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Leaving Venezuela for ... Iraq?! :surprised:
Dozens of oil workers in Venezuela have abandoned poverty and low wages. They flee their country for jobs in far-flung places like Kuwait, Angola and Chile.

Nieves Ribullen is sick of struggling to get by as his country falls apart. He is betting it all on the far-away Kurdistan Region to give his family a better life.

He’ll leave his wife and three children behind. He'll soon ship out to Kurdistan Region, where he expects to earn $4,500 a month.

"I can't get there (Kurdistan Region) by plane, because of the situation that the country is going through. The facilities of the Kurdistan airport have been taken over by rebels, because of the problem they have.

That is a country that is at war, they are going through many problems. Then, the danger to which we submit ourselves to, we have to endure. Fourteen hours of travel in a vehicle, to be able to work in a country where we do not know anyone, we do not speak the language, but the situation has led us to go through that kind of danger. So, of course it is hard for me to be away from my family, it is hard for me to be away from my children and my wife, but I am practically forced to do so because of the situation that we are living in." Ribullen says.
A former UN Rapporteur Alfred Zayas, a American lawyer and a former secretary of the Human Rights Council, in his recently recently published UN report said that the US is engaging in “economic warfare against Venezuela which was the real reason for the economic and humanitarian crisis facing the country”, and that sanctions against Venezuela are illegal and could amount to “crimes against humanity”, under international law. He recommended, amongst other actions, that the International Criminal Court investigate economic sanctions against Venezuela as possible crimes against humanity under article 7 of the Rome Statute. He concluded that the solution to the Venezuelan crisis lay “in good faith negotiations between the government and the opposition, an end to the economic war and the lifting of sanctions”. Speaking to The Independent (UK) on the 28 January he said, “When I say immigration is partly attributable to the economic war waged against Venezuela and is partly attributable to the sanctions, people do not like to hear that. They just want the simple narrative (that) socialism (failed) the people.”

He also said that those sanctions are part of a US effort to overthrow the Venezuela government and install a friendlier regime saying those calling the situation a “humanitarian crisis” are being “weaponised” to discredit the government and make violent overthrow more “palatable”.

He continued, “There is nothing more undemocratic than a coup d’état and nothing more corrosive to the rule of law and to international stability (than) when foreign governments meddle in the internal affairs of other states…. What is urgent is to help the Venezuelan people through international solidarity – genuine humanitarian aid and the lifting of the financial blockade so that Venezuela can buy and sell like any other country.”
Getting humanitarian aid into Venezuela is the top immediate priority for lawmakers, but Nicolás Maduro’s military is blocking it.

So Florida Sen. Marco Rubio named six top military officials on Monday who he said would receive amnesty from U.S. sanctions and immunity from Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly if they allow aid to be distributed by non-governmental organizations inside the country. Some of the six are already under sanctions from the U.S. government for being part of Maduro’s inner circle and for leading “violence and repression” efforts against protesters, according to the Treasury Department.
Rubio said the group of generals must take “concrete actions” to alleviate Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis and facilitate Maduro’s ouster if they want to receive some type of amnesty. And time is critical.

“It’s a violation of international law for the armed forces of a country to deny humanitarian assistance to civilians. And that is what they are doing,” Rubio said. “How those five or six key military leaders respond over the next week and a half to that key question is going to determine where and how they and their families will spend the rest of their lives. This is the most important decision they have ever made in their life and they’re about to be forced to make it.”
Rubio noted that the U.S. government and its allies will aggressively seize the assets of Maduro loyalists who do not defect or aid Guaidó’s government. He also said the National Assembly will need a functioning military to restore order during a transition to democratic elections and that rank-and-file members of the military will not shoot unarmed protesters and people trying to receive aid, leaving the generals with a choice to back Maduro or defy orders.
More "incentives". Funny how aid is so important after Guaidós attempt to take over.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó has vowed at a rally in the capital Caracas to ensure humanitarian aid blocked by President Nicolás Maduro is brought in to the country.

Mr Guaidó said new collection points and routes into the country would allow volunteers to bring the aid in.
Envoys for Mr Guaidó met with Brazilian officials this week and announced plans to create a second aid storage hub in the state of Roraima, on Venezuela's southeastern border.

Mr Guaidó appeared to be relying on volunteers - he called on 250,000 people who signed up online to organise themselves over the weekend, "because we're going to have to go in caravans".

US humanitarian aid trucks arrived last week at the Colombian border city of Cúcuta but were stopped at the Tienditas bridge, which has been blocked by Venezuelan troops.
This could all end very tragically and seems to be heading in that direction.
A number of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) forces have been killed in a terrorist attack in southeastern Iran.

The IRGC personnel were traveling between the cities of Zahedan and Khash, in Sistan and Baluchestan province on Wednesday, when their bus was targeted in a suicide car bomb attack.

The IRGC's Qods Headquarters said in a statement that an explosives-laden car rammed into the bus, which was taking the personnel back to their homes.

The attack killed 27 IRGC members and injured 13 others, initial reports suggested.

The so-called Jaish ul-Adl terrorist group reportedly claimed responsibility for the bombing.

The terrorist outfit was formed in 2012 by members of the Pakistan-based Jundallah, another terror group dismantled by Iranian intelligence forces in 2010 after its ringleader Abdolmalek Rigi was executed.
Baluchestan again - Saudis (and Chinese) investing in Baluchestan port of Gwadar plus the heroin trade from Afghanistan going through Baluchestan, throw in some US & Israeli dirty tricks and every things there for "terrorist attacks".
The Kurdish official also complained that the international community was falling short in providing humanitarian assistance to the growing number of displaced.

"Unfortunately, international aid agencies, the international community and even the global coalition (against ISIS), are not taking responsibility for these displaced people," Omar said.

"What they are providing does not cover even five percent of their needs," he said, calling for increased support.
The seeds for the next "terrorist movement" are being sown. :sad:
Nigeria has delayed its presidential and parliamentary elections for a week, in a dramatic night-time move.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) made the announcement just five hours before the polls were due to open on Saturday.

"Proceeding with the election as scheduled is no longer feasible," commission chairman Mahmood Yakubu said, citing logistical issues.

He said the difficult decision was needed to ensure a free and fair vote.

The presidential and parliamentary votes have been rescheduled for Saturday 23 February.

Governorship, state assembly and federal area council elections have been rescheduled until Saturday 9 March.
Not the first and probably not the last time this happens.
Aid arrives on Venezuela's borders -
A shipment of humanitarian aid by the United States that flew out of Miami landed in this Colombian border city on Saturday as part of efforts in response to the humanitarian crisis in neighboring Venezuela.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State coordinated the shipment, which was transported on three military planes from an air base in Homestead. The C-17 planes arrived in Cúcuta in afternoon, where they were met by USAID Administrator Mark Green and representatives appointed Venezuelan leader Juan Guaidó, the president of the National Assembly who is now recognized as interim president by the U.S. and nearly to 60 other countries.

Trump plans to address the Venezuelan crisis during a gathering in Miami on Monday.
Lester Toledo, appointed by Guaidó to oversee the distribution of humanitarian aid, said help will reach Venezuela from aid collection points set up in three countries: Roraima, Brazil; Cucúta, Colombia and Curaçao. The aid will arrive from that Caribbean island to the state of Falcón, in northwestern Venezuela, in a flotilla of boats.
whilst Haiti has problems too -
Haiti’s prime minister reiterated an appeal for dialogue with the country’s opposition — and promised that an investigation into the alleged misspending of nearly $2 billion from the Venezuela PetroCaribe discount oil program that was supposed to be invested in programs for the poor will happen.

“I guarantee you the youth that the question will not go unanswered,” Jean Henry Céant said Saturday, referring to the question — “Kot Kòb Petwo Karibe a?” or Where is the PetroCaribe money? — that Haitians, and the youth in particular, have been posing.

The alleged corruption surrounding the fund and the government’s mismanagement of the economy have been at the heart of violent demonstrations that have rocked Haiti since Feb. 7.
President Donald Trump declared 2019 as the “twilight of socialism” in the western hemisphere Monday during a speech in Miami and cast impending regime change in Venezuela as a harbinger of things to come in Cuba and Nicaragua.

Appearing in the capital of the Americas, Trump addressed the Venezuelan people in an effort to further increase pressure on embattled ruler Nicolás Maduro to flee and end a blockade of shipments of medicine and food sitting on the Colombian border. He spoke directly to military leaders who continue to support Maduro, warning that the U.S. has identified their offshore holdings and is prepared to use force, if necessary.

“We seek a peaceful transition of power. But all options are open,” Trump said, ominously. “If you choose this path, you will find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out. You’ll lose everything.”
“This is not about democracy. This is about special interests,” said Yadira Escobar, a 31-year-old local radio personality representing the anti-interventionist group Hands Off Venezuela. Other protesters said they support Trump’s actions in Venezuela, but oppose the president.

Inside the arena, the crowd chanted “Libertad!” and roared at predictions of Raul Castro’s downfall in Cuba, and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. Throughout the afternoon, Florida’s U.S. senators warned that a deadline set Saturday by Guaidó for Maduro to allow aid into the country will be a tipping point in the struggle for leadership of Venezuela.
South Florida is home to more than 100,000 Venezuelans and Venezuelan Americans, the largest concentration in the country.

Venezuela’s power struggle is heading towards a potentially violent showdown on Saturday, when Guaidó will try to run caravans of US humanitarian aid across the Venezuelan border from Colombia.
Saturday might well be the crunch day.
So what were these guys up to?
A group of Americans arrested in Haiti driving around Port-au-Prince with an arsenal of weapons arrived back in the United States Wednesday night after failing to show up for their first court appearance before the Haitian justice system.

Upon their arrival in Miami aboard American Airlines flight 1059, U.S. law enforcement boarded the flight and handcuffed the men, according to a tweet from Haitian TV and radio personality Carel Pedre to his 223,600 followers at 8:25 p.m.

On board: former Navy Seal officers Christopher Michael Osman and Christopher Mark McKinley, and former Marine Veteran Kent Leland Kroeker as well as Americans Dustin Porte and Talon Ray Burton. All five U.S. citizens were among eight heavily armed men whom Haiti National Police arrested on Sunday afternoon at a police checkpoint in downtown Port-au-Prince.

The group also included two Serbians, at least one of whom is a U.S. permanent resident, and a Haitian national who was deported from the U.S.
The United Nations Security Council also currently operates a peacekeeping mission, the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti or MINUJUSTH, focused on strengthening the justice system and professionalizing the police force. The force was lauded for the arrest of the men, who were driving around in two vehicles without license tags and an arsenal of automatic weapons and pistols.

They claimed to have been on a “government mission,” when stopped by police about a block from the country’s central bank.
No one would discuss the case on the record. But sources familiar with the negotiations said the U.S. government intervened and expressed concerns about the group’s safety following an interview by Prime Minister Jean Henry Céant with CNN in which he characterized the men as “mercenaries” and “terrorists.”

A State Department spokesperson for Western Hemisphere Affairs said: “The return of the individuals to the US was coordinated with the Haitian authorities.”
Military members of Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro regime opened fire on demonstrators near the border with Brazil, leaving at least two dead and 14 wounded as of Friday afternoon. The incident occurred as a crowd of civilians from the indigenous community tried to block the passage of a convoy sent to the border to keep humanitarian aid from entering the country, opposition Congress members said.
The clash came a day after Maduro ordered the closure of the border with Brazil to prevent the accumulated humanitarian aid in the neighboring country from reaching Venezuelans.

According to the news portal La Patilla, the attack took place at 6 a.m. Friday, when members of the security body of the Pemón ethnic group tried to stop the passage of soldiers who were heading to the border with the Brazilian city of Pacaraima.

La Patilla also reported that about seven trucks with military personnel managed to pass after dispersing the demonstration.
Juan Guaidó says international humanitarian aid will get into the country by land, air or sea. The Trump administration is stockpiling aid on the Colombian border and lawmakers like U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio are billing February 23 as the day when the Venezuelan military, which is currently under Nicolás Maduro’s control, must decide whether or not to allow aid to flow into the hands of needy Venezuelans. They say any violence on Saturday will disqualify Venezuelan military leaders from relief from U.S. sanctions.

But none of Venezuela’s top military leaders have publicly backed Guaidó’s interim government. Russia and China continue to recognize Maduro. India is buying more Venezuelan oil. Both supporters and critics of the decision to recognize Guaidó are worried about losing momentum for elections if Saturday comes and goes without a change in the status quo, as the full effect of U.S. oil sanctions on Maduro’s inner circle will take months, not weeks.

“Based on the rollout of the sanctions and the supply already loaded on ships and existing contracts, you’re looking at a June-July timeframe,” said Eric Farnsworth, a former State Department official who is now a vice president of the Council of the Americas in Washington, D.C. “I think stalemate is a good word. Certainly, Saturday is going to be another inflection point.”
Well Rubio has his "martyrs" now to bash Maduro with.This will not end well.
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has declared a national state of emergency, dismissed the federal government and sacked all state governors.

Mr Bashir made the announcement in a TV address to the nation, but later appointed members of the security forces as replacement governors.
That's how to do it! Classic government take over - Trump knows how to do his next "national state of emergency" now. (probably when the Mueller report arrives :))
On social media, Rubio said that “pro-regime gangs [are] replacing National Guard at several border crossings.” He also said the attacks in Ureña took place at the direction of Cuban intelligence agents — thousands of whom have been stationed in Venezuela — posing as members of the Venezuelan National Guard, and said Venezuelan forces had fired on people across the border, in Colombia.
How does Rubio know this?
Ordinary people regarded Chavez and his government as their first champions: as theirs.

This was especially true of the indigenous, mestizos and Afro-Venezuelans, who had been held in historic contempt by Chavez’s immediate predecessors and by those who today live far from the barrios, in the mansions and penthouses of East Caracas, who commute to Miami where their banks are and who regard themselves as “white”. They are the powerful core of what the media calls “the opposition”.

When I met this class, in suburbs called Country Club, in homes appointed with low chandeliers and bad portraits, I recognised them. They could be white South Africans, the petite bourgeoisie of Constantia and Sandton, pillars of the cruelties of apartheid.

Cartoonists in the Venezuelan press, most of which are owned by an oligarchy and oppose the government, portrayed Chavez as an ape. A radio host referred to “the monkey”. In the private universities, the verbal currency of the children of the well-off is often racist abuse of those whose shacks are just visible through the pollution.

Although identity politics are all the rage in the pages of liberal newspapers in the West, race and class are two words almost never uttered in the mendacious “coverage” of Washington’s latest, most naked attempt to grab the world’s greatest source of oil and reclaim its “backyard”.
see also
It has not escaped notice that the EU was invited to send observers to the election and declined to do so. NONE of the criticism in your EU press release is, therefore, based on direct EU observation in the field.

King Boonen said:
The appeal of the "strong man" as leader -
As Western democracies descend into dysfunction, no group is immune to the allure of authoritarianism — least of all centrists, who seem to prefer strong and efficient government over messy democratic politics.

Strongmen in the developing world have historically found support in the center: From Brazil and Argentina to Singapore and Indonesia, middle-class moderates have encouraged authoritarian transitions to bring stability and deliver growth. Could the same thing happen in mature democracies like Britain, France and the United States?
Vice President Mike Pence will meet with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó in Colombia Monday, two days after Guaidó’s call to use “all options” to liberate and restore democracy in Venezuela.

Senior administration officials told a small group of reporters Sunday that Pence will meet briefly with Guaidó, who the United States has recognized as the legitimate interim president, before addressing regional leaders on the crisis in Venezuela. The crisis escalated over the weekend with violence at the border with Colombia as international aid was blocked. Hundreds were injured and at least four people died.

On Saturday, Guaidó said the events of the weekend forced him to pose a formal request to the international community to consider “all options” in Venezuela. The statement was interpreted by members of the diplomatic community as a request for military assistance.

On Sunday, Guaidó’s ambassador to the Lima Group, Julio Borges, made it clear that Guido will request ”the use of force” against the Maduro. “We are going to demand an escalation in diplomatic pressure and in the use of force against the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro,” Borges wrote on Twitter.
meanwhile ...

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), one of the biggest critics in Congress of Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro, sent out a graphic and cryptic tweet on Sunday showing a before-and-after photo of the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Gaddafi, who antagonized the U.S. for decades, was deposed in a 2011 military intervention led by the U.S. In the ensuing conflict, Libyan rebels found Gaddafi and brutally murdered him in public. A still from a video of that spectacle was one of the images in Rubio’s post.

Rubio’s tweet was widely interpreted as a message to Maduro, setting off furor on Twitter among critics who saw it as a thinly-veiled threat of U.S. military intervention in Venezuela.
The Lima Group of nations on Monday said it would take Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro to the International Criminal Court and that it was more resolved than ever to see a democratic transition in the country. But the influential bloc of countries stopped short of imposing new sanctions or taking other steps that might rattle the regime in Caracas after weeks of unrest.

Monday’s meeting of the Lima Group, it’s 11th, was attended by Vice President Mike Pence and Venezuela’s interim President Juan Guaidó. And there were expectations that the bloc of largely Latin American countries might come out swinging after Venezuela violently stopped aid convoys on the Colombian-Venezuela border over the weekend. The group condemned Maduro’s actions and said its commitment to a democratic transition in the country was now “irreversible.”

But the communiqué, which was read by Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo, was likely to disappoint some in the Venezuelan opposition who were hoping for more forceful measures — and perhaps even tacit acknowledgment that diplomacy and sanctions aren’t enough.

Earlier in the day, Vice President Mike Pence addressed the group, asking them to seize Venezuela’s oil assets and hand them over to Guaidó’s representatives. He also asked the region to revoke visas of Maduro officials. While Colombia, Canada and Panama have rolled out sanctions, others in the region have not.
Monday’s meeting comes as some believed the Lima Group might accept the need for military force to unseat Maduro. But early in the day, Perú’s Assitant Foreign Minister Hugo de Zela Martínez poured cold water on the notion.

“The use of force, in any of its forms, is unacceptable,” he said. “The use of force is not a solution for what’s happening in Venezuela.”

Martínez said the Lima Group should keep pushing for a negotiated solution to the crisis – but that those negotiations must focus on Maduro stepping down and the calling of new “free, fair and just elections.”
After their speeches Monday, as the Lima Group deliberated, Pence and Guaidó met with about three dozen Venezuelan exiles.

“This sacrifice that we’ve made, and all Venezuelans have made...are not going to be in vain,” Guaidó reassured them. “ We are going to succeed. The only way back is the way to your homes.”
The US is desperately trying to find a fig-leaf to hide behind.
This is not good -
Pakistan says it has shot down two India Air Force jets in its airspace in Kashmir and arrested one pilot on the ground.

Military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said one of the planes had fallen in Pakistan-controlled territory while the other fell in Indian territory.

On Tuesday India launched strikes against militants in Pakistan.

Those raids were in retaliation for a militant attack on Indian troops in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Tensions have been high since the 14 February suicide attack on an Indian paramilitary police convoy, which killed at least 40 soldiers.

Also on Wednesday, Pakistan's foreign ministry said Pakistani jets had launched air strikes across the line of control dividing Pakistani- and Indian-controlled Kashmir.
In what is increasing turning into a mirror image of Trump's administration -,7340,L-5471728,00.html
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out Thursday after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit called for him to be indicted on multiple corruption charges, accusing the country's most senior judicial and law enforcement officials of being part of a witch hunt designed to bring him down.

In an appearance on national television, shortly after Mandelblit's recommendations were released, Netanyahu called the timing of the announcement, six weeks ahead of elections, "outrageous" and accused his political opponents of carrying out an "unprecedented witch hunt."

"The pressure of the left worked," Netanyahu said, saying the attorney general's recommendations threatened the country's democracy.

He called the accusations lies and a "blood libel" and said he would debunk all charges against him.

"There is nothing, because there was nothing," Netanyahu said, invoking a mantra he frequently uses to proclaim his innocence.

Mandelblit, who was once Netanyahu's cabinet secretary, recommended bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges in Case 4000, in which Netanyahu is suspected of receiving favorable coverage on the Walla! News website in return for regulatory benefits to telecommunications giant Bezeq, which owns the site.

The attorney general also called for charges of fraud and breach of trust in both Case 1000, in which Netanyahu and his family are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from wealthy donors, and Case 2000, in which Netanyahu allegedly tried to negotiate favorable coverage in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily (Ynetnews' sister publication) in return for promoting legislation against rival paper Israel Hayom.

"For three years they have been engaged in political persecution against us, an unprecedented witch hunt with the sole purpose of overthrowing the right-wing government under my leadership and bringing (Yair) Lapid and (Benny) Gantz's left-wing party to power," said Netanyahu, referring to the leaders of the party that poses the greatest threat to his political survival on April 9.
Comic actor Vladimir Zelenskiy is leading the polls ahead of Ukraine’s presidential election on March 31. He is one of 44 candidates, who include far-right combat veterans, a male chauvinist who says feminism has gone too far, a gas-dynasty princess, lawmakers, and spies. The incumbent, Petro Poroshenko, a billionaire chocolate baron, is also running, hoping to secure a second term. Zelenskiy is a well-known actor who plays a teacher who becomes president after a corruption scandal on a popular television show called Servant of the People. He is leading in some opinion polls by 10 percentage points. The campaign has been marked by dirty tricks and corruption accusations among the candidates. In 2014, the “revolution for dignity” led to the removal of pro-Moscow authoritarian President Viktor Yanukovych.
A senior jihadist leader in Mali whom France said it had killed last November survived the attack and appears in a new propaganda video mocking French and Malian forces.

The French armed forces minister, Florence Parly, told parliament a few days after the 22 November raid that Amadou Koufa, a radical preacher and senior leader of a militant group linked to al-Qaida, was one of 35 fighters who had been “neutralised”.

Mali’s army also said Koufa had been killed, in what was seen as a blow to Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), Mali’s strongest Islamist militant group.

But Koufa, sporting a white turban and dyed red beard, appears in a video published by Mauritanian media and circulated on social media this week, in which he mocks the claims that he has been killed.
Look on the bright side, the French can claim to have killed him again in the future. The dead Jihadi that keeps on giving!
Venezuela interim President Juan Guaidó is calling for national demonstrations Monday and Tuesday, and says he will be returning to the country in coming days as he attempts to push Nicolás Maduro out of office.

In a tweet Sunday, Guaidó called on followers to begin protesting Monday at 11 a.m. local time (10 a.m. EST).

Although he hasn’t announced exactly when or how he will get back, the demonstrations are likely to provide cover for a risky return.

The 35-year-old politician sneaked out of Venezuela on Feb. 22, defying a travel ban.

He’s also likely to face charges for organizing an attempt to drive cargo trucks into Venezuela that were carrying humanitarian aid. That convoy was stopped last weekend amid clashes that left hundreds injured.
So Guaidó will fly in amid demonstrations and dare the Maduro administration to arrest him. He gets arrested and the US goes nuts and threatens more, or, he does not get arrested and Maduro looks like he's backed down. (or for the conspiracy minded, Guidó flies in with a couple hundred US Marines).
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