World Politics

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It's in human nature to react retroactively, only when you are in crisis situation. People sit in comfort zones as long as they can until it's impossible to keep going in the old way. And they learn tough lessons the hard way. A bit like Europe learnt lessons after WW2. It's going to be the same with climate changes. People don't want to give up their technological thingies unless they have to.
 
Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. I urge everyone to seek out the stories of survivors and read them, find articles about the Holocaust and educate yourself, and do everything you can to understand the horrors that were perpetrated upon 17 million people.
 
"Hearts and minds" ...
https://www.miamiherald.com/latest-news/article225148255.html
The struggle for control of Venezuela turned to the military Sunday, with supporters of opposition leader Juan Guaido handing leaflets to soldiers detailing a proposed amnesty law that would protect them for helping overthrow President Nicolas Maduro.

At the same time, Maduro demonstrated his might, wearing tan fatigues at military exercises. Flanked by his top brass, Maduro watched heavy artillery fired into a hillside and boarded an amphibious tank.

Addressing soldiers in an appearance on state TV, Maduro asked whether they were plotting with the "imperialist" United States, which he accused of openly leading a coup against him.

"No, my commander-in-chief," they shouted in unison, and Maduro responded: "We're ready to defend our homeland — under any circumstance."
Putin's stake in Venezuela -
https://www.dw.com/en/whats-at-stake-for-russia-in-venezuela/a-47250675
All in all, Russia stands to lose about €11 billion if there is regime change in Venezuela. But this sum pales in comparison to the possible impact of Venezuela's enormous oil reserves on global markets. Experts believe that Venezuela has more oil than any other country in the world, including Saudi Arabia. However, after 20 years of mismanagement under Hugo Chavez and later Maduro, the oil industry has deteriorated dramatically and plays only a minor role on the world stage.

A new government could install more capable leaders in the oil sector, who could in turn revive Venezuela's oil industry and exports. Also, western — most likely American — companies could be allowed back into the country. This development could create a completely new playing field for global oil deliveries and bring down oil prices. This would be a worst-case scenario for Russia, whose economy relies heavily on oil and gas exports, and keeping the price of oil at the higher end of the scale.
 
https://www.axios.com/treasury-economic-sanctions-maduro-venezuela-1fe1c7eb-c62d-4623-8936-02a08a70a3e8.html
The Trump administration has announced sanctions on Venezuela's state-owned oil company, PDVSA, in an attempt to undercut Nicolás Maduro's regime and boost his rival for power, National Assembly President Juan Guaidó.

Why it matters: The Trump administration is using all economic and diplomatic levers at its disposal in a push for regime change in Venezuela. The White House is hoping that if it deprives Maduro of cash, the Venezuelan military will have no reason to stay loyal to him. A source briefed told me: "The implications are huge because it will be difficult for Maduro to find another refiner of Venezuelan oil with any speed to keep cash flowing."

The latest: National Security Adviser John Bolton made the announcement in the White House briefing room on Monday afternoon alongside Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin:
"We have continued to expose the corruption of Maduro and his cronies, and today's action ensures they can no longer loot the assets of the Venezuelan people. We expect... that today's measure totals $7 billion in assets blocked today plus over $11 billion in lost export proceeds over the next year. We also today call on the Venezuelan military and security forces to accept the peaceful democratic and constitutional transfer of power."

Between the lines: More than 20 countries have followed the U.S. in recognizing Guaidó as interim president, due to his status as the highest-ranking official to have won a free election. Maduro has portrayed the situation as a U.S. effort to intervene in Venezuela. There had been concerns that sanctioning Venezuela's oil exports would both strengthen that argument, and deepen the economic crisis.

The economic impact, per the AP:

"Venezuelan oil exports to the U.S. have declined steadily over the years. ... Still, Venezuela has consistently been the third- or fourth-largest supplier of crude oil to the United States, and any disruption of imports could be costly for refiners. In 2017, the most recent year that data were available, Venezuela accounted for about 6% of U.S. crude imports."
"Venezuela is very reliant on the U.S. for its oil revenue. The country sends 41% of its oil exports to the U.S. Critically, U.S. refiners are among the few customers that pay cash to Venezuela for its oil. That's because Venezuela's oil shipments to China and Russia are usually taken as repayment for billions of dollars in debts."

Sen. Marco Rubio, who has taken a hawkish stance on Venezuela and played a key role in the Trump administration's policy, said: "The Maduro crime family has used PDVSA to buy and keep the support of many military leaders. The oil belongs to the Venezuelan people, and therefore the money PDVSA earns from its export will now be returned to the people through their legitimate constitutional government.”

What to watch: Bolton reiterated today that military force is possible, saying: "The president has made it very clear on this matter that all options are on the table." He also said the U.S. is "now as prepared as we can be" to protect diplomats in Caracas. The State Department has moved some personnel out of the country, but not complied with Maduro's demand that they all leave the country.
Lots of sanctions already on Venezuela - see https://www.state.gov/e/eb/tfs/spi/venezuela/

Obama's Executive Order 13692 of March 8, 2015 - https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/13692.pdf - will no doubt be quoted for any "action" -
... find that the situation in Venezuela, including the Government of Venezuela’s erosion of human rights guarantees, persecution of political opponents, curtailment of press freedoms, use of violence and human rights violations and abuses in response to antigovernment protests, and arbitrary arrest and detention of antigovernment protestors, as well as the exacerbating presence of significant public corruption, constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.
 
For those of interested in things African -

Background at https://issafrica.org/iss-today/a-tale-of-two-arrests on Andre Hanekom

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2019-01-24-south-african-andre-hanekom-arrested-for-alleged-jihadist-activity-dies-in-prison-family-suspects-poison/

Andre Mayer Hanekom, the South African professional hunter and fisherman accused by Mozambique of complicity in a jihadist insurgency, died in a prison hospital in Pemba in the far north of the country on Wednesday.

A person close to his family told Daily Maverick that his family suspected that Andre Hanekom might have been poisoned.

The South African government confirmed Hanekom’s death. Ndivhuwo Mabaya, a spokesperson for International Relations and Co-operation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, said the department had heard of his death from his wife Francis but not yet from Mozambican authorities.

He said Sisulu had directed South Africa’s High Commissioner to Mozambique, Mandisi Mpahlwa, to engage the Mozambican authorities on the circumstances of his death.

“We are shocked as you are,” Mabaya said, saying that Mpahlwa had travelled from Maputo to Pemba in the country’s northernmost province Cabo Delgado last Thursday to see Hanekom in prison and that he seemed well.
But Hanekom suddenly fell ill the very next day, on Friday, according to a knowledgeable source. Hanekom’s wife had reported that Andre had started having convulsions early on Friday evening and had been taken from his prison cell to the prison hospital.

“This morning (Wed) he started bleeding and he died – of organ failure – at about 4 am.” This source said the family suspected he had been poisoned and that Francis Hanekom was talking to Mpahlwa to try to ensure that an independent autopsy would be done either before or after his body was brought back to South Africa.
I know there are some terrible diseases in Africa, but this sounds dodgy. But ... there's an update -
https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2019-01-27-andr-hanekoms-family-wants-second-autopsy-after-suspicious-death/
The family of maritime businessman André Hanekom, who was arrested on terrorism charges in Mozambique and died under suspicious circumstances, wants a second autopsy done by a forensic team from SA.

"We need a second opinion from our side and would like to ask a private independent forensic pathologist to be part of the team," widow Francis Hanekom wrote on Facebook on Sunday.
...
Francis claimed that the Mozambican government wanted to change the cause of death on André's death certificate from encephalopathy and hypoxia to meningoencephalitis "of viral or bacterial origin".

Francis is a former ICU nurse. She saw André the day before he died.

"He did not present like a patient with meningoencephalitis on the brink of death. I know what it looks like, and have seen it before."
and some more info on his arrest -
Francis had been campaigning for André to be released since his arrest in August on what she said were trumped-up terrorism charges.
...
He was arrested after gunmen wearing camouflage uniforms and balaclavas tried to drive him off the road. The men, one of whom shot him in the arm and stomach, turned out to be police officers.

The Sunday Times reported that Hanekom was briefly admitted to hospital. Officers initially claimed they were holding him for his own safety after rescuing him from kidnappers linked to Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama, a group that allegedly wants Cabo Delgado as a separatist state.

But when he appeared in court in October, authorities claimed André was linked to the organisation. They said they had confiscated weapons and logistical supplies from his home destined for the organisation.
The whole sorry tale reeks of "spin" - there's a lot of gas waiting to be extracted and this jihad terrorist saga is being used by someone for their own gain.
 
This is a guy I've been reading about for a while - think Assange as gangster ... Paul le Roux
https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2019-01-30-global-criminal-mastermind-learnt-the-ropes-in-krugersdorp/
The tale of Paul le Roux — described by the New York Times in 2018 as "one of the world's least known but most prodigious criminals" — begins in Zimbabwe, where he was given up for adoption at a maternity home in Bulawayo in 1972.

When Le Roux was 12 his adoptive parents moved to SA, where he was given his first computer in return for washing his mine-manager father’s car.

After that he became obsessed by coding and was "completely anti-social", according to a childhood friend who spoke to Evan Ratliff, author of a new book about Le Roux, The Mastermind.

Le Roux left SA when he was 18, and the programming skills he developed in his West Rand bedroom allowed him to build "a new kind of global criminal empire, making hundreds of millions of dollars feeding the American painkiller epidemic through a brilliant online scheme", said Ratliff.
see also https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/05/nyregion/crime-lord-le-roux-details-mayhem-and-murders.html

see also https://www.wired.com/story/mastermind-excerpt/
 
Re:

Robert5091 said:
https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5451701,00.html
Russia is demanding that Israel end its "arbitrary" airstrikes on targets in Syria, two days after the Israeli Air Force struck a series of Iranian military and intelligence targets in response to a rocket strike on the Golan Heights.

"The practice of arbitrary strikes on the territory of a sovereign state, in this case, we are talking about Syria, should be ruled out," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, in answer to a question from Russian news agency TASS about recent Israeli air strikes on Syria.

She said such strikes added to tensions in the region, which she said was not in the long-term interests of any country there, including Israel.

"We should never allow Syria, which has suffered years of armed conflict, to be turned into an arena where geopolitical scores are settled," TASS cited her as saying.

The Russian message was also passed to Israeli Ambassador to Russia Gary Koren during a series of meetings with senior officials in Moscow.
Bibi told to cool it, and just to ramp up the fear - http://tass.com/politics/1041551
Russian Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov resolutely refuted the rumors that Russia’s authorities are allegedly going to interfere with the upcoming parliamentary election in Israel that will be held on April 9.

"I can assure the citizens and the people of Israel there are no intentions in the Russian government and official authorities to intervene in any political process in the State of Israel, including the upcoming elections," Viktorov said.

Head of the Israel Security Agency (Shabak - TASS) Nadav Argaman said earlier in January in his speech to the forum Friends of Tel Aviv University that some foreign state "is going to interfere" with the parliamentary election in Israel in April "through hacking and cyber attacks." Some Israeli media suggested that Argaman could mean Russia
Maybe he meant the US will "support" Jared's childhood friend Bibi! :D
i am sure that Russian lectures are taken in good spirit and duly ignored.
 
https://www.newsmax.com/politics/guaido-maduro-venezuela-trump/2019/01/30/id/900483/
President Donald Trump spoke to Venezuela's self-proclaimed interim president by phone on Wednesday, reiterating support for his "fight to regain democracy," as Washington's push to force socialist President Nicolas Maduro from power picked up steam.

The White House said Trump and Juan Guaido, the opposition leader trying to replace Maduro, agreed to maintain regular communication after Venezuelan authorities opened an investigation that could lead to Guaido's arrest.

The moves against Guaido, 35, including a travel ban and assets freeze, were in retaliation for oil sanctions imposed by the United States this week. They intensified the fight to control Venezuela, an OPEC nation that has the world's largest oil reserves.

The U.S. president spoke to Guaido to "congratulate him on his historic assumption of the presidency and to reinforce President Trump’s strong support for Venezuela’s fight to regain its democracy," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
Guaido has not won an election to become president - the US has basically backed him to be so, and others have followed suit.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-russia-exclusive-idUSKCN1PJ22M
Private military contractors who do secret missions for Russia flew into Venezuela in the past few days to beef up security for President Nicolas Maduro in the face of U.S.-backed opposition protests, according to two people close to them.
...
The contractors are associated with the so-called Wagner group whose members, mostly ex-service personnel, fought clandestinely in support of Russian forces in Syria and Ukraine, according to Reuters interviews with dozens of contractors, their friends and relatives.
...
Venezuelan authorities said they had put down an attempted revolt on Monday by rogue military officers about a kilometer from the presidential palace in Caracas.

Maduro, the 56-year-old successor to Hugo Chavez, only takes to the streets in carefully-controlled situations, since crowds have barracked him in the past.

One of the two anonymous Russian sources, who is close to the Wagner group and fought in foreign conflicts where it was active, said the contractors first arrived in advance of the May 2018 presidential election, but another group arrived “recently.”

Asked if the deployment was linked to protecting Maduro, the source said: “It’s directly connected.” The contractors flew to Venezuela not from Moscow but from third countries where they were conducting missions, he added.
The infamous Wagner Group is Russia's answer to Blackwater type companies i.e. ex-military people working as mercernaries.
 
Venezuela's Juan Guaidó (Trump's choice as President) writes an op-ed in the NYTimes. Why the Times? US support is seemingly more important then Venezuelan.
Any who, he starts off by attacking the dictator that the US backed, back in the day! (Jiménez fathered also a daughter with Marita Lorenz)

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/30/opinion/juan-guaido-venezuela.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
On Jan. 23, 61 years after the vicious dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez was ousted, Venezuelans once again gathered for a day of democratic celebration.
further
Among opposition politicians, we have come up with three strategic points of agreement as part of our road map to democracy: an end to the usurpation; a transitional government; and free elections.

The transition will require support from key military contingents. We have had clandestine meetings with members of the armed forces and the security forces. We have offered amnesty to all those who are found not guilty of crimes against humanity. The military’s withdrawal of support from Mr. Maduro is crucial to enabling a change in government, and the majority of those in service agree that the country’s recent travails are untenable.
Of course the fear is, once Guaido comes in power, with the military's backing, it's back to square one.
 
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or the Levant Liberation Committee, and the continuing struggle for Syrian land -
http://www.rudaw.net/english/analysis/30012019
It only took a few days for al-Qaida-linked militants to seize more than two dozen towns and villages in northern Syria from rival insurgents earlier this month, cementing their control over an area the size of neighboring Lebanon.

The advance by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or the Levant Liberation Committee, was the most serious blow yet to a September cease-fire brokered by Russia and Turkey that averted a major government offensive in Idlib province, the last main stronghold of the Syrian opposition.

It highlighted the growing threat posed by al-Qaida at a time when its rival, the Islamic State group, is on the verge of defeat and the US is preparing to withdraw its 2,000 troops from Syria. Although HTS has formally severed ties with al-Qaida, experts say it is still closely linked to the global network founded by Osama bin Laden and could use its base in Syria to launch attacks in the West.
...
HTS includes large numbers of battle-hardened al-Qaida fighters, and its capture of most of rebel-held Syria could force aid agencies to withdraw, leaving tens of thousands of civilians to fend for themselves. The opposition’s Free Aleppo Medical Directorate said that some 250,000 people will lose medical support after 43 facilities it runs cease operations due to a drop in aid from Western agencies after the latest HTS offensive.

The government has meanwhile stepped up its bombardment of Idlib and neighboring rebel-held areas. Pro-government media say Defense Minister Gen. Ali Ayoub and Brig. Gen. Suheil al-Hassan, who commands the elite Tiger Force, have recently visited the front lines with Idlib, raising fears of a new government offensive.

HTS now controls an area of about 9,000 square kilometers or about 5 percent of Syria’s territory. The area is home to some 3 million people, many of whom have been displaced from other parts of the country.

Turkey has nearly a dozen observation posts in Idlib, but has shifted its focus further east, where it is preparing to launch an offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces.

Ankara, which supports the opposition, fears the Syrian government is trying to undermine the September agreement. Russia, a key ally of the Syrian government, has urged Turkey to act more resolutely in reining in militants in Idlib, who have launched attacks on Syrian government forces and the Russian military. Russia said last week that the escalation of hostilities in Idlib threatens the Russian air base in the neighboring coastal province of Latakia.
 
https://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article225442825.html
The west Dade suburb of Doral, where Pence visited Friday, has a higher percentage of Venezuelan-born residents than any other city in the country. And both parties see Hispanic voters as a crucial voting bloc in an extremely tight swing state.
But Joseph Jackson, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, was wrong to claim ahead of Pence’s visit that “2020 Dems ... have remained silent” on the controversy in Venezuela. Though the wide field of presidential contenders is divided on Trump’s handling of regime change in Venezuela, some current and potential candidates have publicly supported “free and fair elections” and the U.S. decision to recognize Guaidó as president.

In Miami, at the very least, Democratic lawmakers have supported Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelan exiles, and backed Guaidó’s ascension. Some have begrudgingly praised Trump.
The irony of Trump chasing Hispanic votes is to put it mildly striking.
 
https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/world/2019-02-03-el-salvador-votes-for-new-president-with-anti-corruption-outsider-in-lead/
Salvadorans will vote in the first round of a presidential election on Sunday, with an energetic former mayor campaigning as an anti-corruption outsider set to win the top job and end decades of a two-party system.

Nayib Bukele, 37, has capitalized on the anti-establishment feeling sweeping elections across the region and further afield, as voters seek an alternative to traditional parties.

Since the end of its bloody civil war in 1992, El Salvador has been governed by just two parties: ruling leftists the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), and its rival, the conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA).

Though he describes himself as from the left, and was expelled from the FMLN, Bukele has formed a coalition with parties including a right-wing one who together have just 11 seats in the legislature.

Pollster Mitofsky said in a January poll that Bukele had 57 percent of voter support, while a poll by Gallup showed him with 42 percent. Both polls show ARENA's Carlos Calleja in second place.

If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of Sunday's vote, two candidates will pass into a runoff to be held in March.
...
Bukele, who slicks back his hair and often sports a backwards baseball cap, has a large social media following, uses Facebook Live for official announcements, and challenges opponents on Twitter.

Growing up, Bukele's relatively wealthy family were sympathetic to the FMLN, the former leftist guerrilla army that became a political party at the end of El Salvador's civil war in 1992.

But Bukele has turned away from Latin America's traditional left, branding Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega as well as conservative Honduran Juan Orlando Hernandez dictators.

"A dictator is a dictator, on the "right" or the "left"," Bukele wrote in a tweet last week.
Interesting character - let's see how it goes with the anti-corruption drive though.
 
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-03/trump-says-venezuela-s-transition-of-power-is-playing-out
President Donald Trump signaled he’s confident a transition of power in Venezuela is under way as the U.S. presses for opposition leader Juan Guaido to take over.

Use of U.S. military force in Venezuela remains “an option” and he isn’t inclined to negotiate with President Nicolas Maduro to persuade him to leave, Trump said in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” At the same time, “I think the process is playing out” as Venezuelans take to the streets to protest, he said.
...
Tony Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration, suggested the outcome remains uncertain.

“What I don’t see so far is an actual strategy to advance a peaceful transition in Venezuela and a Plan B if Maduro digs in and lashes out,” Blinken said on CNN’s “GPS” show.
"the process is playing out"? Err ... which process?

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-47109380
The US says it is sending aid to crisis-hit Venezuela following a request from Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader who has declared himself interim president.
...
Mr Guaidó does not control any territory in Venezuela, so instead he is planning to set up collection centres in neighbouring countries where Venezuelans have fled to.

He said he wanted to set up an international coalition to gather aid at three points, and press Venezuela's army to let it into the country.
...
Mr Maduro has rejected letting aid into the country, telling supporters on Saturday "we've never been nor are we a country of beggars".
USAID is often used by the CIA - e.g. see http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2013/05/14/usaid-a-front-for-cia-intelligence-gathering/
 
https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5457325,00.html
Israeli-Canadian billionaire to pay for Madonna's Eurovision performance

Sylvan Adams, who brought the Giro D'Italia bicycle race to Israel, will foot the bill for the pop diva's appearance at the prestigious singing competition, which will be held in Tel Aviv in May.

Adams will be footing the bill for the singer’s appearance on his own, rumored to be around $1 million. According to the source, significant progress has been made over the past two days in talks between Adams' representatives and Madonna's management. "She is expected to sign the contract in the coming days," said the source.
 
update on El Salvador's Presidential election -
https://www.axios.com/el-salvadors-next-president-rides-to-office-on-anti-establishment-wave-dce5c2aa-cc5a-4d51-9682-0fa927f410ea.html
On Sunday, Nayib Bukele, the 37-year-old former mayor of San Salvador, won a first-round victory in El Salvador's presidential election, handily vanquishing candidates from the country's two major parties.
...
While Bukele had led his chief rivals in polls — businessman Carlos Calleja of the conservative ARENA party and former Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez of the FMLN Party — his haul of nearly 54% of the first-round votes avoids a runoff that would have occurred on March 10.
...
El Salvador is a longtime ally and free-trade partner of the U.S., but recent relations have been tense owing to the outgoing government's close ties with Venezuela and its decision last August to drop diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in favor of China. Moreover, El Salvador is 1 of 3 countries, along with Guatemala and Honduras, that together make up Central America's Northern Triangle, which has been a chief source of migrants to the U.S.–Mexico border, prompting the ire of the Trump administration.
...
El Salvador's population of 6.3 million has been beset in recent years by high crime, stagnant growth and corruption scandals that have shaken faith in government. Bukele leaned heavily on his strong social media presence, including 1.4 million Facebook followers, coupled with tough rhetoric on fighting corruption to win a historic victory. But his campaign was light on details, and it remains to be seen how he will put his governing plans into practice.
So a young anti-corruption politician takes over. Expect the Trump administration to send numerous "advisors".
 
https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/article225507920.html
The new top diplomat from Venezuela strode to the microphones outside the White House and asked for the free world’s help to “liberate” Venezuela from a Cuban colonist.

Donald Trump’s team couldn’t have scripted it better.

It was a short, but impassioned speech by opposition leader Carlos Vecchio. He thanked President Trump for his help fighting to restore democracy in Venezuela and asked for international backing in the call for new elections. And he took clear and deliberate aim at the Trump administration’s new favorite adversary, Havana.

“This fight is not about ideology,” Vecchio said. “This is a fight between democracy and dictatorship. This is a fight between a dictatorship which is totally controlled by the Cuban regime against the free world.”
Trump/Rubio/Bolton going for a 2 for 1 action - Cuba & Venezuela. Will go down well in Florida's electoral districts.
“There really is going to be no long term resolution to the crisis in Venezuela without neutralizing the Cuban role there. That has to be on the table,” said José Cárdenas, who served in the National Security Council under George W. Bush and regularly speaks with Trump administration officials.
Trump never sought a briefing on Cuba’s intelligence role in Venezuela until after Bolton arrived, according to sources familiar with the discussions. In fact, he didn’t ask much about Cuba until months into his first term and that was to discuss Obama’s policy and how it could be reversed.

“Whatever is animating Trump on Venezuela, I don’t think its Cuba,” said Mark Feierstein, the National Security Council’s senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs under Obama. “Trump has never demonstrated a concern about Cuba. As we know he tried to do business in Cuba. We know that he privately told Obama that he agreed with what Obama was doing on Cuba policy.”
...
Benjamin Gedan, who was responsible for Venezuela policy on the National Security Council during the Obama administration, said the crisis in Venezuela offers the administration an opportunity to highlight Cuba’s “nefarious impacts on the region,” including Cuba’s role monitoring and repressing dissent in Venezuela. He described the new team of having a Moby D*ck-like obsession with Cuba.
Trump's really trying to reconstuct W's administration.

edit - see also https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/feb/05/juan-guaido-venezuela-maduro
The idea that Maduro has managed to remain in office during the past six years solely through corruption and the use of force is a gross misrepresentation. It ignores that, beyond the president, the Chavismo social movement counts millions of supporters, primarily from lower-income communities, and is strongly embedded within the Venezuelan military.

The holding of new general elections to resolve the current dispute can only be the result of an internal agreement that the international community can help to facilitate. An initiative by Mexico and Uruguay to host an international conference this week, along with the decision of the EU to head a contact group of European and Latin American countries, should be strongly supported. Venezuelans have a right to coexist, and they should be allowed to resolve their problems in a democratic, peaceful and sovereign manner.
Edit - quote corrected
 
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/06/this-man-plotted-guaidos-rise-and-still-dreams-of-leading-venezuela
Interviews with Venezuelan opposition figures and officials in Washington have confirmed that Leopoldo López, a divisive former mayor of a Caracas borough, helped engineer Guaidó’s meteoric rise – and still harbours ambitions to become Venezuela’s next president.

Since 2017, López – a distant relative of the South American revolutionary hero Simón Bolívar – has been confined to his home in the moneyed Chacao district of Caracas where he once served as mayor.

But he handpicked Guiadó to lead his People’s Will party in congress and continues to play a central role in the campaign to force Maduro from office.

“Leopoldo’s in contact with everyone, every day, constantly,” López’s wife, Lilian Tintori, told the Guardian. “He’s been sewing together an opposition that’s totally united and strong and pushing in the same direction, which is what we are seeing now.”

López has long been a polarising figure, advocating a more confrontational approach than some other opposition leaders. “He is often described as arrogant, vindictive, and power-hungry – but party officials also concede his enduring popularity, charisma, and talent as an organiser,” a Caracas-based US diplomat wrote in a 2009 cable published by WikiLeaks.
...
Convinced that support from the White House would be crucial to toppling Maduro, López and his allies have made a concerted effort to win over the Trump administration.

Sources confirmed scores of meetings between US officials and López surrogates – including Tintori – and other surrogates of López in Washington and around the globe.

In February 2017, Tintori dined with Donald Trump at the White House, in a meeting facilitated by Senator Marco Rubio, who has been instrumental in shaping Trump’s Venezuela policy.

Hours later, the president tweeted a photo of himself with Tintori, Rubio and Vice-President Mike Pence, calling for López to be “immediately” freed.
So Guaido might just be a tool or stalking horse.
 
https://www.miamiherald.com/article225949200.html
Venezuelan authorities say a U.S.-owned air freight company delivered a crate of assault weapons earlier this week to the international airport in Valencia to be used in “terrorist actions” against the embattled government of Nicolás Maduro.

An air freight company, 21 Air LLC, based in Greensboro, N.C., operates the Boeing 767 aircraft that the Venezuelans allege was used in the arms transfer. The flight originated in Miami on Feb 3.

The Boeing 767 has made dozens of flights between Miami International Airport and destinations in Colombia and Venezuela since Jan. 11, a flight tracking service shows, often returning to Miami for only a few hours before flying again to South America.

The discovery of the weapons occurred Tuesday — two days after the flight landed briefly in Valencia, Venezuela’s third-largest city — as tax authorities and other inspectors conducted a routine inspection of cargo that came off the flight, according to a statement by the Carabobo state governor’s office.
...
If some U.S. entity were attempting to provide arms to a Venezuelan resistance movement, it would be taking a familiar page from the history books.

The CIA operated a dummy airline, known as Air America, from the early 1950s until the mid 1970s for air operations in Southeast Asia, including air-dropping weapons to friendly forces.

More than a decade later, Sandinista soldiers shot down a cargo plane taking weapons to the U.S.-backed contra rebels fighting the Nicaraguan government. A U.S. Marine veteran, Eugene Hasenfus, survived the 1986 crash, and later told reporters that he was working for the CIA, paving the way for his release and return to the United States.

Curiously, one of the figures in the Reagan administration instrumental in delivering support to the contras, former assistant secretary of state Elliott Abrams, was named by President Donald Trump late last month as his special envoy overseeing policy toward Venezuela.
Somethings never change.
 
http://tass.com/world/1043935
"The United States has no excuse for its possible aggression against Venezuela," Maduro said. "We have recently revealed a conspiracy to stage a coup, funded and supported from Colombia," he noted. "We were able to maintain peace in the country, a civil-military alliance," he added.

"The scheme for Venezuela is more or less similar to what they did to Libya in order to seize its natural resources," Maduro noted.

According to the Venezuelan president, Western countries are trying "to install a ‘new Pinochet’ in Venezuela." "If only potatoes or bananas were grown in Venezuela, nothing like that could ever happen, but we have lots of natural resources," he said.
I assume the weapons haul was the give-away. :)

Edit - more on the air cargo companies at https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/venezuela/article226011940.html
The denials only added to the mystery of the alleged shipment — a mystery compounded by perhaps coincidental ties between the chairman and a key employee of 21 Air with a company that Amnesty International says once took part in a CIA program to whisk suspected terrorists to “black site” jails around the world, a procedure known as rendition.

The chairman and majority owner of 21 Air, Adolfo Moreno, has set up or registered at least 14 other companies in Florida over the past two decades. Among the people brought on to 21 Air when it formed in 2014 was Michael Steinke, its director of quality control.

Both men appear to have either coincidental or direct ties to Gemini Air Cargo, a company that Amnesty International described in a 2006 report as being among more than 30 air charter services believed to have taken part in a CIA program of rendition in which suspected terrorists were abducted abroad and taken to third-country secret “black sites” for interrogation.

Steinke worked for Gemini Air Cargo from 1996 into 1997, years before the rendition program got off the ground, according to a 2016 Department of Transportation document that gave a summary of 21 Air’s operations as an air cargo carrier.

For his part, Moreno registered two businesses at an address in northwest Miami that was later used by a subsidiary of Gemini Air Cargo.

The two businesses were Airline Management Group, incorporated in 1987, and Florida Franchise Development, set up in 2001, both listing their addresses as 1750 NW 66th Ave. in Miami. In 2005, Gemini Cargo Logistics Inc., which Bloomberg lists as a subsidiary of Gemini Air Cargo, registered to that address. The timeline of when the businesses used the address was not clear.

A visit to the site Friday showed that it is now used by Avianca, the national airline of Colombia.

The CIA declined to comment for this story.
 
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