Erdogan Congratulates Maduro After Controversial Election Win

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP   Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has congratulated his Venezuelan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP

 

Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has congratulated his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro on winning a new term in office, the Turkish presidency said Wednesday, after an election widely condemned by the international community.

Erdogan, along with Russian President Vladimir Putin, is among very few prominent world leaders to have congratulated Maduro on his victory in a poll that the United States has denounced as a “sham”.

He phoned Maduro during the night to pass on his congratulations, a Turkish presidential source was quoted as saying by state-run Anadolu news agency.

Erdogan, who himself faces elections at home on June 24, also expressed his determination to develop relations between Turkey and Venezuela in all areas, the report added.

The US has already tightened sanctions against Venezuela after the poll, which Maduro won with 68 percent of the vote but was boycotted by the main opposition parties and had a record abstention rate.

In response Caracas ordered the expulsion of the top two US diplomats in Venezuela, charging it was the victim of a “political and financial lynching”.

The European Union said it was also weighing new sanctions after the election was marred by “irregularities” and failed to meet international standards.

The 14 countries of the Lima Group — which includes Argentina, Brazil and Canada — are also refusing to recognise the election result.

But at a time of growing strains between Turkey and the West, Erdogan and Maduro have been forging an increasingly strong alliance.

On a state visit to Ankara in October, Maduro hailed a “new era” in relations with Turkey, saying both countries believed in a different, multi-polar world.

He was also a surprise non-Muslim guest at a summit of Islamic leaders organised by Erdogan in December 2017 to denounce the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Earlier this month, photographs were published on social media of Maduro wearing a medieval hat and a giant ring from the popular Turkish historical television drama Dirilis Ertugrul about the origins of the Ottoman Empire.

AFP

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Venezuela’s President, Maduro Declared Winner Of Disputed Polls

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro holds the political constitution after the National Electoral Council (CNE) announced the results of the voting

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro holds the political constitution after the National Electoral Council (CNE) announced the results of the voting on the presidential election, on May 20, 2018, in Caracas, Venezuela. Juan BARRETO / AFP

 

President Nicolas Maduro was declared the winner of Venezuela’s election Sunday in a poll rejected as invalid by his rivals, who called for fresh elections to be held later this year.

With more than 90 percent of the votes counted,  Maduro had 67.7 percent of the vote, with his main rival Henri Falcon taking 21.2 percent, the National Election Council chief Tibisay Lucena announced.

AFP

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Maduro’s Rival Cries Foul, Calls For New Venezuela Election

Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate Henri Falcon speaks during a press conference after the National Electoral Council (CNE) announced the results

Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate Henri Falcon speaks during a press conference after the National Electoral Council (CNE) announced the results of the voting on election day in Venezuela, on May 20, 2018. Carlos Becerra / AFP

 

Henri Falcon, President Nicolas Maduro’s main rival in the Venezuelan elections, rejected Sunday’s poll as invalid and called for new elections later this year.

“We do not recognize this electoral process as valid, as true. For us, there were no elections. We have to have new elections in Venezuela,” Falcon told a news conference, accusing the government of coercing voters.

Falcon said fresh elections could be held in November or December when they are traditionally held. Maduro’s government had them brought forward by several months.

Falcon pointed particularly to so-called “red points” — street stalls set up by the ruling Socialists near polling stations — allegedly to offer handouts in exchange for votes.

Falcon said “12,711 red points were installed throughout the country,” representing 87 percent of polling stations.

The 56-year-old former governor also said polling centers had remained open after the scheduled closing time, and that his monitors were expelled from some of them.

AFP

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Maduro Dismisses Threats Of New Sanctions After Sunday’s Vote

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro delivers a speech during a campaign rally in Charallave, about 65 km from Caracas, on May

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro delivers a speech during a campaign rally in Charallave, about 65 km from Caracas, on May 15, 2018. Venezuela holds presidential elections on May 20, in which Maduro is seeking a second six-year term. Juan BARRETO / AFP

 

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday dismissed the threat of new sanctions following an early election called for Sunday, which critics have denounced as a sham aimed at tightening his grip on power.

“These are unacceptable threats toward any sovereign nation,” Maduro said in an interview with France 24 television. “Venezuela is a democratic country.”

If EU leaders add to sanctions they first imposed last November, “We’ll continue to work, continue to live: Their sanctions don’t concern me, because these leaders have a superiority complex, they still think they control their former colonies,” Maduro said.

US officials are also expected to tighten the screws on Venezuela, but Maduro reiterated his claim that President Donald Trump is bent on ousting his government.

The country has been gripped by a political and economic crisis for months as Madura has overhauled institutions while sidelining the main opposition coalition, which has been barred from fielding candidates in the coming election.

But Maduro also brushed off claims that his almost certain victory would be marred by huge abstention rates among voters wearied by years of economic and political crises which have devastated living standards for millions.

His campaign has called on citizens to give him a symbolic 10 million votes on Sunday, saying Wednesday that this was the country’s “debt to the Bolivarian revolution” — the political path laid out by the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

Asked if he would then dissolve the National Assembly, which is dominated by opposition groups, Maduro said: “The idea seems a good one”.

He has already bypassed the parliament by setting up a Constituent Assembly packed with Maduro loyalists, though the body has not been recognised by foreign governments or the European Union.

 ‘Filthy lies’ 

Maduro also contested claims of rampant inflation as the country’s economy has collapsed amid falling oil prices, calling them lies from groups like the International Monetary Fund, which last month warned prices were likely to soar more than 13,800 percent this year.

“Keep in mind we have an empire against us… Of course we have economic problems, we are working on them and we will solve them bit by bit,” he said.

But he said Venezuela would in June undergo an unspecified “monetary conversion to ensure the country’s stability.”

He also denied claims that thousands of Venezuelans have fled the country in recent years, with the Red Cross saying this month that one million had crossed into neighbouring Colombia last year alone.

“You have your information, and we have ours,” Maduro said, claiming that Venezuela had welcomed some 5.6 million Colombians into Venezuela.

“It’s the opposite, Venezuelans are coming back, once they have realised the beauty of their country,” he said.

 ‘A lot of hope’ 

“There is an order, a goal, a national project for Venezuela. There is a lot of hope in a new social alternative to neo-liberal capitalism.”

He also said there had been no shortages of food or medicines even as cases of diseases such as measles have soared, which aid groups have called a humanitarian crisis.

“Concerning food, Venezuela pursues its own unique policy, and that is why we have a programme that maintains sufficient food levels,” he claimed.

Concerning suspicions over his possible involvement in the huge scandal surrounding the Brazilian construction group Odebrecht, Maduro denied receiving bribes to finance his 2013 election campaign.

According to Brazilian prosecutors cited in recent press reports, Maduro received $35 million in exchange for steering projects toward Odebrecht.

“If someone is accusing me of this, they are corrupt,” he said.

“You can accuse me of what you want, but these filthy lies, it’s out of the question.”

AFP

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Lula Victim Of ‘Judicial Inquisition,’ Says Venezuela

FILE PHOTO Former Brazilian President, Lula da Silva Credit: AFP   Crisis-hit Venezuela denounced on Sunday the imprisonment of Brazil’s

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil
FILE PHOTO Former Brazilian President, Lula da Silva Credit: AFP

 

Crisis-hit Venezuela denounced on Sunday the imprisonment of Brazil’s ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as a “judicial inquisition” to derail his re-election bid.

“Venezuela expresses its absolute solidarity with the former president of the Federative Republic of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, victim of a judicial inquisition,” the foreign ministry said in a statement about the leader who was a potent symbol of Latin America’s left.

“The Brazilian and international right, in agreement with servile imperialism, intends to prevent” Brazilian people from reelecting Lula in October elections.

“Comrade Lula is the greatest popular leader in the political history of the South American nation,” the ministry said.

Hyperinflation, scarcities of basic food and medicine, and skyrocketing violence are gripping Venezuela.

The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on President Nicolas Maduro and his officials, with Washington calling him a “dictator.”

Brazil’s Lula served the first day of a 12-year prison sentence for corruption on Sunday.

The 72-year-old, who served two terms as head of state between 2003 and 2010, entered the prison in the southern city of Curitiba late on Saturday, becoming Brazil’s first ex-president to be jailed as a criminal.

AFP

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68 People Killed In Venezuela Prison Riot

About 68 people have died after fire swept through the sell area inside a police station in Venezuela According to

About 68 people have died after fire swept through the sell area inside a police station in Venezuela

According to reports, the blaze is said to have followed a riot by detainees being held at the state police headquarters in Valencia, a town in Carabobo state about 100 miles west of Caracas. The country’s chief prosecutor, Attorney General Tarek William Saab, said that nearly all the dead were prisoners.

He said two women who were staying overnight at the station were also killed, but did not provide any further details.

It was one of the worst jail disasters in a country where human rights groups complain about bad prison conditions.

A fire at a prison in the western state of Zulia killed more than 100 inmates in 1994.

Local authorities in Valencia had confirmed earlier only that there were fatalities, and said they were working to determine an exact number.

They said they were not providing any estimates ‘out of respect for the families’.

Angry relatives who gathered outside the station said dozens of detainees had been kept in squalid conditions at the station and expressed fear that their loved ones were dead.

Dozens of men and women demanding to know if their loved ones had survived clashed with police officers in riot gear. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd.

‘I don’t know if my son is dead or alive!’ cried Aida Parra, who said she last saw her son a day before, when she went to deliver him food. ‘They haven’t told me anything.’

A Window to Freedom, a nonprofit group that monitors conditions at Venezuela’s jails, said preliminary but unconfirmed information indicated the riot began when an armed detainee shot an officer in the leg.

Shortly after that a fire broke out, with flames growing quickly as the blaze spread to mattresses in the cells, it said.

Rescuers apparently had to break a hole through a wall to free some of the prisoners inside.

Photos shared by the group showed prisoners being taken out on stretchers, their limbs frozen in awkward positions as skin peeled off.

A Window to Freedom’s director, Carlos Nieto Palma, said officials should be held accountable for failing to address deteriorating conditions in police station jails.

The group said overcrowding has become common throughout the country as detainees are kept long past customary brief holding periods before being sent to other larger jails before trial or freed.

‘It’s grave and alarming,’ Mr Nieto Palma said, adding: ‘What happened today in Carabobo is a sign of that.’

Outside the police station, some relatives buried their hands in their faces as tears streamed down their cheeks.

Others had to be held up with the support of friends and family as they collapsed in despair. Still others wept quietly and clutched their hands in prayer.

Nearby, National Guard troops wearing bullet-proof vests and carrying rifles across their backs walked in and out of the station. Fire trucks and ambulances stood outside, and unused stretchers leaned against a wall.

Opposition lawmaker Juan Miguel Matheus demanded that the pro-government leader of Carabobo state inform relatives about what had happened.

‘The desperation of relatives should not be played with,’ he said.

Clashes between prisoners and guards are not uncommon in Venezuela. Inmates are frequently able to obtain weapons and drugs with the help of corrupt guards and heavily armed groups control cellblock fiefdoms.

 

Trump Slaps Sanctions On Venezuela’s ‘Bitcoin’

  US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before a meeting in the Pentagon January 18, 2018 in Washington,

 

US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before a meeting in the Pentagon January 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

United States President Donald Trump on Monday barred US firms and citizens from dealing in Venezuela’s new cryptocurrency.

Trump issued an executive order proscribing “all transactions related to” the new currency, which is designed to make up for a massive government cash crisis.

The Latin American country — which has the world’s largest proven oil reserves — said a pre-sale for 38.4 million “Petro” units out of a total 100 million would take place between February 20 and March 19.

Trump said the currency represented an “attempt to circumvent US sanctions.”

Caracas has been keen to tie the currency to the country’s oil reserves in a bid to convince investors to pitch in, but financial experts are unsure of the link.

In addition to the measure against the virtual currency, the US Treasury added four government officials allegedly implicated in corruption, mismanagement or sanctions-busting to its blacklist.

Venezuela is struggling to restructure its external debt, estimated at around $150 billion.

“Instead of correcting course to avoid further catastrophe, the Maduro regime is attempting to circumvent sanctions through the Petro digital currency,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

Mnuchin also warned that he had just met with other senior officials from Latin America and Europe to coordinate economic measures to halt what Washington sees as Caracas’ slide into authoritarianism.

The battle between Washington and Venezuela over the currency could have a profound impact on other nations’ moves to adopt cryptocurrencies to avoid sanctions.

Russia is among those considering developing a digital currency.

Authorities from Japan to Britain have been struggling with how to regulate the new currencies, which make doing business easier but could be open to abuse.

AFP

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Maduro Calls For Snap legislative Elections In Venezuela

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro    Photo: FEDERICO PARRA / AFP   President Nicolas Maduro called Wednesday for snap legislative elections

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro    Photo: FEDERICO PARRA / AFP

 

President Nicolas Maduro called Wednesday for snap legislative elections in Venezuela, proposing to bring them forward by nearly two years to coincide with a presidential poll set for April 22.

Maduro said he was proposing the change to the all-powerful Constituent Assembly “to advance the elections.”

The idea of bringing forward the legislative elections to April 22 was already mooted by the number two of Maduro’s ruling socialist party on Tuesday.

He also hit back at the opposition coalition, which said earlier it would not participate in the April 22 presidential election without guarantees that they would be free and fair.

“We are going to the elections come rain, shine or lightning, with or without the MUD,” said Maduro, adding that he would also propose bringing forward the legislative vote to “renew” the opposition-dominated parliament.

AFP

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Nigeria may end up like Venezuela if we don’t change leadership – Ben Bruce

The senator representing Bayelsa East in the National Assembly, Sen. Ben Murray-Bruce has issued warning over steady decline in the

The senator representing Bayelsa East in the National Assembly, Sen. Ben Murray-Bruce has issued warning over steady decline in the nation’s economy since the All Progressives Congress (APC) came to power.

The lawmaker said, if left unchecked, Nigeria would become like Venezuela presently a major oil exporter in the world but currently going through economic crises.

The senator also lampooned popular saying that Nigeria is the ‘giant of Africa’, noting that the country has failed to justify it.

Ben Bruce, further stressed that only change in leadership would help Nigeria as a whole.

On his twitter page, he wrote, “In 2017, 18 African countries grew their GDP above 5%. Nigeria was not among. What makes us the Giant of Africa? Since 2015, Nigeria has been on a steady decline on almost every economic index known to man.

“If we don’t change leadership democratically we may end up like Venezuela.”