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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Four and a half months in Venezuela: timeline of crisis




Four and a half months in Venezuela: timeline of crisis


AFP

Four and a half months in Venezuela: timeline of crisis

Caracas (AFP) - Venezuela's political crisis has intensified with the opposition demanding a recall referendum against President Nicolas Maduro, who has declared a state of emergency.
Here is a timeline of recent events in the major South American oil producer.
- January 5, 2016: The center-right opposition takes control of the legislature from the socialist leadership for the first time in more than 16 years after winning elections in December. Maduro's critics vow to drive him from office and rescue Venezuela from economic chaos driven by plunging oil prices.
- January 15: Faced with a situation he describes as catastrophic, Maduro decrees a 60-day state of "economic emergency." It allows the government to seize assets of private companies to obtain essential food and goods. Parliament later rejects the move, but the Supreme Court, seen as allied to Maduro, eventually pushes it through.
- February 18: Maduro raises the extremely low price of petrol, frozen for the past 20 years, from about $0.01 to $0.60 per liter. He devalues the Bolivar currency and increases the minimum wage.
- March 1: The top court passes a law to limit parliament's powers, stripping it of oversight of judicial, electoral and civil authorities.
- Recall referendum drive -
- March 8: The opposition launches two initiatives in a bid to drive Maduro from office: a recall referendum, and a Constitutional reform to reduce his term from six to four years, which is later dismissed by the Supreme Court.
- April 7: Maduro declares Fridays will be holidays for two months, in a bid to ease an energy crisis blamed on a drought.
- April 21: Maduro imposes electricity blackouts to last four hours a day for 40 days in several states.
- April 26: Electoral authorities authorize the opposition to collect signatures in the first step toward a referendum to oust Maduro.
- April 27: Maduro cuts the working week for public-sector employees to just two days to save electricity.
- May 1: Venezuela changes its time zone to save energy by lengthening daylight hours. Maduro announces a 30 percent increase in the minimum wage.
- May 3: The opposition presents electoral authorities with 1.85 million signatures demanding a recall referendum -- nearly ten times the number needed to proceed to the next stage.
- May 4: Maduro says he will allow the referendum drive to proceed if the electoral authorities validate the signatures. The electoral board says the next stage in the process will not be launched before June.
- May 12: Thousands of people join opposition demonstrations across the country.
- State of emergency -
- May 13: Maduro declares a fresh three-month state of emergency to face "threats from abroad," saying the measures might be extended through 2017. This broadens the scope of his January economic emergency decree. The government later says the measure will provide for security units to tackle food and energy shortages and public unrest.
- May 15: The government says there will not be a referendum, due to "fraud."
- May 17: Parliament rejects the emergency decree and urges Venezuelans, including the army, to defy it.
- May 18: Protests take place in Caracas and other cities calling for a referendum. Maduro says he is prepared to escalate the state of emergency.

OAS chief urges support for vote on removing Venezuela s president




OAS chief urges support for vote on removing Venezuela's president


AFP

OAS chief urges support for vote on removing Venezuela's president

Washington (AFP) - The leader of the Organization of American States urged member countries Thursday to support efforts in Venezuela to hold a referendum on removing President Nicolas Maduro from office.
At a special meeting of its Permanent Council on the political and economic crisis in oil-rich but beleaguered Venezuela, OAS secretary general Luis Almagro said the country is in the midst of a "grave disruption of constitutional order."
But the four-hour meeting ended with no decision on measures against Venezuela.
Venezuela's oil-dependent economy, saddled with the world's highest inflation rate, is in a dramatic free fall because of the drop in crude prices, and Maduro's government has jailed opposition leaders.
The opposition has collected signatures to try to force a referendum on removing Maduro from power.
"The Permanent Council should stay on the right side of history and defend a people who need a voice," Almagro told the assembly.
He said the council should express support for political prisoners in Venezuela and "support the will of the Venezuelan people in their call for a recall referendum" against Maduro -- the former bus driver who was the handpicked successor to the late charismatic populist leader Hugo Chavez.
- Crisis reaches 'critical moment' -
Almagro presented delegates with a report that describes the political and economic woes of Venezuela. The country is enduring severe shortages of food and other basic goods. Looting has broken out.
"This crisis is reaching a critical moment," he said.
"A country that should be one of the richest in the region is instead facing unprecedented levels of poverty, a severe humanitarian crisis and one of the highest crime rates in the world," the secretary general said.
The special session was opposed by Venezuela. Its Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez walked out of the chamber when Almagro began his speech. Earlier, she complained that the OAS was effectively putting one of its member states on trial.
The countries attending the meeting were supposed to determine if Venezuela is abiding by the terms of a blueprint called the Democratic Charter. But the session ended with no decision made on whether to invoke the charter.
This is a binding document that spells out what democracy entails and lets the OAS intervene diplomatically if a constitutional crisis is deemed to pose a threat to democracy in a member country.
As a last resort, a country can be suspended from the OAS for failing to comply with the charter.
Venezuela's allies Bolivia and Nicaragua have sided with Caracas in solidarity, and demanded that Almagro resign.
The session was the second in the space of a week that the OAS held about the Venezuela crisis, efforts that have won the support of opposition leaders working to rid the country of the socialist regime.

Aeromexico halts flights to Venezuela as crisis deepens




Aeromexico halts flights to Venezuela as crisis deepens

Another airline bites the dust of Venezuela's worsening crisis, adding to the increasingly common sight of a near-empty tarmac at the Simón Bolívar airport serving Caracas.
Aeromexico, Mexico's largest carrier, announced on Thursday it had halted flights to Venezuela.

In the latest signal of the dire state of an economy now ravaged by food riots, the Mexican carrier said in a statement that "after almost five years of having started operations between Mexico City and Caracas, it has decided to suspend its flights indefinitely due to the complex economic environment that rules in the country."
Foreign airlines have been struggling to repatriate money received from Venezuelan customers in local Bolívar currency due to exchange controls. Amid billions in unpaid bills, several other airlines have halted or reduced their operations to Caracas, including Air Canada, American Airlines, Alitalia and Latam, writes Andres Schipani.
Iata, the aviation industry trade body, recently said the socialist government was withholding $3.8bn from the carriers generated from ticket sales in Venezuela.

Zimbabwe to import 250,000 tonnes of maize from Mexico




ZIMBABWE TO IMPORT 250,000 TONNES OF MAIZE FROM MEXICO


Home» Markets - Commodities » Middle East & Africa

HARARE: Drought-hit Zimbabwean will import more than 250,000 tonnes of maize from Mexico to fill the shortfall caused by the severe drought sweeping through the southern Africa, the agriculture minister said on Thursday.
Joseph Made said Zimbabwe would also import the staple crop from neighbours South Africa and Zambia, as well as from the Ukraine but did not give precise figures for these imports.
Copyright Reuters, 2016

Nigeria Boko Haram: Scores of refugees starved to death




Nigeria Boko Haram: Scores of refugees starved to death - MSF


MSF
Aid workers say one in five children is severely malnourished

Nearly 200 refugees fleeing Boko Haram militants have starved to death over the past month in Bama, Nigeria, the medical charity MSF says.
A "catastrophic humanitarian emergency" is unfolding at a camp it visited where 24,000 people have taken refuge.
Many inhabitants are traumatised and one in five children is suffering from acute malnutrition, MSF says.
The Islamist group's seven-year rebellion has left 20,000 people dead and more than two million displaced.
Nigeria's military has carried out a large-scale offensive against them but Boko Haram still attacks villages in the north-east, destroying homes and burning down wells.
Displaced people in Bama say new graves are appearing on a daily basis, according to a statement from MSF.

MSF
MSF's visit to the camp was only possible with an army escort

It quoted inhabitants as saying about 30 people died every day due to hunger or illness.
Although the area has been unsafe to travel through, MSF says one of its teams reached Bama on Tuesday.
It went in with a military convoy from the city of Maiduguri in Borno state.


"This is the first time MSF has been able to access Bama, but we already know the needs of the people there are beyond critical," said Ghada Hatim, MSF head of mission in Nigeria.
"We are treating malnourished children in medical facilities in Maiduguri and see the trauma on the faces of our patients who have witnessed and survived many horrors," he said.

Boko Haram at a glance:


Screengrab
Boko Haram fighters still appear well armed in recent propaganda videos

  • Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western-style education - Boko Haram means "Western education is forbidden" in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria, hundreds abducted, including at least 200 schoolgirls
  • Joined so-called Islamic State, now calls itself IS's "West African province"
  • Seized large area in north-east, where it declared caliphate
  • Regional force has retaken most territory last year

Latin American Herald Tribune - OAS Considers Applying Democratic Charter Against Venezuela (VIDEO)




Latin American Herald Tribune - OAS Considers Applying Democratic Charter Against Venezuela 


Considerations for the Invocation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter (IDC)

The IDC, resolution of the OAS General Assembly, adopted on September 11, 2001 provides different pathways that allow it to be invoked.

Article 17 enables any government of a member state to do so when it considers that its democratic political institutional process or its legitimate exercise of power is at risk, allowing it to request the assistance of the Secretary General or the Permanent Council.

Article 18 authorizes the Secretary General or the Permanent Council to arrange for visits or other actions with the consent of the government concerned.

Whereas Article 19 refers to situations of unconstitutional alteration or interruption of the democratic order; Article 20 describes the procedures to follow in the first case cited in Article 19. In both situations there is neither a request nor consent of the government of the affected state.

A difficulty already noted by the previous Secretary General in a Report to the Permanent Council (CP / doc. 4184/07 of 4 April 2007) is related to the concept of "government". Articles 17 and 18 of the IDC refer to the "request of the government" and the "consent of the government." The Permanent Council and ultimately the General Assembly are the organs where governments are represented, and who decide what actions to take. In the current state of the law it seems difficult to accept that government officials other than those designated and accredited by the executive branch can represent that state in those organs. It is true that, in accordance with international law, all powers form the government (for example the Montevideo Convention of 1933) and that their actions generate international responsibility for the state; but it is no less true that domestic legal orders and national constitutions, give the executive branch, and not to other powers, the international representation of the state, which has been taken up and incorporated into international standards concerning diplomatic and consular relations or the adoption of treaties.

Therefore, in the absence of consent of the executive branch which does not allow pursuing the channels provided for in Articles 17 or 18, and not having an interruption of the democratic order, the only way is the application of Article 20.

This route starts by meeting the following requirements:

• the condition to invoke it is that there is an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state of the OAS;
• the Secretary General or any Member State can invoke it;
• the Permanent Council is the body that decides if there is an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime and makes the decisions it deems appropriate.

The obvious question is what is understood by unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime.

First it must be determined when there is an alteration. Articles 3 and 4 indicate what are the essential elements and components of the democratic order. There is an alteration when one or more of these elements or components listed in those articles are affected. In 2009, the Inter-American Juridical Committee affirmed that "the unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order" (arts. 19 and 20 of the IDC) are situations which must be seen in the light of validity of the essential elements of representative democracy and the fundamental components of the exercise of same" (CJI/RES. 159 (LXXV-O/09).

However (art.20), the determination of when that alteration is serious is subject to the assessment made collectively by the Permanent Council. The Council makes its decision by the majority of the votes of the member states of the OAS (18 votes). This is a political assessment based on the elements subject to its consideration. The Council could:

• consider that there is no alteration, or
• that although it may exist it is not sufficient as to seriously impair the democratic order. In this case the procedure ends. Or it could
• consider that there is such alteration.

In this last case it continues the procedure established in the subsequent paragraphs of article 20:

• undertake the necessary diplomatic initiatives, including good offices, to foster the restoration of democracy and in case they prove unsuccessful
• to convene a special session of the General Assembly according to article 20 paragraph 3 and 4 (the vote of two thirds –24-- of the member states are required).

The General Assembly could propose new diplomatic initiatives, and in this situation if it determines that there is an unconstitutional interruption of the democratic order, decide the suspension of the member State (article 21). We cannot confuse the "unconstitutional interruption of the democratic order" with the "unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime;" these are two different situations as established by article 19 that refers that both are "insurmountable obstacle to its government's participation in session of the General Assembly…". In the first scenario there is no government; in the second one, there is one, hence the procedure referred to in article 20 which details the possible actions before the national authorities.

These are the legal options established in the Inter-American Democratic Charter for the Organization, its Permanent Council and its Secretary General in order to assist a member State when it is considered that its democratic political institutional process or its legitimate exercise of power is at risk.





Venezuela Has a "Serious Alteration of the Constitutional Order"




Latin American Herald Tribune - OAS SecGen Almagro: Venezuela Has a "Serious Alteration of the Constitutional Order"


By Luis Almagro
Secretary General
Organization of American States

In my capacity as Secretary General, under article 20 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, I "request to undertake a collective assessment of the situation" in Venezuela "and to take such decisions as it deems appropriate."

I present the case that there is a serious alteration of the constitutional order.

Much of the information that I present to you today was included in my letter to the President of the Permanent Council of May 30.

Today, I will also include updated details on the rapidly deteriorating crisis in Venezuela.

The defense of democracy is at the core of the OAS mandate, and fundamental to the foundation of international relations in the Americas.

These principles are clearly articulated in the founding documents of this organization.

The founding Charter,

The American Charter of Human Rights, and

General Assembly Resolution 1080 on Representative Democracy.

The Inter-American Democratic Charter is the true constitution of the Americas.

These are not documents imposed on us.

A Member States, each country chose to negotiate and sign onto these principles defining,

Who we are,

What we believe, and

How we interact with one another.

Fundamental freedoms, human rights, and democracy do not only exist when it is convenient.

Commitment to these principles requires not only action, but words.

When there are clear violations, we have an obligation to address them, especially when it is difficult.

The issues we discuss today are clearly laid out in the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

It is against these standards that we consider whether the democratic order of Venezuela has been altered.

Article 3 outlines the key elements of a representative democracy

The "respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Access to and the exercise of power in accordance with the rule of law,

The holding of periodic, free, and fair elections

The pluralistic system of political parties and organizations,

And the separation of powers and independence of the branches of government."

Article 4 outlines the essential components in the exercise of democracy,

"Transparency in government activities,

Probity,

Responsible public administration,

Respect for social rights, and

Freedom of expression and of the press."

Democracy lies in the legitimate exercise of power, within a framework of the rule of law.

My report of May 30th clearly lays out the case of the alteration of the democratic order of a member state.

Today I ask you to consider the lives, the health and the security of the Venezuelan people, according to these commitments.

The Permanent Council should take the necessary steps to address the unprecedented and unnecessary humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

The Permanent Council should take a stand on the political prisoners and the persistent reports of torture.

The Permanent Council should support the will of the Venezuela public in their call for a recall referendum.

The Permanent Council must act.

I quote Desmond Tutu, "if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

Democracy is a government of the people.

Those who are elected to represent the people, are there as an instrument to channel the voice of the citizens into the decision-making process of the State.

The legitimacy of a government is bestowed by its citizens.

It is a service to the public; a vocation for serving the common good.

It is not a business, it is not where individuals seek profit, or power.

Political ethics is being consistent with our words and our actions.

To honor leadership, without abusing that power that comes along with it.

When governments fail to meet these standards, citizens grow frustrated with their political leaders.

Losing confidence in their elected representatives, citizens will make their voices heard.

This is what we are witnessing in Venezuela, the loss of the moral and ethical purpose of politics.

The Government has forgotten to defend the collective good.

Venezuela holds some of the largest oil reserves on the planet, with vast fertile land and large mineral resources;

What should be one of the wealthiest countries in the region is facing unprecedented levels of poverty, a critical humanitarian crisis and one of the highest violent crime rates in the world.

Inflation has reached 720%.

The GDP is predicted to drop another 8% this year.

External debt has reached $130B, or the equivalent of an estimated 6-years worth of oil exports.

With the 9th worst unemployment rate, 73% of households, and 76% of Venezuelans lived in poverty in 2015.

After the 12th increase since 2013, the minimum wage is approximately $13.75 USD a month.

That is less than 50 cents a day.

The systematic failure of the controlled exchange rate system has caused the currency to lose 99% of its value since 2013.

International businesses have shut their doors because no one is able to pay.

There are unprecedented food and medical shortages across the country.

This crisis is reaching a breaking point.

These challenges cannot be blamed on external forces.

The situation facing Venezuela today is the direct result of the actions of those currently in power.

Venezuela should be one of the most prosperous and influential countries in the region.

Instead, it is a state mired in corruption, poverty and violence

It is the population who suffers the consequences.

There is more profit in selling subsidized dollars on the black market, than stocking store shelves.

Food and supply shortages reached 82.8% in January of this year.

Since 2003, more than 150 food products have been given a fixed price, unilaterally set by the Executive.

Initially, prices increases were kept in line with inflation.

Since 2007 the gap between production costs and set prices has grown drastically forcing businesses to close their doors.

In an effort to respond to these self-inflicted food shortages, the state has increasingly intervened in the food production.

The government had expropriated or nationalized,

Coffee producers,

Sugar mills,

Rice and pasta producers,

Agriozlena, the main seed distribution company,

Lacteos Los Andes, the main dairy producer,

More than 10,000 hectares of cattle and milk productions farms,

At least five corn flour producers,

Two oil manufacturers, and

Polar, a major supermarket chain.

The shortages have also created the growing black market economy with regulated products resold on the black market for profit.

It is the poorest communities, outside of the capital that are hardest hit.

Eighty seven per cent of Venezuelans state that they do not have enough money to buy the food they need;

It costs the equivalent of 16 minimum-wage salaries to properly feed a family.

A quarter lives off less than two meals a day.

Malnutrition greatly affects the children and most vulnerable, with infant mortality rising.


Both scheduled and abrupt water and electricity shortages have become commonplace.

The country's only hydroelectric dam reached critical levels, only five feet of water away from when turbines will simply stop turning.

Without power, public institutions are only open three days a week.

The lack of basic supplies and chemicals, such as chlorine for water treatment, has lead to an increase in water-borne illness, facilitating the spread of devastating disease.

The health system is in crisis.

There is no equipment, no doctors, and no medicine.

Medical services are weakened by the deterioration of infrastructure, the failure to maintain and update technical resources and equipment, worsening shortages of medicines and supplies.

Patients requiring treatment must bring their supplies, from toilet paper to syringes, to medicine to blankets;

When the supplies run out, treatment stops.

The instability has led to the mass emigration of health professionals. Even the majority of Cuban staffed hospitals have shut down.

As of January 2016, the Pharmaceutical Industry Chamber acknowledged a $6 billion B debt to international suppliers.

Pharmacies are only able to provide seven out of every 100 drugs requested.

On January 27, 2016, Venezuela's National Assembly declared a national emergency in healthcare.

On April 5, 2016, the National Assembly introduced Special Legislation to "address the humanitarian health crisis."

This law would allow much needed international humanitarian assistance into the country.

On June 9, the Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional.

The situation is desperate.

Violence has been escalating in recent weeks, as shortages have become intolerable.

More than 250 looting incidents have been reported across the country this year.

Eighty one percent were targeting food or drink deliveries on their distributions routes,

The remaining 19%, shopping centers and warehouses.

Food shipments are now accompanied by armed guard, loyal to the Executive; selectively delivered to hungry citizens.

Last Tuesday, while we gathered around the table in the Dominican Republic, riots escalated across Venezuela.

In Cumana, over 100 shops were looted and destroyed, with at least 3 deaths reported.

In the state of Trujillo, demonstrations have become a daily fixture with people protesting the lack of basic government services.

A 4-year old girl was tragically shot to death outside a Mercal in Guatire; collateral damage from escalating tensions and violence.

Without confidence in the security forces, people are seeking out their own resolutions to threats and instability.

The public prosecutor has opened investigations into 74 suspected vigilante killings in the first four months of the year.

Violent crime rates have reached historical highs.

Official government statistics, which are only released periodically, show 2015 rates at 58.1 homicides for 100,000 persons.

Civil society has counted 90 homicides per 100,000 persons.

In 2015, the number of violent deaths in Venezuela is higher than in Afghanistan.

Sixty six per cent of the population reports feeling somewhat or very unsafe

Between 2013 and 2015, the number of people indicating that neither they nor their relatives have been a victim of crime dropped from 54.2% to 10.6%.

People are afraid of the growing criminalization of the state.

Three out of four Venezuelans told a national survey that they did not believe the police could protect them.

The police, National Guard, judges, prosecutors and prison staff, are ether complicit in or actively involved in growing list of crimes.

Paramilitary forces established by the Government to crack down on organized crime have been accused of summary executions.

There is no official data on persons killed by security forces.

1,320 members of the policy and military forces that have been reportedly killed in the last 4 years; 75% were not on duty at the time of their deaths.

There have already been more than 109 deaths of police and security forces reported since January 1.

Venezuela is in a perpetual state of civil conflict.

The collapse of accountable, effective governance is only exacerbated by the endemic corruption that plagues the government.

A recent study by the Permanent Committee of Audits of the National Assembly raised concerns about USD $69 billion in government spending due to alleged corruption.

Two former members of cabinet of the late President Hugo Chavez have launched complaints of missing oil revenues upwards of USD $300 billion.

Transparency International ranks Venezuela 158 out of 168 countries evaluated for corruption. This is the lowest in the Hemisphere.

The countries that fall below it- Somalia, North Korea, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq-- illegitimate regimes or countries devastated by long-term wars.

The government has lost the confidence of its public with 75% of Venezuelans considering corruption widespread.

Civil and political rights are meant to protect individual freedoms.

They guarantee the ability of individuals to participate in the decision-making processes that affect them, without discrimination and without repression,

The Venezuelan government has created a systematic scheme of political persecution against the voices of dissent.

A free press is one that demonstrates robust coverage of political news, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, and the press is protected from undue legal or economic pressures.

The media in Venezuela regularly face criminal and administrative proceedings, travel bans, indirect censorship and harassment,

Targeted for publishing news or articles with a critical view of the government.

Loosely defined laws cite 'hate speech', 'intolerance', or 'calls to violence' to initiate administrative proceedings against media who question or challenge government propaganda, creating an environment of self-censorship.

Broadcast licenses are controlled through an opaque, discretionary process, and are frequently suspended, or not renewed.

The state-owned company, Corporacion Maneiro controls who has access to newsprint.

Business owners tied to the governing party have bought independent media outlets, shifting the coverage to a pro-government tone.

Citizens who speak critically of their governments actions are called "traitors to the homeland."

A person who disagrees with the actions taken by a democratically elected government is not a traitor.

Politics is meant to be a debate of ideas.

When the man calling you a traitor also controls the armed forces, intelligence agencies, the national police and the courts, this is an overt act of intimidation.

The lack of a genuine political dialogue has forced citizens into the streets to make their voices heard.

Criminalizing protests to quiet criticism is the action of an authoritarian state.

Increasingly the courts and criminal prosecution is used as a weapon of political persecution.

Public protests are met with force.

In January 2015, the Government explicitly authorized the use of firearms to control public gatherings and peaceful protests,

A direct violation of Venezuela's own constitution

In 2013, when President Nicolas Maduro took office, the Venezuelan Penal Forum registered 11 political prisoners.

Between January 2014 and May 31, 2016, the Forum has registered 4,253 detainees, arrests or imprisonments,

Each linked to various protests or criticisms against the Government.

There are currently 1986 people facing restrictive measures.

Another 94 are in jail.

Individuals are targeted because they are political leaders, voices of dissent with a public profile.

This is Leopoldo Lopez, Antonio Ledzemas, and others,

These are also targeted for propaganda, scapegoats for the failures of government policy.

Manny, a 54-year old father of two is also the Director General of the Dia Dia super market chain.

On February 2, 2015, Manny was arrested, without warrant, outside the Miraflores Palace, after a meeting with the Vice President for Food Security.

After 51 days in detention at the headquarters of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service in Helocoide, Manny was accused of hoarding, aggravating the food shortages and efforts to destabilize the economy.

On the same day of his arrest, government security forces occupied Dia Dia.

In November, Manny was released from detention and lives under restricted measures.

This past Sunday, Francisco Marquez Lara and Gabriel San Miguel were arbitrarily detained by the National Guard while travelling to Portuguesa state to support the constitutional process.

They have been detained since, without a warrant and have been extensively interrogated by State Police and the Bolivarian Intelligence Service, without lawyers present.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has identified more than 300 cases of arbitrary detention in Venezuela.

In desperation the Government resorts to cruel and inhumane treatment, including torture.

Since 2014, 145 cases of cruel and inhumane punishment, including torture, have been reported.

Gerardo is a 25-year old criminology student at the Catholic University in Tachira.

Gerardo was one of 120 other students that were arrested by the Bolivian National Guard, without warrant, on May 8, 2014 in Chacao, Caracas from a group of peaceful protesters camped out by UNDP headquarters.

On August 21, 2014, officials removed Gerardo from his cell, handcuffed to a pipe in the ceiling, his wrists wrapped with newspaper and tape, for more than 12 hours.

He was violently beaten suffering serious injury to his legs and back.

Charged with minor drug trafficking offenses, no evidence of his crime was ever submitted.

Gerardo was detained for 17 months in the custody of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service.

In August 2015, Joselyn a 23 years old, she was arrested and detained in Falcon State, a maximum-security prison in Corco where she shared a cell with nine other prisoners.

During her time in prison, Joselyn was sexually violated and subject to severe beatings.

Joselyn was released for medical treatment a month later; the prison's medical facilities insufficient to deal with the severity of the injuries.

Daniel is 18 year old. On May 18, Daniel was arrested by the Bolivarian Intelligence Service for attending protests supporting the recall referendum.

During his incarceration Daniel was severely beaten and subject to electric shock.

Six others who were arrested at the same time as Daniel all testified that they were subject to similar treatment, including beatings, threats of rape and electric shock.

Daniel remains in solitary confinement in the SEBIN.

We must always remember that when we are talking about political prisoners, they are not simply statistics and figures.

These are people.

With faces, names, and stories.

They are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters and spouses.

These are citizens who care about their future of their country.

Holding political prisoners are a clear act of an authoritarian regime.

No dialogue can take place when a government arbitrarily detains and imprisons people who express dissent.

That is not democracy.

These stories are just a few of the thousands of stories of Venezuelan citizens that have been arbitrarily detained for their ideas.

Not their actions, their ideas.

It is not enough that there is no food.

It is not enough that there are no hospitals, no medicine.

It is not enough that the levels of violent crime are among the highest in the world.

When citizens organize to voice their concern, they are suppressed relentlessly.

The people of Venezuela are faced with a government that is no longer accountable to them.

A government that no longer protects the rights of its citizens.

A government that is no longer democratic.

Its very structure has failed.

The separation of powers is one of the most basic elements of a democracy.

The Legislative, Executive and Judiciary each have their own set of responsibilities and authorities to prevent the concentration of power and provide for checks and balances.

In Venezuela, there is a consistent effort by the Executive and the Judiciary to impede and even nullify the normal workings of the National Assembly.

The Executive has repeatedly used unconstitutional interventions against the Legislative, with the collusion of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of the Court.

The evidence is clear.

After the December 6 elections, and before the new legislature was called into session, 13 out of 32 magistrates, and 21 alternates of the Supreme Court were sworn in through partisan appointments.

The subsequent Supreme Court decisions consistently block each new law adopted by the National Assembly.

A series of decisions barred three Congressmen from taking theirs seats, reducing the opposition's supermajority to a simple majority.

Overruling the Legislature, the Supreme Court approved two Executive decrees declaring a State of Emergency, and a State of Economic Emergency,

Concentrating power in the hands of the Executive and placing arbitrary limits the legislature's authority over public contracts, government officials and the budget.

Both Executive decrees have been extended twice.

The Supreme Court has also ruled,

To limit the audit functions of the Legislature, removing external accountability of the government.

To remove the Legislature's authority to repeal the appointments of Supreme Court Justices.

To prevent any constitutional amendments to be applicable to the current president.

To declare laws to reform the Central bank, Supreme Court, reform the internal rules and debates in Congress, and the Granting of Property Titles unconstitutional.

Block the release of political prisoners, and

Prohibit unapproved protests before the National Electoral Council, ordering the National Guard and National Police to repress "violent protests."

Most recently on June 14, the Supreme Court ruled to further restrict the powers of the National Assemblies citing efforts to usurp the power to the Executive.

Supreme Court activism has skyrocketed with the number of rulings between February and March 2016, jumping from two to 252.

Between January 5 and May 24, there are 9-recorded appeals. All nine decisions ruled in favor of the Executive branch.

These examples clearly demonstrate the lack of independence of the Judiciary.

The tripartite system of democracy has failed, with the judicial branch now co-opted by the Executive.

Over 60% of lower-court judges may be removed from their posts, without due process, by a Commission of the Supreme Court.

Provisional and temporary appointments of judges and prosecutors undermine the judicial independence and potential for impartiality.

In turn, it is this very lack of credibility with the judiciary that discourages qualified candidates for seeking positions on the bench.

The lack of independence of the judiciary undermines citizen's access to justice.

A recent survey indicated that only 31% of respondents indicated that they have trust in their national justice system.

A government's legitimacy requires the confidence of its people.

In 1999, former President Hugo Chavez enshrined the recall referendum in Venezuela's constitution as a vehicle to ensure "participatory and protagonist democracy."

The process is outlined in the Constitution,

In Venezuela, every office and magistrate popularly elected can be recalled.

Article 72 indicated that a recall referendum can be initiated "once half of the term in office to which an official has been elected has elapsed,"

If the referendum results in a Presidential 'recall' during the first four years,

Then a "new election by universal suffrage and direct ballot shall be held within 30 days.

If the plebiscite takes place after this date, then the Executive Vice-President shall assume the presidency for the remainder of the term of office.

With the lack of clarity in the process, these dates can't be confirmed.

The current regulation indicates that the process must be triggered by the signatures of 1% of voters calling for a referendum, with demonstrated support of at least 20% of the voting public.

If the National Electoral Board verifies the results, the National Election Commission calls for a Presidential referendum.

In order to revoke the President term, voter turnout must be above 25%, and the number of valid votes must be equal to or higher than the number of votes in with which the president was chosen, and

No one is above the constitution.

In August 2004, President Hugo Chavez faced a recall referendum.

In that case, 59.1% of the public voted against his removal from office.

It is the responsibility of the President and the Election Council to implement this process, in accordance with their legislative and constitutional requirements.

Following a constitutionally mandated procedure is not a coup d'état;

Quite the contrary, to deny, delay, or hinder the process in any way, is an abuse of power and a clear alteration of the democratic order.

The Electoral Council has not provided the necessary guarantees for holding the recall referendum.

Numerous claims have been made of deliberate attempts to actively delay the process, including,

Delays in the delivery of the required canvassing sheets to collect the 1% signatures,

Delays in the verification and validation of the 1% of signatures,

The creation of four new requirements for digitization, verification, transcription, and auditing, and

Threats to publicly disseminate names of those signing in favor of the referendum.

The opposition coalition has submitted more than 10 times the number of signatures required to initiate the first step in the process.

After months of delays, the validation process began this week.

Through an opaque process, the Commission has repeatedly failed to meet its own deadlines and taken actions that violate its own rules.

In addition, four out of five members of the Electoral Commission are tied to the ruling PSUV party.

These ties call into question the ability of the majority of members to rule independently and impartially.

Under these exceptional circumstances, it is imperative that the process is implemented in a timely and transparent manner, by a neutral institution that maintains the public's confidence.

The groups advocating for a recall referendum have so far satisfied their responsibilities in this process.

The government and the Electoral Commission have not. Holding the recall referendum in 2016 is the only Constitutional way to resolve the political crisis in Venezuela.

As members of the Inter-American system, we all want the same thing.

A peaceful resolution to the crisis in Venezuela,

A return to the democratic order,

An end to the humanitarian crisis.

Stability, adequate food, health and security.

We are not here to punish or sanction Venezuela.

We are here to support a Member States in a time of need, help them back on the path to democracy- in this effort, I support the creation of a Group of Friends of the OAS.

So today I ask the Permanent Council to consider the recommendations that I have presented,

Conduct the constitutionally mandated recall referendum before the end of 2016

The immediate release of all political prisoners

The Executive and legislative branches of the Venezuelan government immediately start working together to respond to the humanitarian crisis,

All branches of government work together to bring security back to the country,

The Executive branch immediately ceases efforts to undermine the democratically elected National Assembly and all laws that have been approved by the National Assembly be implemented and enforced.

Appoint a new Supreme Court of Justice through a transparent process jointly agreed upon by the Executive and the Legislative branches of government.

Establish an independent body to combat corruption, composed of international experts, be created and empowered to address the financial situation in Venezuela.

And finally, offer technical support to the Truth Commission, and ensure representation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.


Yes, democracy requires dialogue,

But in order to make this dialogue effective, it must be accompanied by action.

Democracy has no borders.

Democracy is more than counting the pieces of paper in a ballot box

It is about freedom,

Freedom of expression, association, assembly

An empowered citizen,

An independent judiciary,

A security apparatus that is trusted by and accountable to the people.

It is the legitimate exercise of power, within the rule of law.

Democratic governments have a responsibility to their citizens,

A responsibility to provide security, access to basic necessities, and protect their human rights,

Governments must be accountable to the people.

So I ask you to consider the lives, health and security of the Venezuelan people.

The Permanent Council should take the necessary steps to address the unprecedented and unnecessary humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

The Permanent Council should take a stand on the political prisoners and the persistent reports of torture.

The Permanent Council should support the will of the Venezuela public in their call for a recall referendum.

The Permanent Council must be on the right side of history, standing up for the people that need voice.

Returning to a legitimate, accountable exercise of this power will help Venezuela back onto the path to peace and prosperity.




Climate a game-changing election issue for Australia




Climate a game-changing election issue for Australia

With just over a week before Australia goes to the polls, new reports show that party policies on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting renewable energy will play a decisive role in shaping the outcome of the federal election.
Sydney-based think-tank The Climate Institute (TCI) on Wednesday released its Climate Policy Credibility Assessment, highlighting a gap between voter expectations on climate policy and what parties have promised so far.
In a separate State of Solar 2016 report published on the same day, community advocacy group Solar Citizens found that homeowners with rooftop solar installations are a growing voter base, and in many constituencies, their votes could be enough to oust the current Member of Parliament.
TCI, through a recent poll of 1,100 Australians aged 18 and above, found that 72 per cent of Australians today are concerned about climate change, compared with 53 per cent in 2013.
While the Malcolm Turnbull-led ruling Coalition party saw climate concern among its supporters spike from 41 per cent in 2013 to 62 per cent today, it is the people who do not yet know who they will vote for come July 2 who are the most eager to see strong climate action - 76 per cent of undecided voters are concerned about the issue.
TCI noted that businesses and financiers, too, are increasingly frustrated by uncertainty around climate and energy policies such as the Renewable Energy Target, and clean energy financing, among others.
John Connor, chief executive officer of TCI, said in a statement that "after 10 turbulent years, Australian business and the voting public have tapped into international trends about the economic and environmental benefits of climate action".
"Our main political parties urgently need to catch up," he said.  "Our research shows that all our political parties need to do more to develop policies that not only build credibility, but also build community and investor confidence."
TCI evaluated the climate policies of the main parties likely to be returned to Parliament against three key criteria: the implications for global warming if other countries matched the party's national emissions reduction targets; how Australia would compare with other G20 countries in 2030 in terms of per capita emissions; and to what extent the policies would limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius.
This was a goal agreed upon by governments at the United Nations climate change conference in Paris last December. 
TCI also assessed the potential of party policies to grow a net zero emissions economy in the future, as well as properly identify and manage the risks and opportunities related to climate change.
It found that the Coalition party - along with the much smaller Jacqui Lambie Network - had the largest credibility gaps in its climate policy. Coalition's target of reducing Australia's emissions by between 26 and 28 per cent by 2030 will lead to global temperature rise of about 4 degrees Celsius if other countries match this target.
This would place Australia as the country with the third highest emissions per capita among G20 nations, only better than Russia and Saudi Arabia, found TCI, adding that the Coalition's climate policy requires major strengthening.
In comparison, the Labor Party's climate targets would keep global warming increases to between 2 and 3 degrees Celsius, TCI found, resulting in Australia having the 7th highest emissions per capita in the G20.
At the other end of the spectrum, TCI found that The Australia Greens' policies are more aligned to the global 2 degrees Celsius goal. Its plan to cut Australia's emissions by as much as 82 per cent below 2005 levels will leave Australia with the eighth lowest emissions per capita in the G20.
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However, The Greens' policy relies heavily on government spending to drive renewable energy adoption, and this could undermine the creation of a competitive and flexible clean energy market, warned TCI.

The Climate Institute's ranking of how each party's climate policy would affect its emissions per capita compared to other G20 nations. Image: The Climate Institute
Overall, the uncertainty around the future of Australia's climate policy has hampered the "inevitable transition" to clean energy, and a failure to prepare for this could have an adverse effect on energy jobs, prices, and supply, said Connor.
"The winning party will have to quickly get real and develop durable, scalable policies that minimise climate risks and maximise clean energy opportunities rather than do the reverse," he added.
To achieve this, TCI said that the first step that all parties should take is to lay out a credible emissions reduction pathway that will see Australia achieve 'net zero' status before 2050.
They should also develop economic plans which integrate climate and energy policies so that the rapid shift in technologies and falling energy prices will not adversely affect the community. This is essential for investor, business, and community confidence, said TCI.
Lastly, all parties should integrate climate risks and opportunities into key national decision-making processes and reports, such as those dealing with infrastructure development and finance-related issues.
Our research shows that all our political parties need to do more to develop policies that not only build credibility but also build community and investor confidence.
The separate report by Solar Citizens also highlighted the need for parties to support the widespread adoption of solar energy. 
The study found that in the last 10 years, Australians have spent A$8 billion of their own money to install solar panels on their rooftops, and today, about 5 million Australians have solar installations at home.
This has saved citizens a collective A$4.4 billion, created some 19,000 jobs in the past decade, and saved 24 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. 
Claire O' Rourke, national director of Solar Citizens, noted: "Australian political leaders need to understand just how much average Australians themselves have committed of their own money to play a part in the transition of our power system."
She added: "With one in five voters living under a solar roof, this is potent political constituency."
The report found that in 121 out of the 150 federal electorates being contested this year, the number of people
with solar panels on their rooftops vastly outnumbers the votes needed for a candidate to swing the seat.

The number of rooftop solar owners in the most marginal electorates compared with the number of votes needed to swing the seat. Image: Solar Citizens
This makes a strong case for Australian parliamentarians to support the clean energy transition rather than big power companies and fossil fuel firms, noted the report. 
"With solar voters on the rise, our representatives should make the choices to support their constituents," it said. "After all, politicians are themselves a renewable resource."

Violent South Africa protests expose ANC internal rifts




Violent South Africa protests expose ANC internal rifts

©EPA
Protests by angry African National Congress supporters have shocked South Africa ahead of elections
Violent protests in South Africa that have left at least two people dead and paralysed areas around Pretoria, the capital, have laid bare the extent of bitter internal struggles within the ruling African National Congress as it heads into crucial elections.
The violence, which sent shockwaves across South Africa, erupted on Monday after ANC supporters reacted angrily to the party's announcement of its mayoral candidate for Tshwane, the municipality that includes Pretoria. Protesters, who have torched buses, blocked roads and looted shops, told local media that they supported the incumbent mayor and resented another candidate being brought in by party leaders.
The scenes of scores of ANC supporters taking to the streets to vent their anger at their leaders is a damaging blow to the party, which faces what many expect to be its toughest test yet at the ballot box when South Africans vote in local elections in August.
"This is mostly ANC members and supporters who have been dissatisfied for some time now by the lack of local democracy," said William Gumede, executive chairperson of Democracy Works Foundation.
"The ANC leaders are not getting it. The people who are responsible (ANC leaders) cannot see we are going off a cliff."
Analysts say the ANC is under threat of losing its majorities in big cities, including Pretoria, Johannesburg, the commercial capital, and Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, a traditional party stronghold.
The selection of candidates for state positions has become increasingly contentious as a system of patronage becomes more entrenched across all levels of government. This means the stakes for public officials and their supporters to stay connected to power — and the influence and resources that come with it — have risen.
The ANC has made it "acceptable" for officials to use public office for material gain, said Mcebisi Ndletyana, an associate professor at the University of Johannesburg.
"The chickens have come home to roost," he said. "This is now out in the open. People are being attacked on the streets. People are gripped by fear. It's unpleasant."
ANC officials blamed the escalation of the protests — which continued on Wednesday — in part on "thuggery" and "criminal elements," a reaction that some say reflects a widening gap between the party leadership and its increasingly frustrated grass roots members.
In an interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation, Gwede Mantashe, the ANC's secretary-general, admitted that patronage and "tender beneficiaries" contributed to the tensions in Tshwane. But he insisted that many people involved in the protests did not know "the real driving force" behind the action, and alluded to outside influences being at work.
Jacob Zuma, the president, has been conspicuously silent on the protests, raising renewed questions about his leadership.
"Who in the ANC has the moral authority and political strength to call ANC members to order?" said Lawson Naidoo, executive secretary of Casac, a civil society group.
Who in the ANC has the moral authority and political strength to call ANC members to order?
- Lawson Naidoo, Casac civil society group
The ANC, a former liberation movement that led the struggle against apartheid, has dominated politics in Africa's most industrialised nation since the country's first democratic elections in 1994.
But its image has been battered by a string of high-profile scandals amid rising allegations of corruption and cronyism.
At the same time, the country is grappling with arguably its worst economic crisis of the democratic era, while frustrations mount over rampant unemployment and poverty in one of the world's most unequal societies.
On the political front, the ANC is battling increasing competition from opposition parties, including the Economic Freedom Fighters, a radical party led by Julius Malema, which will be contesting its first local election.
Analysts are not predicting that the ANC will lose its national majority, with its share of the vote above 60 per cent at every vote since 1994.
But a recent eNCA/Ipsos poll predicted that its share of the vote in Tshwane could dip to around 28 per cent, and around 30 per cent in Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth as it struggles to retain support in urban areas. The survey added that many voters were still undecided.
Analysts say the outcome of the local elections could become an important factor in determining whether Mr Zuma serves out his full second term, which ends in 2019.
This year he has faced calls for his resignation from some within the ANC after a number of controversies, including a Constitutional Court ruling that he breached the constitution by refusing to repay taxpayers' money spent on his private homestead.
Mr Zuma, a proven political survivor, has shrugged off the criticism. But a particularly bad performance at the polls by the ANC could renew pressure on him, analysts say. 

New York City Could See Thousands of Heat Deaths by 2080 - Scientific American




New York City Could See Thousands of Heat Deaths by 2080

As many as 3,331 people annually could die from heat waves by 2080 in New York City alone if no steps are taken to adapt to warming temperatures and reduce emissions, a new study warns.
The report comes at the same time as a separate analysis tracing climate change and air pollution's effects on children. Together the studies, both out of Columbia University, lay out the case for cutting carbon now.
"We now know a great deal about the harm from the emissions from fossil fuels," said Frederica Perera, director of the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health at the Mailman School of Public Health. "We know a great deal about how to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels."
The studies, published online this week in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, come as the Obama administration is making a concerted effort to link efforts to tackle climate change with protecting public health.
As temperatures rise, more people may die as strokes and heart attacks become more frequent and breathing ailments get worse. But in a city as large and diverse as New York, the relationship isn't so simple.
"Many studies keep population constant, which is not really adequate," explained Elisaveta Petkova, project director at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Earth Institute.
Demographics within a city change over time, which alters the risk profile. The elderly and the very young are especially vulnerable to extreme heat events, which are poised to become more frequent and intense (ClimateWire, June 14).
On the other hand, better infrastructure and access to cooling can reduce the harm from heat, and over time individuals may become acclimated to higher temperatures. "People become more resilient to heat," said Petkova. "We don't know exactly why."
Petkova, who was the lead author of her study, traced five different demographic models for New York City that drew on past trends. She and her team then projected excess deaths from heat under a low and a high greenhouse gas emissions scenario, incorporating adaptation patterns.
"Aging of the population is probably the most important trend, since older adults are more vulnerable to heat-related health effects," said co-author Patrick Kinney, a professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University, in an email.
The results showed that higher greenhouse gas emissions would lead to more annual fatalities from heat across the city as far out as the 2080s. In one scenario, presuming no adaptation to heat and more people migrating to the city, the low-emissions profile projected 1,552 heat-related deaths per year in the 2080s, while the high-emissions model showed 3,331 deaths from heat, more than double.
"This study just highlighted how important it is to take proactive measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Petkova said.

In utero impacts

In the other paper, Perera highlighted how fossil fuel combustion has direct health consequences for children.
"Often, we think of climate change and air toxics in terms of effects on adults," she said. "Those effects are not universal, and not enough emphasis is placed on children, who are more vulnerable."
Many sources of carbon dioxide, like cars, factories and power plants, also produce harmful products like volatile organic compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
The combination of rising temperatures from climate change and environmental pollution can have devastating effects on the very young, starting in utero. The combined effects can lead to premature birth and neurodevelopmental problems, some of which can take years to manifest themselves.
"These effects don't disappear and persist through the child's life course," said Perera.
However, addressing air pollution and climate change would drastically improve health outcomes and boost the economy. U.S. EPA estimated that the value of avoided deaths due to air pollution restrictions would add up to $2 trillion in 2020.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500

How Severe Is Venezuela’s Crisis? | The Nation

https://www.thenation.com/article/how-severe-is-venezuelas-crisis/


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Kenya : State deploys 400 police officers to Kerio Valley - News


Ciwars this is an on going problem ususally driven by drought and the need for pasture.
Kenya : State deploys 400 police officers to Kerio Valley - Standard Digital News from The Standard Digital's Tweet
The Government has deployed over 400 police officers and two armoured personnel carriers to Kerio Valley.
They are expected to help in livestock recovery and quell cattle rustling between the Pokot and Marakwet communities. Some 20 people have been killed and more than 1,000 livestock stolen in the past six months.

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La Niña Threatens to Bring Drought to East Africa

Ciwars Daily La Nina could cause drought in southern Ethiopia and floods on Kenya.
http://m.voanews.com/a/la-nina-threatens-drought-east-africa/3387916.html


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Why the GOP is trying to stop the Pentagon's climate plan

--> Politico Increased refugee flows, which are already straining Europe, are likely to accelerate as the climate heats up and have the potential to destabilize large swaths of the world, including the Middle East and South Pacific. The "oil wars" of the 20th ...


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It's when, not if: but will Paris be ready for the flood of the century?

--> The Guardian They call it la crue centennale (the flood of the century) and Paris is well overdue one. While the recent scenes of water-filled streets after the river Seine burst its banks caused no end of headaches for the French capital, the rain stopped just ...


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BrExit to Save Europe from Climate Change Refugee Migration Apocalypse

--> The Market Oracle The UN estimates there will be 200 million climate change refugees by 2050, or 5 times the current number. So what does that imply for a Europe that cannot cope with today's refugee crisis of 1 million per year, what is it going to be like when the ...


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Le Monde.fr - En Zambie, le plus grand quotidien indépendant fermé à moins de deux mois de la présidentielle

Le Monde.fr


Ciwars Daily Stability in Zambia is needed in the region because of its ability to supply much neded grain.  Ciwars doubts this move will attract wide attention.

En Zambie, le plus grand quotidien indépendant fermé à moins de deux mois de la présidentielle

Les bureaux du quotidien, critique envers les autorités, ont été fermés par la police au prétexte d'une dette non réglée au fisc zambien.
| 23.06.2016 à 09:13

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