CARACAS, August 27 -- Venezuela's National Assembly (parliament) controlled by the opposition has declared null and void a new agreement with Russia on military cooperation. The declaration was published on Monday.
The document concerns "the agreement on military cooperation between the governments of Venezuela and Russia, signed by defense ministers Vladimir Padrino Lopez and Sergey Shoigu." "This agreement was not considered either by a commission on foreign policy, sovereignty and integration or by parliament, which makes it unconstitutional, and this means that it is null and void," the declaration said. The parliament said that opening a Venezuelan embassy in North Korea was "a violation of the constitution." On August 15, Shoigu and Lopez signed an agreement on reciprocal visits of military ships at the meeting in Moscow. The defense ministers also discussed the situation in Venezuela and issues of bilateral military cooperation.
BIARRITZ, August 26 -- World leaders at the G-7 summit have agreed to help the countries affected by the huge wildfires ravaging the Amazon rain forest as soon as possible, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday.
"We are all agreed on helping those countries which have been hit by the fires as fast as possible," he told journalists at the summit in the south-western French resort of Biarritz. Ahead of the gathering, Macron called on world leaders to hold urgent talks on the wildfires ripping through the world's largest rain forest, pledging "concrete measures" to tackle it. Although about 60 per cent of the Amazon is in Brazil, the vast forest also takes in parts of eight other countries: Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. "This morning, Colombia called on the international community (to help), so we must help out," he said. "Our teams are making contact with all the Amazon countries so we can finalise some very concrete commitments involving technical resources and funding." Macron's bid to put the Amazon crisis high on the agenda at the G-7 angered Brazil's far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro, who lashed out over what he sees as outside interference, denouncing the French leader's "colonialist mentality". Under intense international pressure, Bolsonaro agreed to send in the military to fight the fires. The army on Sunday deployed two Hercules C-130 aircraft to douse fires, as hundreds of new blazes were ignited ahead of nationwide protests over the destruction.
Heavy smoke covered the city of Porto Velho in the north-western state of Rondonia where the defense ministry said the planes have started dumping thousands of liters of water. Swathes of the remote region bordering Bolivia have been scorched by the blazes, sending thick smoke billowing into the sky and increasing air pollution across the world's largest rain forest. Experts say increased land clearing during the months-long dry season to make way for crops or grazing has aggravated the problem this year. "It gets worse every year - this year, the smoke has been really serious," Deliana Amorim, 46, told Agence France-Presse in Porto Velho where half a million people live. At least seven states, including Rondonia, have requested the army's help in the Amazon, where more than 43,000 troops are based and available to combat fires, officials said. Pope Francis on Sunday also voiced concern for the rain forest, which he described as a "vital" lung for the planet. The latest official figures show 79,513 forest fires have been recorded in Brazil this year, the highest number of any year since 2013. More than half of the fires are in the massive Amazon basin, where more than 20 million people live. Some 1,130 new fires were ignited between Friday and Saturday, according to Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE). The new data come as protesters plan to take to the streets across Brazil on Sunday, after thousands held demonstrations in the country and in Europe on Friday.
GUAYAQUIL, August 22 -- Looking after the environment is paying off in Ecuador, at least for public transport users in the business hub of Guayaquil.
A new scheme aimed at combatting garbage and pollution allows people to exchange recyclable plastic bottles for money to buy bus tickets. The port city, in Ecuador's south-west, is the second-most populous city in the country with 2.7 million inhabitants, but it generates the most waste. Passengers who use the city's bus transit system, Metrovia, are now queueing at a newly installed machine, waiting to unload their plastic bottles for two cents each, which they can spend on public transport. "Imagine: Two cents (a bottle), for 15 bottles you get 30 cents, that's already a Metrovia ticket," said bus passenger Cristian Cardenas. It is proving more profitable than selling the bottles to a recycling centre, Washington Bravo told AFP. The 76-year-old pensioner lives outside Guayaquil, a US$9 (S$12.45) taxi ride into town. He makes the walk once a week, collecting plastic bottles from garbage cans and the streets along his way. Guayaquil produces 4,200 tonnes of waste a day, only 14 per cent of which is recyclable. "The city is full of corruption and dirty. Before it wasn't like this, it was cleaner," he said.
CARACAS, August 14 -- The Venezuelan National Assembly (parliament) will continue functioning under any circumstances, opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Tuesday.
The Venezuelan parliament is controlled by opponents of President Nicolas Maduro. "If necessary, we will use emergency mechanisms to continue working in the parliament and fulfilling our responsibilities no matter what," El Nacional newspaper quoted Guaido as saying. Guaido added that the Venezuelan authorities are cautious about international reaction to the possible dissolution of the parliament and prefer to abstain from such step, stripping opposition parliament members of immunity instead. On Monday, Venezuela's Constituent Assembly stripped four parliament members of immunity upon the Supreme Court's request. Jose Guerra, Rafael Guzman, Tomas Guanipa and Juan Pablo Garcia Canales are accused of "treason, usurping powers, public calls for unrest, violation of laws and violence." The Constituent Assembly was established by Maduro in July 2017 without a preliminary referendum. There are no opposition representatives in the Constituent Assembly, and most Latin American countries do not recognize it as legitimate.
CARACAS, June 27 -- Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has refuted accusations of trying to stage a coup voiced earlier by Minister of Communications and Information Jorge Rodriguez.
"Journalists have alreadt lost count of how many times such accusations were put forward. Our call which we have made and will continue to make is directed toward the military as they need to take the side of the constitution," Guaido told AFP. Rodriguez earlier said that the Venezuelan authorities have thwarted a coup attempt. Conspirators planned to stage a coup on June 23-24 and assassinate President Nicolas Maduro. Rodriguez said that Guaido knew about those plans and supported them. On January 23 Venezuelan National Assembly Speaker Juan Guaido proclaimed himself as the country's acting president. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has described it as a coup attempt and announced severing diplomatic relations with the United States. On January 28 the US imposed sancitons on Venezuela's state-owned PDVSA oil company. Guaido was recognized as interim president by the Lima Group countries (except for Mexico), as well as by Albania, Georgia, the United States, and the Organization of American States. Several EU countries came forward with support for the Venezuelan parliament and expressed hope for new elections to resolve the crisis. Maduro was supported by Russia, Belarus, Bolivia, Iran, China, Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salavador, Syria and Turkey.
BUENOS AIRES, June 16 -- A massive failure in the electrical interconnection system left Argentina and Uruguay without power, according to reports by local media.
According to Infobae, an Argentinian website, the country has been in the dark for more than an hour, and all trains are suspended. Electricity supplier company Edesur Argentina said in a tweet: "A massive failure in the electrical interconnection system left Argentina and Uruguay without power." "Never has anything like this happened before," Alejandra Martinez, a spokeperson for the company told Infobae. Local media in Argentina said the blackout ocurred at around 12:00 GMT (07:00 local time). Social media reports on the blackout were widespread. "Huge blackout in Argentina: the City, the Province of Buenos Aires and Santa Fe were left in the dark," a news agency posted on Twitter.
ST.PETERSBURG, June 7 -- Russia may increase the number of its military specialists in Venezuela if it sends such a request, Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Latin American Department, Alexander Shchetinin, told reporters on Friday on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
"We have got contracts on maintenance works for what has been supplied to Venezuela. Any works demand a certain involvement of people," the diplomat said, noting: "If more [specialists] are needed, we will send them." "This is an absolutely technical issue related to implementing certain contracts on a particular volume of work," the diplomat said, noting that more specialists could arrive if needed. "Some of them will leave and the others will come." In late March, two planes with Russian servicemen arrived in Venezuela. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov later said that the military specialists, who are currently in Venezuela, are repairing the equipment under an agreement on military and technical cooperation between Moscow and Caracas.
CARACAS, June 5 -- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said that people want to hold parliamentary election to renew the composition of the National Assembly, the country's unicameral parliament currently controlled by the opposition.
"We are ready to hold parliamentary elections. The country wants the composition of the National Assembly to be renewed," Maduro said at the session of Venezuela's defense council. He also called on supporters and all people of the Bolivarian Republic to "strengthen political stability in the country." "US imperialism tries to harm Venezuela from the inside and from the outside every day," Maduro said. On January 23 Venezuelan National Assembly Speaker Juan Guaido proclaimed himself as the country's acting president. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has described it as a coup attempt and announced severing diplomatic relations with the United States. On January 28 the US imposed sancitons on Venezuela's state-owned PDVSA oil company.
Guaido was recognized as interim president by the Lima Group countries (except for Mexico), as well as by Albania, Georgia, the United States, and the Organization of American States. Several EU countries came forward with support for the Venezuelan parliament and expressed hope for new elections to resolve the crisis. Maduro was supported by Russia, Belarus, Bolivia, Iran, China, Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salavador, Syria and Turkey.
WASHINGTON, May 26 -- The only thing that can be negotiated with the Venezuelan government is the departure of incumbent Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the US State Department said in a statement published on Saturday.
The US expressed hope that the upcoming talks between members of the Venezuelan opposition and government officials in Oslo will focus on this issue. "The United States supports the desire of the Venezuelan people to recover their democracy and bring the illegitimate Maduro regime to an end. Previous efforts to negotiate an end to the regime and free elections have failed because the regime has used them to divide the opposition and gain time," the statement says. "Free elections cannot be overseen by a tyrant. As we have repeatedly stated, we believe the only thing to negotiate with Nicolas Maduro is the conditions of his departure. We hope the talks in Oslo will focus on that objective, and if they do, we hope progress will be possible," the US State Department continued. The US also demanded to release "800 political prisoners the Maduro regime held as of May 20". "We join supporters of democracy in Venezuela throughout the world in condemning their illegal imprisonment by the Maduro regime and in demanding their immediate release," the statement concluded.
Situation in Venezuela
Juan Guaido Venezuelan opposition leader and speaker of the National Assembly, whose appointment to that position had been cancelled by the country’s Supreme Court, declared himself interim president at a rally in the country’s capital, Caracas, on January 23. On the same day, the United States recognized him as an interim president, and the countries of the Lima Group (excluding Mexico) and the Organization of American States followed suit. Venezuela's incumbent President Nicolas Maduro blasted the move as an attempted coup and announced cutting diplomatic ties with the United States.
Most European Union member states recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president. Russia, Belarus, Bolivia, Iran, China, Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Syria and Turkey voiced support for Maduro.
On April 30, a group of military representatives expressed support for Guaido, which started a wave of massive anti-government protests in the country. Five people died and hundreds were injured in clashed with law enforcement. Non-governmental organizations reported that nearly 340 protesters were detained.
warned on a tour of the region in April that “predatory” lending practices and other “malign or nefarious” behaviour by Beijing had injected “corrosive capital into the economic bloodstream, giving life to corruption and eroding good governance”. As the Americans see it, Chinese companies are harming Latin America by investing mostly in the extraction and transportation of its precious raw materials. This, they say, has led to a greater dependence on commodities as opposed to US companies which focus on manufacturing and services. Many in Latin America share these concerns, but for others the difference between the long-standing American influence and the growing Chinese role is not so black and white. The Middle Kingdom may be seen as a 21st century coloniser, but it has also presented alternative investment options. The main problem, some argue, is that local governments across the continent have not been able to take full advantage. Latin America has for centuries grappled with different forms of foreign influence. The grievances and wounds created by hundreds of years of Spanish and Portuguese rule are today still present in the collective psyche, despite formal foreign control ending more than a century ago. The US then quickly became the hegemonic power, but its strategic control has been hard to sustain over the past two decades, partly because of China, whose growing economy has driven up demand for commodities. Trade between China and Latin America has surged, from US$12 billion in 2000 to almost US$306 billion last year, and China has become a major investor. The value of its loans – mostly for energy and infrastructure projects – has surpassed financing from the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank. But America and international financial institutions say transparency is lacking and the recipients of these loans face growing debt traps. Others bristle at what they see as attempts by China to leverage its newfound economic power for geopolitical gain. In recent years several nations, including Panama and the Dominican Republic, have severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan, which Beijing views as a renegade province.
The importance of the region was acknowledged last year when Beijing invited Latin American and Caribbean countries to join its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative – a global trade strategy that aims to expand economic links through ports, roads, airports, pipelines and other infrastructure projects. China’s foothold can also be seen on the streets of cities across the region. In Ecuador, a country of more than 16 million which some say has been a laboratory for Sino-Latin American investment, Chinese characters can be found sewn into the white covers on seat headrests inside new long-distance buses. In the capital, Quito, Chinese-made CCTV cameras are perched on street corners and inside buildings. The devices have been installed across the country since 2011, when Ecuador introduced a monitoring system to public spaces that includes facial recognition technology. According to the local authorities, the system has proved a powerful tool in combating crime, but experts suggest the images captured have also been used for surveillance and intelligence gathering. The adoption of Chinese technology elsewhere on the continent has given rise to similar human rights concerns:
Despite many of these projects having been met with opposition from locals, Chinese interest in the region shows no sign of slowing. “We have found most projects in Latin America have faced a local backlash because of environmental concerns about pollution and harm to residents and livelihoods,” Argentinian scholar Ariel Armony and Mexico-based researcher Enrique Dussel Peters wrote in an essay published last year. The pair, along with Shoujun Cui – director of the Research Centre for Latin American Studies at Beijing’s Renmin University – produced the book Building Development for a New Era: China’s Infrastructure Projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“For example, there have been concerns about the environmental impact of Sinopec’s oil refineries in Moín, Costa Rica. The national secretary of the environment objected to the first evaluation for serious omissions,” Armony and Peters wrote, referring to China’s state-owned oil and gas enterprise. “The beginning of construction for the Condor Cliff and La Barrancosa hydroelectric dams in Santa Cruz, Argentina, without an environmental impact assessment, led to the Argentine Supreme Court ordering the suspension of the projects.”