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Posts tagged ‘Venezuelan people’

Obama to Venezuela’s Maduro: Release Prisoners, Address Grievances.


President Barack Obama urged Venezuela Wednesday to release protesters detained in anti-government demonstrations that turned violent and address the “legitimate grievances” of its people.

Obama condemned violence that has marred two weeks of protests in the oil-rich country against the leftist government of President Nicolas Maduro, with four people killed so far.

Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, one of the main actors in the wave of protests, is due for a hearing at the prison where he is held on claims he incited the violence.

Scores of protesters have also been detained.

“Along with the Organization of American States, we call on the Venezuelan government to release protesters it has detained and engage in real dialogue,” Obama told reporters after a North American leaders summit in this Mexican city.

Speaking about unrest in Venezuela and Ukraine, Obama denounced the “unacceptable violence in those two countries which the United States strongly condemns.”

“In Venezuela, rather than trying to distract from its own failings by making up false accusations against diplomats from the United States, the government ought to focus on addressing the legitimate grievances of the Venezuelan people,” Obama said.

“All parties have an obligation to work together to restrain violence and restore calm.”

Venezuela’s relations with Washington, long strained under stalwart leftist leader Hugo Chavez, have remained sour and distrustful under Maduro, who has stuck closely to his predecessor’s policies.

About 100 supporters of jailed opposition leader Lopez rallied Wednesday outside a Caracas court where he had been due to hear charges blaming him for a deadly episode of violence.

Heavy security surrounded the Palace of Justice, blocking streets leading to the building, where the Harvard-educated economist had been scheduled to appear after spending the night in jail.

But his party said in a Twitter message that the hearing had been moved to a military jail. Lopez’s defense attorney Juan Carlos Gutiérrez said a court illegally ordered the change claiming it would protect Lopez’s life.

Lopez’s dramatic surrender to national guard troops at a protest rally Tuesday came after two weeks of protests in the oil-rich country against the leftist government of President Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro is under fire over what critics say is rampant crime, runaway inflation, high unemployment and other economic problems.

After three people were killed in street clashes on February 12, Maduro ordered Lopez’s arrest, blaming him for the violence.

Political scientist Angel Oropeza said the government was walking a tightrope.

“They may hold him for a few days. If they free him right away, it would be a sign of weakness,” said Oropeza, a political science professor at Simon Bolivar University in Caracas.

“But if they hold on to him for a long time, it could fuel the protests even more and the government would come under more international pressure,” he said.

Oropeza said that with the arrest, the only thing the government had achieved was to divert people’s attention away from Venezuela’s economic woes and “shift debate to an area it has always handled better — that of political confrontation.”

On Tuesday, Lopez told thousands of his supporters, all clad in white, that he hoped his arrest would highlight the “unjust justice” in Venezuela. He drew an explosion of cheers from the crowds.

Maduro, speaking to pro-government oil workers dressed in red in the western part of Caracas, countered that Lopez would have to “answer for his calls to sedition.”

Lopez, draped in a Venezuelan flag, suddenly emerged in the crowd on Tuesday on the Plaza Brion, climbing a statue of Cuban independence hero Jose Marti.

After delivering a brief message to his cheering supporters, who had defied a ban on the march, he surrendered to the National Guard.

“I present myself before an unjust justice, before a corrupt justice,” said Lopez.

“If my incarceration serves to wake up people… it will have been worth it.”

He calmly walked under escort to a National Guard vehicle as his supporters pressed around the vehicle, blocking its path.

Maduro’s government summoned its followers to rallies of its own in an area of downtown Caracas, amid fears of clashes with the opposition demonstrators.

The tensions generated by the protests have spilled into the international arena.

On Sunday, Maduro ordered the expulsion of three US diplomats, accusing them of meeting student leaders under the guise of offering them visas.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said that the United States was still mulling its options.

“I would repeat very strongly that the allegations against our diplomats by the Venezuelan government are baseless and false, and that right now, we are considering what actions to take,” Harf said.

© AFP 2014
Source: Newsmax.com

Cubans Aghast at Car Prices as New Law Kicks in.


HAVANA  — Talk about sticker shock!

Cubans are eagerly flocking to Havana car dealerships as a new law takes effect eliminating a special permit requirement that has greatly restricted vehicle ownership in the country. To their dismay on Friday, the first day the law was in force, they found sharply hiked prices, some of them light years beyond all but the most well-heeled islanders.

A new Kia Rio hatchback that starts at $13,600 in the United States sells for $42,000 here, while a fresh-off-the-lot Peugeot 508 family car, the most luxurious of which lists for the equivalent of about $53,000 in the U.K., will set you back a cool $262,000.

“Between all my family here in Cuba and over in Miami, we couldn’t come up with that kind of money,” said Gilbert Losada, a 28-year-old musical director. “We’re going to wait and see if they lower the prices, which are really crazy. We’re really disappointed.”

Cuba’s Communist-run government traditionally has placed huge markups on retail goods and services paid for with hard currency, a policy that amounts to a tax on people who can afford such goods. The practice applies to everything from dried pasta, to household appliances, to Internet access.

The astronomical sticker prices on the cars will likely mean fewer sales and the state leaving money on the table, noted Philip Peters, a longtime Cuba analyst and president of the Virginia-based Cuba Research Center.

“There’s a lot more money to be made at lower price points,” Peters said. “It’s a short-sighted tax-man’s mentality. . . . Paradoxically, they mark it up so much that they’re not going to make any money. But that’s the mentality.”

Havana legalized the sale of used cars by private individuals in 2011. But longstanding rules remained in place requiring Cubans to obtain a Transportation Ministry permit to purchase a new or used car from state-run dealerships. Permission took months or years to obtain, resulting in a black market in which car buyers would often quickly flip them for a big profit.

The new law eliminates the need for a permit, but does not allow Cubans to import automobiles directly. The government retains its monopoly on that, and alone decides a vehicle’s market value. Some exceptions will still exist allowing diplomatic missions and foreign entities to import vehicles.

The Ferrari-like price schedules for even mundane new cars are a signal that automotive scarcity and high demand will likely continue to reign in Cuba, which is famous for the 1950s American cars that still rumble through the streets long after they became museum pieces elsewhere.

Because replacing a car is so difficult, those lucky enough to own a finned Detroit classic or a boxy Russian import go to great lengths to keep them on the road as long as possible, swapping in makeshift parts and resorting to creative soldering.

At a used car dealership in western Havana on Friday, there were a few relatively affordable options.

A 1997 BMW was the cheapest vehicle and the first to sell shortly after the dealership opened at 8 a.m. It went for $14,457 to a young man who declined to talk to reporters, so it wasn’t known many miles it had previously logged.

But even many of the used cars had eye-popping asking prices, such as a 2009 Hyundai minivan that listed for $110,000.

“Let’s see if a revolutionary worker who lives honorably on his salary can come and buy a car at these prices,” said Guillermo Flores, a 27-year-old computer engineer. “This is a joke on the people.”

In the past, permit holders typically bought used vehicles, often former rentals with high odometer readings that went for around $5,000-$8,000. New imports generally sold at about a 100 percent markup before. There was no explanation for the sudden, across-the-board spike in prices.

Most Cubans still earn government salaries that average around $20 a month, though some make significantly more as musicians, artists, employees of foreign companies and diplomats and doctors sent on foreign missions. Many others get financial support from relatives overseas.

But some who had managed to scrape together some savings said they’re now priced out of the market.

“With these prices . . . those who will be able to buy are the privileged, or the bandits,” said Alfredo Boue, a 25-year-old cook. “I think the bandits are not the ones (stealing) in the streets, but the people who set these prices.”

People were aghast and angry as they perused a list of prices posted outside the dealership. Some said it felt like something out of science fiction. One woman asked sarcastically if there were any bicycles, because surely that would be the only thing she could afford.

Priority was given to people who had obtained a permit under the old system, but Antonio Diaz, a 66-year-old retiree who came expecting to pay $5,000, left empty-handed and disgusted.

“What am I going to do with this letter?” he said, brandishing his now-useless permit. “I can’t buy anything. I don’t have the money. That was supposed to be the car for my old age, which I was going to buy after a lifetime of work.”

“I’ll have to resign myself to living without a car,” Diaz said, shaking his head.

 

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Rubio: Bill Will ‘Fundamentally Redefine’ Immigration System.


Sen. Marco Rubio tells Newsmax that the bipartisan immigration reform bill he has been instrumental in crafting will “fundamentally redefine” America’s immigration system.

The bill is essential, the first-term Florida Republican adds, because the present immigration system is “broken” and the status quo is “not an option.”

Story continues below.

 

The bill would reportedly put the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally on a 13-year path to U.S. citizenship that would cost each $2,000 in fines plus additional fees, and would begin only after steps have been taken to secure the border.

Senators had planned to formally introduce the bill Tuesday, but after Monday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon a planned press event was delayed until later in the week.

“What was going to happen is we were going to introduce it on Tuesday, and then there was going to be a hearing, the first hearing on Wednesday,” Sen. Rubio said in an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV.

“They’ve now delayed that until Friday to give people more time to read it, and we’re doing a lot of work individually with members’ offices to walk them through the particulars of it and then there’ll be a second hearing next week. Then three weeks will go by before they actually have to start filing amendments.

“So people are going to have close to a month to review this thing. It’s going to be posted online, it’s going to be publicly available, and it’s a very good piece of legislation to solve a very serious problem that our country faces.”

The mood in Congress has turned strongly in favor of serious immigration reform, according to Rubio.

“There have been a lot of hearings about immigration around here in the past but this is no longer hearings about immigration. This is hearings about an immigration bill that is going to fundamentally redefine and modernize our legal immigration system,” he says.

“There are enforcement mechanisms that are in place that we need to get answers to. For example, we set aside some money for border security but we don’t know if that exact number is the right amount. It’s kind of a place holder, we don’t know if it’s enough or too much. Then certainly there is the process for how we’re going to handle those who have violated our immigration laws, and that should be reviewed as well.

“There should be an open process. It shouldn’t take forever, but it should certainly take enough time and it shouldn’t be rushed to the floor. Everyone should have a chance to read it, have an opinion on it, and make changes that improve it.”

When full details of the legislation are revealed, “people will be surprised at how much reform there is in the legal immigration system,” Rubio says.

“For example, one of the things we targeted was chain migration. We’ve redefined the family category so that many of the ways that people are now using to bring extended families here are going to be more difficult in the future, and frankly, impossible.

“We streamlined the system so it’s a lot less bureaucratic, a lot less complicated, a lot easier to follow. One of the things that’s contributed to illegal immigration is that legal immigration is so complicated and so burdensome, and we’re going to modernize the system in a way that’s pro-business, pro-economy.”

As for some more specifics, Rubio tells Newsmax: “First of all the application process will be a one-stop shop, especially on the guest worker program and things of that nature. Agriculture in particular will be helped by that.

“In addition to that we’ve gotten rid of the per country quota, one of the things that didn’t make a lot of sense. We should be able to attract the best and brightest in the world irrespective of what country they’re coming from.

“The majority of this bill is about enforcement and about modernization, and I would say 80, 90 percent of this bill is probably not that controversial. The piece that probably is is what we’re doing with those who have violated our immigration laws.”

Under the bipartisan bill, illegal immigrants “are allowed to stay in this country. They’re here right now and you’re not going to deport them. That’s my point. So the question that we have is not whether we want them in the country or not, the question is whether we want them in the country knowing who they are, having them paying taxes, or do we want them in the country the way they are now where many of them don’t pay taxes, we don’t know who they are, and they’ll be here for the rest of their lives.

“We’re not talking about bringing 11 million people to the U.S. These are people that are here. Some of them have been here for two decades. So I just don’t think it’s a valid point in terms of saying that leaving the status quo is something that’s an option. It’s not an option.”

Asked if the bill will have an easier time passing the Senate than the House, Rubio responds: “The House is working on its own product and I don’t know too much about it other than that they’re similar. Obviously they probably have some significant differences that still have to be worked through, but the bottom line is in the House and the Senate there’s a bipartisan recognition that immigration is a problem in the U.S. We have a broken legal immigration system, we’re not enforcing our laws, and we have millions of people here illegally. We have to deal with all three of those things and I hope this is the year that happens because the status quo is really bad for America.”

Rubio also offers his views on the election in Venezuela, where it appears that Nicolas Maduro won — and he has a close relationship with Cuba.

“First of all, it’s an undemocratic election in the sense that the government actually dominates the airwaves. Imagine a U.S. election where the Democratic Party – because that’s who’s in power now in the White House – basically controls all the advertising, all the airwaves, and the other side isn’t allowed to advertise at all. That’s what the Venezuelan elections were like.
“Despite that and despite accusations of fraud and things that are going on that I hope will be investigated, the margin was very, very narrow, which shows you the Venezuelan people are looking for a new direction.

“Ultimately, the future of Venezuela belongs to the people of that country, not to us. I just hope they choose a new direction because Venezuela is a country with so much potential and it’s largely fallen into the hands of leaders that are clowns who align themselves with some of the worst elements in the world, have squandered the riches of that country, have allowed the Cubans to basically come and take over their country. It’s an outrage.

“The best thing we can do is help the people of Venezuela understand that if their leaders are reasonable people, we want to have a good relationship with them. We have nothing against the Venezuelan people. We would love to have a positive relationship with Venezuela but if their leaders are irrational people, people that align themselves with Muammar Qaddafi and some of the worst killers in the world, then it’s going to be very difficult to have that kind of relationship.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Jim Meyers and John Bachman

In Chavez’s death, Obama sees hope for ‘new chapter’.


 

Supporters of Venezuela‘s President Hugo Chavez react to the announcement of his death in Caracas, March 5, 2013. …

Updated from 7:49 p.m. March 5

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the show-stopping socialist who once dubbed then-President George W. Bushthe devil” and scorned President Barack Obama as a “clown,” probably won’t be missed much in official Washington. Obama led a chorus of politicians saying they hoped that Chavez’s death on Tuesday after a two-year battle with cancer would open a “new chapter” in relations between the United States and one of the world’s top 20 oil exporters.

“At this challenging time,” Obama said in a written statement hours after Chavez’s death was announced, “the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government.

“As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights,” Obama said.

Over the course of 14 years in power, Chavez won the adoration of Venezuela’s poor by channeling the country’s oil wealth into ambitious social spending. But he earned the loathing of the country’s middle and upper classes by nationalizing key industries and consolidating his power, critics charged, at the expense of democratic institutions. Chavez, sometimes dubbed the “Comandante, angered the United States by embracing countries like Iran and offering his full-throated support to the Castro government in Cuba. American officials often accused him of funneling money to leftist rebels in neighboring Colombia, a close U.S. ally.

And Chavez reciprocated that lack of affection.

In September 2006, the fiery orator addressed the U.N. General Assembly one day after Bush had done so. Chavez declared “the devil was in this very spot yesterday,” crossed himself and added “it smells of sulfur still today.”

And he wasn’t much kinder to Bush’s successor. In December 2011, Obama scolded Chavez for assaulting “democratic values” and rebuked him for seeking closer ties to Iran. Chavez’s response?He dubbed Obama a “clown” and an “embarrassment,” and declared: “Focus on governing your country, which you’ve turned into a disaster.”

But with Chavez now gone, American officials worried about the prospect of chaos in Venezuela and disruptions to oil markets, while openly hoping for better relations with Caracas.

[Slideshow: Venezuela mourns Chavez]

“Hugo Chavez was a destabilizing force in Latin America and an obstacle to progress in the region,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said in a statement. “I hope his death provides an opportunity for a new chapter in U.S.-Venezuelan relations.”

“I hope the transition is one that is smooth and we would develop a better relationship with Venezuela,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada told Yahoo News.

“I’ve been to Venezuela. I’ve been to Caracas. It’s a wonderful country, and I really hope that stable leadership follows and leadership that the United States can work with and be helpful to,” Democratic Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein of California told Yahoo News. “The polarization between our countries that was a product of Chavez was not helpful, and hopefully it can end.”

Among the questions being asked in Washington: What will Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro, who announced Chavez’s death to the world, do now? Will he pursue the style and substance of “Chavismo”? Will Venezuela still stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Castro-ruled Cuba? Can Madura fend off the considerable opposition to Chavez, especially given that the president’s death hardly came as a shock?

“It was no surprise. He was in grave medical shape, and I understand they have 30 days until they have another election so it could be a time of real change in that country,” said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate.

Other lawmakers were a bit more vocal in denouncing Chavez. Republican Ed Royce of California, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the deceased “a tyrant who forced the people of Venezuela to live in fear” and bluntly declared “good riddance.”

“Venezuela once had a strong democratic tradition and was close to the United States,” Royce said. “Chavez’s death sets the stage for fresh elections. While not guaranteed, closer U.S. relations with this key country in our hemisphere are now possible.”

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, considered a leading prospect for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2016, said Chavez’s death could let Venezuela “turn the page on one of the darkest periods in its history.”

[Slideshow: The women in Chavez’s life]

He added, “It is my sincere hope that Venezuela’s leaders will seek to rebuild our once-strong friendship based on shared democratic and free enterprise principles.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez said Chavez had ruled “with an iron hand” but now “left a political void.”

“With free and fair elections, Venezuela can begin to restore its once-robust democracy and ensure respect for the human, political and civil rights of its people,” Menendez said.

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the top Republican on Menendez’s committee, said, “It is my hope that all Venezuelans will have the opportunity to fully exercise their political rights, including freedom of expression and assembly, in fully free and fair constitutionally mandated elections and build a more prosperous future for their country.”

Chavez was not universally reviled in the United States, however.

Democratic Rep. José Serrano said on Twitter that Chavez “understood the needs of the poor” and praised him for “empowering the powerless.”

He added, “R.I.P Mr. President.”

Chavez was an active Twitter user himself. His final message was full of trademark defiance—though some might say delusion.

In a Feb. 18, 2013, tweet, Chavez declared, “I remain firm in Christ and trust in my doctors and nurses. Onwards to victory! We will live and we will triumph!”

While Washington liked to portray Chavez as an isolated rogue, the truth is that his brand of populism had broad appeal across the region. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called his death an “irreparable loss” and praised him as “a friend of the Brazilian people” and a “great Latin American.” President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, whose country for years had accused Chavez of backing leftist rebels on its territory, praised him for working to end that conflict.

I deeply lament the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez,” said Santos. “For Colombia, and for me in particular, the loss of President Chavez has special meaning.”

Chris Moody contributed to this report.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By  | The Ticket

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