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Venezuela gears up military machine amid economic crunch
You’d never know that Venezuela has a Socialist government. The economic woes of the South American country have worsened due to lower oil prices and triple-digit inflation. But, rather than address the real reasons for Venezuela’s problems, President Nicolás Maduro has gone the scapegoat route, blaming Colombian immigrants.
This is a Republican wet dream: an emergency decree which…
“… bans unauthorized public assembly or protest, gives authorities free range for warrant-less search and seizure and heavily restricts cross-border commercial activity.”
Maduro blames an influx of, he says, 10,000 Colombians a month. He has sent troops to oversee the deportment of these presumptuous Colombians. His rhetoric echoes that of Donald Trump:
“Who comes over from Colombia? It’s people practically without education. I’m not offending Colombia, I’m just telling a truth…From Colombia, all of the poverty and misery is coming over with a people who are escaping for economic needs and fleeing war.”
Sound familiar? Yeah, it does sound a lot like Trump. So much so that a Venezuelan human rights group sent out a graphic comparing the two. Provea called Maduro’s comment “dangerous,” and said that it stirred up xenophobia in the country.
Maduro’s opposition is calling this a distraction, coming ahead of the elections in December. They say that Maduro is trying to deflect blame for his mismanagement of the economy onto the immigrants. Well, duh.
Is there an echo in here? This is exactly what Donald Trump — and his opponents who try to mimic him — are doing. With talk of “anchor babies,” border walls and “sanctuary cities,” the GOP candidates are trying to distract from the real issues. No talk of jobs, climate change, income inequality… well, except to blame it all on those darned immigrants. They can only watch President Maduro and wish they could emulate him here.
Venezuela Is Running Out of Toilet Paper
President of Venezuela - Nicolas Maduro
CARACAS, Venezuela (AFP) - Rolling out tanks, missiles and 100,000 men, Venezuela launched 10 days of military exercises Saturday, amid sky-high tensions over US sanctions slapped on officials accused of an opposition crackdown.
President Nicolas Maduro's socialist, Cuban-allied government -- struggling with sliding oil prices, the region's highest inflation, desperate shortages and rising discontent -- threw the spotlight on its Chinese amphibious tanks, Russian-built missiles and other military hardware.
"Congratulations to the Bolivarian National Armed Forces, and to the people, for the joint exercises," tweeted Maduro, who in two years time has alleged over a dozen coup bids against him and his government by the United States or local opposition members.
"Civilian-military union to keep having a Fatherland," Maduro added. "And may our sacred fatherland never have a (US) imperial boot set foot on it. Long live Venezuela!"
The nationwide exercises, covered for hours on end on local television, will last 10 days and enlist the participation of 20,000 civilians, in addition to government troops in the South American OPEC member with the world's largest crude reserves, officials said.
The manoeuvres come at a time of heightened tensions with the United States, which Venezuela has labeled an imperial brute since the time of Maduro's late mentor, long-time president Hugo Chavez.
Both elected socialists, they have been harsh critics of the United States, which they slam for failing to cooperate with leftists when they win democratically-held elections.
But critics note that the government under Chavez and Maduro has acted to curb dissent in the legislature and on the streets.
And Venezuela, closely allied with communist Cuba, is now experiencing severe shortages of even the most basic needs, such as milk, toilet paper or diapers.
Maduro recently accused Washington of backing an opposition plot to overthrow him in a coup that would have involved bombing the presidential palace. The US government has dismissed the charges as baseless.
In April 2002, when Chavez was briefly ousted for two days, the United States did not come to his aid but instead threw its support behind an adversary, in a move that cost the US much credibility in the country.
Relations hit a new low on Monday, when US President Barack Obama slapped new sanctions on the regime, calling Venezuela "an extraordinary threat to the national security" of the United States.
Caracas responded by angrily recalling its envoy to Washington and ramping up its military preparedness.
The South American bloc UNASUR labeled Obama's executive order an "interventionist threat," with Ecuadoran Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino saying it "violates Venezuela's sovereignty."
Despite the frosty ties, the United States is still the biggest consumer of Venezuela's oil.
Venezuelan Defence Minister General Vladimir Padrino Lopez said that the military maneuvers, many of which were to be held in the south of Caracas, were meant to prepare soldiers for "their mission, their goal and with the will to be victorious."
Other exercises in the show of might focus on Venezuela's oil-producing areas, including the Caribbean coast and an oil field some 200 kilometers (125 miles) to the west of Caracas.
Military officials said they will also test the nation's air defenses and will ensure that its anti-aircraft systems are ready to be deployed if needed.
Interviewed on television about the exercises, the officials echoed Maduro's line that the "civilian-military union" was defeating "imperialists," "people who have no fatherland" and "invaders."
Now Maduro is seeking extraordinary powers from the legislature that would allow him to rule by decree.
His popularity has sunk in the past year amid the economic crisis.
Elected to succeed his late mentor Hugo Chavez in April 2013, Maduro had obtained yearlong powers to impose economic laws by decree.
An employee waits to unload valuable merchandise while people line up outside a supermarket in Caracas on Jan. 20, 2015.
Cash-strapped Venezuela, which has the second-largest oil reserves in the world, after Saudi Arabia, and relies on oil for 95 percent of its export revenue, has been hit particularly hard by plummeting global prices. Still, it’s hard not to read a commodity-sharing deal proposed by nearby Trinidad and Tobago’s prime minister as anything but humiliating.
Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs.
At a news conference Tuesday, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar suggested that her government would “purchase goods identified by the Government of Venezuela from T&T’s manufacturers, such as tissue paper, gasoline, and parts for machinery,” and trade them for Venezuelan oil. It’s not clear if the Venezuelans are open to the deal, but they certainly need the goods.
Amid skyrocketing inflation and a contracting economy, Venezuelan consumers have been faced with widespread shortages of products. Nicolás Maduro’s government blames hoarders looking to destabilize the government, but businesses and economists say it’s the result of government price controls that discourage production and restrictions on foreign currency and make it difficult for manufacturers to purchase raw materials.
Food, car parts, cooking oil, detergent, and household appliances have all been in short supply. But it’s toilet paper that has been the iconic product of the shortage, with fresh rolls quickly running out from stores amid overwhelming demand. In late 2013 the government seized control of a toilet paper factory and announced plans to import millions of rolls, but shortages have continued.
Not unrelatedly, the political situation remains volatile as well. The government published new guidelines in January allowing police to use deadly force against protesters if they felt they were at risk. And police did just that on Tuesday, killing a teenage boy during an anti-government demonstration in the city of San Cristobal. Maduro also ordered the arrest this week of a mayor he accused of attempting to orchestrate a coup.
So far, Maduro has been able to avoid major cuts to the popular social programs instituted by his predecessor Hugo Chávez, but as shortages continue, the government’s finances worsen, and the politics get more rancorous, even the Chavista base is starting to have doubts.
Wow, this is deep!
By the way...
Banana leaf,newspaper and brown paper bag is funny to read,yet it is real life effective essentials... survival tactics,the leaf came first.
It is so...
THE MYSTERY BABYLON AMERIKKKA IS BEHIND ALOT OF THINGS,,
Haha they better start saving old newspaper and brown bag lolll
Yeah,Venezeula have the oil...
Maduro knows he is next,he is in talks on cutting the size of the US Embassy,limiting diplomats activities and demanding all Americans to get visa.
Who gave Chavez cancer?Well,they are always eliminating those leaders who are against imperialism.
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