators "a say in the demarcation of indigenous territory."

Online Sources – Art Daily; ABC News; Huffington Post; National Catholic Reporter; The Latin Americanist

Video Source – YouTube via user axbord

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Venezuela: Violence Erupts After Contentious Election

Tensions remain high in Venezuela less than 48 hours since Nicolás Maduro was declared winner of a contested presidential election.

Authorities claimed that at least seven people died and sixty-one were on Monday after violence erupted in several major cities.  Officials added that 135 people were arrested as thousands of people took to the streets banging pots and pans in protest against Sunday’s electoral results.  

This afternoon an estimated 2000 protesters clashed with riot police shooting tear gas and rubber bullets in Barinas, the home state of the late President Hugo Chávez.

Senior government figures have raised the possibility of legal action against opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, while Maduro accused him of trying to orchestrate a coup d’état.

“I won’t allow (the opposition) to march to downtown Caracas (which is) filled with death and blood…Do whatever you want.  There will be a strong hand against fascism and intolerance,” declared Maduro in televised remarks.

Capriles responded by blaming the “illegitimate” government for having “ordered violence to prevent the counting of votes” after the election.

"Those who are with me stand for peace!  Nobody should leave that path!  The government wants violence!” Capriles mentioned via his Twitter account.

Pro-Capriles protesters continued their demonstrations today in areas such as Carabobo state where hundreds of people accompanied local opposition leaders seeking to file a complaint of widespread fraud at the electoral council (CNE, in Spanish) offices. 

Daily Headlines: April 16, 2013

* Puerto Rico: Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla warned that he would push for a Constitutional Assembly over Puerto Rico’s statehood issue if Washington does not take action this year.

* U.S.: Mexicans Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab and Narciso Contreras along with Rodrigo Abd of Argentina won Pulitzer Prizes for their respective work in journalism.

* Latin America: A new study found that Costa Rica and Chile are the Latin American and Caribbean states with the most “social progress” for its citizens.

* Vatican: Argentine-born Pope Francis supports a controversial plan passed by his predecessor to overhaul the largest umbrella group of nuns in the U.S.

Video Source – YouTube via Newsy (Puerto Rican voters last year backed changing the island’s political status from a commonwealth to the 51st U.S. state).

Online Sources- Hispanically Speaking News, Huffington Post, Inside Costa Rica, USA TODAY

Monday, April 15, 2013

Venezuela: Maduro Certified as President-Elect Amidst Protests (Updated)

Venezuelan electoral board chief Tibisay Lucena confirmed Nicolás Maduro as President-elect in the midst of increased tensions over Sunday’s electoral results.

Maduro accused his opposition rivals who are “run by the foreign bourgeoisie” of “caring only about power” and refusing to admit defeat.

He claimed that the Venezuelan constitution guarantees democracy in the country and that it’s a “gift from (ex-President Hugo) Chávez to the world.  Nobody can come and erase that.”

Prior to Maduro’s speech Lucena rejected the suggestion of enacting a manual recount of all the votes, which was requested by opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.

She accused the White House and the Organization of American States of “foreign interference” by urging a recall of the election where the margin of victory was roughly 230,000 votes.

Lucena also warned that a manual recall would be "vulnerable" and cited the U.S. Supreme Court case of Bush vs. Gore as evidence of why a recall wouldn’t work.

Capriles has steadfastly refused to accept the electoral results until all the votes are recounted.

“All we're asking is that our rights be respected, that the will of the people be respected, and that every single vote be counted, every little piece of paper, that paper isn't for recycling, it's proof,” said the Miranda state governor on Monday.

He also called on his backers to protest in the streets tonight and “bang pots and pans” if the demand for a recall were to be rejected.

Impromptu protests are reportedly occurring in several major Venezuelan cities like Caracas where crowds are gathering outside the offices of the federal electoral board.  It’s also being reported that five people were injured at a demonstration in Lara state after police fired tear gas to disperse the multitude.

(Update: Thousands of cacerolazo protesters continue to demonstrate throughout Venezuela on Monday evening.  These demonstrators have taken to the streets to express their discontent with the lack of a full recount of Sunday's presidential election results.

"What happened yesterday was fraud, a lie. The opposition won and they know it," said Briand Alvar, one of the dozens of protesters who clashed with police in Caracas.

Capriles once again reiterated his demand that all votes should be recounted "one by one" and urged the Venezuelan people to "not allow yourselves to be diverted from the path of democracy."   

"The majority is the majority. Democracy must be respected...The opposition cannot launch an ambush to jeopardize the will of the people," said Maduro during the ceremony where he was formally declared the election winner).  

White House Urges Venezuelan Presidential Election Recount (Updated)

The U.S. government has called on Venezuelan authorities to recount the country’s presidential election that was apparently won by interim leader Nicolás Maduro.
"Given the tightness of the result - around 1 percent of the votes cast separate the candidates - the opposition candidate and at least one member of the electoral council have called for a 100 percent audit of the results," said White House spokesman Jay Carney on Monday.

"This appears an important, prudent and necessary step to ensure that all Venezuelans have confidence in these results," mentioned Carney. "In our view rushing to a decision in these circumstances would be inconsistent with the expectations of Venezuelans for a clear and democratic outcome."

(Update: Venezuelan electoral board chief Tibisay Lucena rejected calls by the Venezuelan opposition and international diplomats to recall all the votes from Sunday's presidential election.

She warned that a manual recall would be "vulnerable" and cited the results of the contested U.S. presidential election of 2000 to reject the suggestion of an electoral audit). 

The CNE on Sunday night declared Maduro as the victor with 50.66% of the votes compared to the 49.07% obtained by main opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.  The razor-thin margin of victory represented approximately 250,000 of the roughly 15 million total votes according to CNE president Tibisay Lucena.

Capriles replied yesterday that he would not accept the results until all the votes are recounted “one-by-one.”  Moments ago he reiterated his call for a recount and he urged electoral authorities to halt the planned confirmation of Maduro as President-elect later this afternoon.

“If you (Maduro) accept the presidency then you are illegitimate,” declared Capriles at a press conference from his campaign headquarters.  He who also called on his backers to protest in the streets tonight and mass demonstrations in front of local CNE offices on Tuesday if a recall is not done.

Other international diplomats echoed Carney’s remarks and supported the notion of an electoral recount in Venezuela.

Daily Headlines: April 15, 2013

* Cuba: In op-ed piece published in the New York Times, Guantanamo inmate Samir Naji al-Hasan Moqbel claimed that he has been detained without trial since 2001 and described his participation in a hunger strike at the U.S.-run military prison. 

* Mexico: Europol warned last week that Mexican drug gangs are allegedly trying to become “key players in the European drugs market.”

* Argentina: Golfer Angel Cabrera fell short of winning his second Masters tournament and ended as runner-up to Adam Scott of Australia.

* Latin America: Guatemala filed a dispute at the World Trade Organization against Peru regarding import duties on several foods.

Video Source – YouTube via euronews

Online Sources- The Atlantic, Bloomberg, ESPN, LAHT

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Nicolás Maduro Declared as Venezuela's President-Elect (Updated)

Update (Monday 1:55 AM): For the final update to this post we leave you with two differing views of tonight's election results.  First are comments from a sympathizer of President-elect Nicolás Maduro in Caracas:
"This is an important triumph for the future of the country.  It's the legacy of our commander who isn't hear anymore but Maduro is here and he will defend the process," said 29-year-old Rafael Pérez who was celebrating the electoral victory outside of the Miraflores presidential residence.    
In contrast to Pérez is the opinion of a Venezuelan expat who backed opposition rival Henrique Capriles:  
"It's gone very quiet," Becky Prado, 34, a schoolteacher on one of the buses returning to Miami from New Orleans, said shortly after the result was announced early Monday morning. "We just feel helpless. I can hear people sobbing."
Update (Monday 1:15 AM): Opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles refused to recognize the results of Sunday's election until all the votes are counted "one by one".

"The voice of the people is sacred," said a combative Capriles who alleged that the opposition's unofficial vote count differs from that of the Venezuelan electoral council.
Capriles said that he spoke with President-elect Nicolás Maduro on Sunday night but denied allegations made by Maduro claiming that he wanted to make a political pact with him.

"I don't make pacts with those who lie and are corrupt...If (Maduro) was not the legitimate president before then today he is more illegitimate" said Capriles at a press conference from the opposition coalition headquarters.

"This country is like a sand castle that is about to fall as soon as it's touched," proclaimed Capriles who also denounced "3200 irregularities during the electoral process."
Update (Monday 12:40 AM): President-elect Nicolás Maduro proclaimed his electoral triumph as "just, legal and constitutional."

At a rally in front of the Miraflores presidential palace, Maduro claimed that he spoke by phone with defeated rival Henrique Capriles and "he presented his vision to me while he transmitted my truth (to him." 

"We must continue the path towards socialism to correct the perverse effects of capitalism," added Maduro.

"Open the ballot boxes.  I have nothing to fear," declared Maduro after the opposition's lone representative on Venezuela's electoral board called for a recount of all the votes due to the razor-thin 1.59% margin of victory.

Capriles is expected to soon speak publicly and provide his reaction to losing his second presidential election in the past six months.

Update (11:55 PM): Interim leader Nicolás Maduro was declared by Venezuelan electoral authorities as winner of the country's presidential elections.

Venezuelan electoral board chief Tibisay Lucena declared that with 99% of the votes counted Maduro won 50.66%-49.07% over main opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.   The razor-thin margin of victory represented approximately 250,000 of the roughly 15 million total votes according to Lucena. 

Over 78% of the electorate participated that in the election that decided the successor of the late Hugo Chávez.

Lucena proclaimed the results as irreversible and also thanked the Venezuelan people for participating "peacefully" in Sunday's election.