Tag Archives: Venezuela

EU extends sanctions against Venezuela for 1 year

The European Council on Monday extended restrictive measures against Venezuela for one year.

“In light of the ongoing political, economic, social and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela with persistent actions undermining democracy, the rule of law and the respect for human rights, the Council today extended the restrictive measures against Venezuela for one year, until 14 November 2020,” the Council said in a statement.

It added the measures include an embargo on arms and on equipment for internal repression as well as a travel ban and an asset freeze on 25 listed individuals in official positions.

“These measures are intended to help encourage democratic shared solutions in order to bring political stability to the country and allow it to address the pressing needs of the population,” it added.

Since the beginning of the year, Venezuela has been embroiled in political unrest as President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido engaged in a power battle, while the country’s economy has been in precipitous decline following a global downturn in the price of crude oil — the country’s main export.

Nearly 5,000 people leave Venezuela every day due to instability and uncertainty amid the economic and political crisis, and three million Venezuelans have left since 2015, according to the UN Refugee Agency.


IMF: Zimbabwe has the highest inflation rate in the world

Harare, Zimbabwe – Annual inflation in Zimbabwe was 300 percent in August, according to new data released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). At that level, the troubled southern African nation’s inflation rate is the highest in the world.

Annualised inflation in Zimbabwe was measured at 175.66 percent in June, up from 97.85 percent in May. In a statement released on Thursday, IMF head of delegation Gene Leon said Zimbabwe was experiencing what he described as severe economic difficulties.

Leon was a part of an IMF delegation that was recently in the country to assess progress on the implementation of a Staff Monitored Program (SMP) that measures economic performance and Zimbabwe’s commitment to reforms. The programme is a key step towards unlocking IMF funding.

“Since the February currency reform, the exchange rate has depreciated ,” Leon said. The currency went from one-to-one with the US unit to 1 to 16.5 as of September 23, “fostering high inflation, which reached almost 300 percent (year-over-year) in August.”

Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube banned the publication of annual inflation numbers in July to allow the country’s statistical agency, Zimstat, to compile new price data, which will only be published in February 2020, Ncube said.

This is not the first time Zimbabwe has experienced high inflation. Government figures show Zimbabwe’s peak inflation rate was 79.6 billion percent month-on-month and 89.7 sextillion percent year-on-year in mid-November 2009. Hyperinflation only ended the following year with the adoption of the US dollar.

Sting of inflation

While Zimstat is not confirming the IMF’s inflation estimate, many Zimbabweans are feeling the sting of the Zimbabwean dollar’s diminishing value.

Chenjerai Varugu, a vendor who sells mobile phone chargers and USB cables in Harare’s streets, says high inflation has made life tougher for him.

“Life is just now harder for me,” he told Al Jazeera. “I am now struggling to buy food. Bread is now $10. Everything has gone up.” When the local currency was pegged to the US dollar a loaf of bread could be bought for $1.

Varugu said he was thinking of leaving the country because most of his merchandise comes from abroad and that makes his livelihood particularly sensitive to exchange rates.

“The weakening local currency also affects my business in a big way because the wholesalers of the products buy these products in US dollars and increase the prices when the Zim dollar weakens against the US dollar,” Varugu said. When the cost of doing business for him rises, he raises prices, but he admits this is not a sustainable solution. “Customers generally don’t buy as much when you increase the price.”

Leon said economic difficulties in the country have been exacerbated by severe weather shocks. He foresees a steep drop in the value of all the goods and services produced within Zimbabwe in 2019.

“Social conditions have deteriorated sharply, with more than half of Zimbabwe’s population [8.5 million people] estimated by the UN to be food insecure in 2019/2020. Weakening confidence, policy uncertainty, a continuation of FX market distortions, and a recent expansionary monetary stance has increased pressure on the exchange rate,” Leon added.

Worse than Venezuela

Like Zimbabwe, the Venezuelan government in 2018 once suspended inflation readings.

This year, annual inflation in Venezuela – the country with the world’s second-highest inflation – was measured at 135.3 percent in August. On a month-on-month basis, consumer prices in Venezuela rose 65.2 percent in the same month, according to the opposition-controlled Congress.

While inflation in Venezuela has decelerated in recent months because of strict reserve requirements on banks, which reduced the credit available to businesses, Zimbabwe’s rate hike has not slowed down inflation.


Venezuela Denounces OAS Intention to Activate TIAR

“It is painful that countries which were invaded by U.S. troops and whose peoples were massacred by the application of TIAR, endorse today a similar crime against a brother country,” the Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister said.

Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Arreaza issued a statement Wednesday to denounce the intention to activate the Inter-American Reciprocal Assistance Treaty (TIAR) against Venezuela pushed by a group of governments of the Organization of American States. ​​

“It is painful that countries which were invaded by United States troops and whose peoples were massacred by the application of the TIAR, endorse today a similar crime against a brother country, in a clearly invalid session of the OAS,” the statement read.

At the OAS assembly, 12 countries voted in favor of the implementation of an initiative against Venezuela, saying the country represents “a threat to the security of the region,” after Colombia accused Venezuela of allegedly protecting armed groups within its territory. 

Venezuela has rejected the accusation and pointed out the lack of evidence, affirming these allegations are just an excuse for military intervention.

The TIAR is an agreement signed in September 1947 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It functions as a mutual mechanism of defense between member countries of the OAS. The treaty was imposed on the region by the United States within the context of the Cold War, with the aim of legitimizing military interventions in Latin America for ideological reasons.

“The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela calls on the countries and peoples of the region to firmly reject the ambitions of this small group of countries which is threatening the peace and integrity of the country and the entire continent,” the statement reads.

Venezuela denounces before the international community the infamous decision of a small group of governments aligned to the interests of the U.S., to try to implement the invalid activation of the TIAR, an imperial instrument of the history of our continent.

The South American country withdrew from the treaty in 2013 together with other nations pertaining to the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), including Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua.

However, the opposition-held Venezuela National Assembly, in contempt and suspended since 2016, illegally and unconstitutionally approved the reincorporation to the treaty on July 23, 2019. A flagrant violation of the Constitution as article 236 state that the public figure whose the attributions and obligations are to “celebrate and ratify treaties and international agreements” is the president and not legislators.

“Venezuela will remain attached to United Nations Charter, to the respect of International Law, to the practice of multilateralism and peace diplomacy, to the search of dialogue amidst the diversity, coexistence, and well-being of our peoples,” the Foreign Ministry concluded.


Venezuela launches military drills along Colombia border

Venezuela has launched extended military drills along the border with Colombia in an effort to prepare for any foreign invasion, amid rising tensions between Caracas and Bogota.

The Venezuelan army deployed 150,000 troops, tanks, and missile carriers around La Fria airport in the border state of Tachira on Tuesday, said the armed forces’ Strategic Operational Commander Remigio Ceballos.

The exercises — expected to continue for several weeks — are “related to security, exploration and the interception of any invasion of Venezuelan territory,” he said.

“We respect the armed forces around the world, but we are not afraid of anyone,” Ceballos added.

The deployment came a week after President Nicolas Maduro ordered the commander of the armed forces “to declare an alert… in the face of the threatened aggression by Colombia toward Venezuela.”

The tense relations between Maduro and Colombian far-right President Ivan Duque grew even worse earlier his month when Duque accused Maduro of providing “shelter and support” to Colombia’s rebel group FARC.

FARC recently took up arms once again after three years of peace with the Colombian government.

Maduro, however, denied the allegation, saying that the Colombian government was “using unfounded accusations to threaten Venezuela and provoke a military conflict with our country.”

In a reaction to the military exercises, Colombian Vice-President Marta Lucia Ramirez said the military was prepared for “any external attacks.”

“We call on all Colombians for calm, knowing that we possess a sufficiently equipped and capable public force,” she said.

Meanwhile, US special representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams said Colombia would have Washington’s full support in the event of a military invasion by Venezuela.

“I hope [the Venezuelan military exercises] are just a political act without any security or military meaning,” he said in Brussels. “I hope [the armed forces of Venezuela] are not crazy enough to engage in any kind of attacks on Colombia, and it is certainly the case that Colombia will have full American support if that happens.”

The US has imposed several rounds of sanctions against Venezuela to oust Maduro and replace him with an opposition figure.


UN Human Rights Chief Cites Continued Abuses in Venezuela

The United Nations’ chief human rights official said Monday that millions of Venezuelans continue to suffer rights violations, including dozens of possible extrajudicial killings carried out by a special police force.

Nongovernmental organizations report that the Special Action police force carried out 57 suspected extrajudicial killings in July alone within Caracas, Michelle Bachelet said in an oral presentation on Venezuela to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Bachelet’s presentation followed a scathing written report issued in early July that drew a government backlash. It found a “pattern of torture” under the government of President Nicolas Maduro and citing violations like arbitrary detention, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence and enforced disappearances.

Bachelet’s latest presentation noted some areas of progress, while pointing to more cases of human rights violations and declining conditions as more than 4 million Venezuelans have fled a country beset by hyperinflation that leaves monthly minimum wages equal to $2.

While Bachelet said she had called for officials to dismantle the feared Special Action police force, the unit has actually received ongoing support from the highest levels of the government, she said.

Bachelet raised concern that groups that collaborated with her in the earlier report have since come under criticism and threats by senior officials.

“Reprisals for having cooperated with the United Nations are unacceptable,” she said. “I urge the authorities to take preventative measures.”

Bachelet said she worried about a proposed law criminalizing the activities of human rights organizations that receive money from abroad, which could further erode democracy in Venezuela, a once wealthy oil nation.

Areas of progress
Highlighting advances, Bachelet said a member of her team recently was allowed to visit the Ramo Verde Military Center — a prison commonly used to hold what opposition leaders consider political prisoners — with an agreement for visits to come. The government also has released 83 people whose arrests human rights observers considered arbitrary, she said, adding that officials have agreed to consider another 27 cases, expecting action soon.
The only way to overcome Venezuela’s human rights crisis is for Maduro’s government and the opposition led by National Assembly President Juan Guaido to return to negotiations overseen by Norway, Bachelet said, and renewed her offer to support all such efforts.

Maduro’s government didn’t immediately respond to Bachelet’s latest comments, but officials rejected earlier criticism as biased and demanded she make corrections.


Cuban Pres. asserts US fails against Venezuela, attacks Cuba

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel asserted on Saturday that the US Government has failed in its policy against Venezuela and attacks Cuba by further imposing economic sanctions that hurt the people.

‘New US sanctions against Cuba. Lies, slander and hypocrisy used as pretext by the US Government to harden the blockade. Due to its failure in Venezuela it lashes out Cuba. We will resist and overcome,’ Díaz-Canel wrote in his Twitter account.

‘What most affects the Cuban people is the unfair, criminal and prolonged blockade; policy that has failed and is rejected by the international community. The empire uses lies and hypocrisy as a pretext,’ added the Head of State in another tweet.

Díaz-Canel reiterated on Twitter his alert about the danger of hegemony and quoted the leader of the Cuban revolution Fidel Castro: ‘… today you cannot talk about a United Nations system; … what really exists today is a system of domination of almost every country in the world by a small group of powers that, under the aegis of the United States, determine all matters …’

Syrians arrive in Venezuela to guard minister wanted by the US: Report

A group of guards from Syria reportedly arrived in Venezuela to operate as a security team for a Venezuela politician, who is among the most wanted in the US for drug trafficking.

Tareck El Aissami currently serves as Minister of Industries and National Production under Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro. El Aissami and his family have helped sneak Lebanese Hezbollah militants into the country, gone into business with a drug lord and shielded 140 tons of chemicals believed to be used for cocaine production, according to a secret dossier reported by The New York Times.

The information about the Syrian guards was revealed by Simon Novis, Special Security Commissioner for Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido, in an interview reported by Guaido’s communications website. Guaido is recognized as Venezuela’s interim ruler by many nations including the US and UK.

“A group of Syrians arrived to take care of the first security ring of El Aissami and his family,” said Novis. He said foreign security staff were brought in because El Aissami and his party do not trust the Venezuelan officials who were assigned to their security ring.

The United States blacklisted El Aissami for drug trafficking in 2017. The US Treasury said El Aissami oversaw or partially owned narcotics shipments of more than 1,000 kilograms from Venezuela on multiple occasions, including shipments to Mexico and the United States.

In an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal, editor Mary Anastasia O’Grady described El Aissami as a “master of Middle-Eastern networking” who is “a dream come true for Tehran and Havana.”

El Aissami is of Syrian and Lebanese heritage according to local reports.


Maduro puts military on high alert, accuses Colombia of plotting attack

Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, has put the military forces on high alert across the border with Colombia, in a move to counter a possible “threat of aggression” against his country.

Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, has put the military forces on high alert across the border from Colombia, accusing Bogota of plotting an attack against his country.

Speaking during a military ceremony in the capital Caracas on Tuesday, Maduro said he has ordered the commander of the armed forces “to declare an alert … in the face of the threatened aggression by Colombia toward Venezuela.”

He also said that military exercises would take place along the border from September 10 to 28, to “bring the armed system and the entire operational deployment into full readiness.”

The already tense relations between Maduro and his Colombian counterpart, Ivan Duque, have grown even worse in the last week, when Colombia’s former rebel group FARC called on its followers to take up arms once again after three years of peace with the government.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a deal with Bogota in Vietnam back in 2016. The agreement ended 50 years of conflict which claimed the lives of some 260,000 people.

Duque, who threatened to hunt down the leaders of the group, accused Maduro of providing “shelter and support” for the rebels.

Maduo reacted to the allegations saying, “Colombia’s government doesn’t want peace,”

“Not only has the Colombian government engaged Colombia in a worsening war, but it is using unfounded accusations to threaten Venezuela and provoke a military conflict with our country,” said Maduro.

“It wants war. It wants violence,” he said.

Colombia, along with the United States and its western allies, recognized Venezuela’s opposition figure Juan Guaido as the legitimate leader of the county after he declared himself president in January.

Guaido offered to help Colombia track down the dissident FARC rebels earlier on Tuesday.

Guaido said he approved the use of satellites to help locate rebel groups who he said have crossed into Venezuela.

“We are going to collaborate with the Colombian government on intelligence activities” he added.

Maduro’s chief spokesman said over the weekend that the Colombian president allowed three paramilitary training camps to operate in its territory, with the aim of plotting to remove the Maduro government.

Maduro has previously accused Colombia of plotting to assassinate him.


Peru to Boost Border Security After Stricter Entry Rule for Venezuelans

LIMA – Peru plans to beef up security at its border with Ecuador to prevent illegal immigration, after stricter entry requirements for Venezuelans led to a 90% drop in legal crossings, a government official said on Monday.

More than 850,000 Venezuelans have fled their homeland for Peru in recent years, part of a mass exodus from the Caribbean nation as it faces a crippling economic crisis.

But in June, Peru started requiring Venezuelans who arrive to already have visas, part of stricter policies for Venezuelans in some South American nations.

“The entry of Venezuelan migrants to our country has dropped dramatically and today it’s 90% less than what we saw in June,” Foreign Minister Nestor Popolizio told journalists.

Popolizio said his ministry was working with the interior ministry and police to make sure Venezuelan migrants were not evading the new requirements by crossing illegally.

“We’re engaged in a very direct coordination … to ensure more protection all along our border and to avoid illegal entries,” Popolizio said.

Popolizio said Peru was one of 11 countries in the region trying to coordinate their policies on handling immigration from Venezuela.

After Peru started requiring visas of Venezuelans, Chile and Ecuador implemented similar measures. All three countries also now require Venezuelans to have passports, a document that is hard to obtain for the growing ranks of poor Venezuelans.


Infectious diseases creeping back into Venezuela amid economic crisis

Venezuela once led Latin America in the battle against malaria and other diseases. But the country’s economic crisis has sparked a resurgence of several illnesses, which are creeping across the country’s borders into Colombia, Brazil, and further afield. 

It’s lunchtime in a community center in Caracas.

Young mothers and their children are eating a free meal, donated by a local charity.

Of the 20 or so people here, we found two that had something in common.

Both had been afflicted in the last fortnight by a mosquito-borne disease.

Jose, who is two, was recovering from a severe case of hemorrhagic dengue.

“When we came back one day, he had blood coming from his ear. They sent me to a hospital where they said it wasn’t dengue, it was a parasite,” Jose’s mother, Nicole Medina said.

It was dengue, and eventually José had to have a blood transfusion. He is fine now, but, he is lucky.

Another mother is recovering from a bout of Chikungunya, a debilitating virus.

“I had fever, dizziness. I lost weight and so did my child because i was breastfeeding,” patient Angelys Rodriguez said.

Both women said the situation was complicated by Venezuela’s economic decline. Jose’s mother said there had been no anti-mosquito fumigation by the government here for 13 years.

Stories like theirs are told millions of times over in this country, which is facing the most serious public health crisis in its history.

“The problem in terms of the scale is huge for Venezuela. We have almost 1.2 to 1.5 million cases of malaria, close to 10,000 cases of diphtheria and close to 9,000 cases of measles,” Venezuela Institute of Tropical Medicine Dr. Julio Castro said.

The figures the doctor quotes are just estimates. That’s because the government here has not released comprehensive data on diseases since 2006. Those on the front lines of the fight in this public health crisis are making educated guesses.

In the case of malaria, the disease itself carries some clues. Gene tests of infected patients in South America have shown that most infections originated in Venezuela.

One reason for the marked rise is a surge in wildcat gold mining in southern Venezuela. Hundreds of thousands of people now come here, where malaria has long been prevalent, to try to make a living, and then return to other parts of the country.

For Dr. María López, president of the Venezuelan Society of Infectious Diseases, the malaria example shows how this country is in the midst of a “perfect storm” for the spread of disease.

“The health situation here is serious, we are in a complicated humanitarian emergency – because this is about health, but it is also happening against the background of a social and economic issue which is only making things even worse,” Dr. Lopez said.

One issue she cites is that of water. As part of a general deterioration of public services, at least half of Venezuela’s hospitals, and millions of homes, are without reliable running water, a massive public health challenge on its own.

The economic collapse here has been a key factor behind the rise and re-emergence of several diseases. And, it has left the government ill-equipped to tackle the problem.

President Nicolas Maduro argues that outside factors, especially recent U.S. sanctions, only increase the hardship the Venezuelans face. Washington says this is a crisis of his own making.

Either way, this region is learning, once again, that Venezuela’s problems are spreading beyond its borders.