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Archive for Venezuela

Newsline: China’s tweeting ambassador inches closer to Venezuela

“Put on a face mask and keep quiet!” The phrase uttered by the Chinese ambassador in Caracas, Li Baorong, to members of the Venezuelan opposition was unusual. Li was responding to deputies calling Covid-19 “the China coronavirus” and rounded off an official statement published both on the Chinese embassy’s website and on its official Twitter feed. (https://dialogochino.net/en/trade-investment/36666-chinas-tweeting-ambassador-inches-closer-to-venezuela/) Li’s behaviour in the last three months has been atypical. Traditionally pragmatic and vague, the old discourse of Chinese diplomats seems to have gone out of the window lately, hinting that China might be backtracking on its hereto ambiguous stance on Venezuela’s severe political, economic and humanitarian crisis. This is despite being its main creditor and second largest trade partner. Now, the top Chinese official in Caracas is becoming more conciliatory towards Nicolás Maduro’s government, from which China seemed to have distanced itself as longstanding debts went unpaid, oil shipments were grounded, several cases of corruption emerged and Chinese and Venezuelan oil executives were arrested. Venezuela has been a polarising case internationally and China has long stood out as one of the few countries trying to appear neutral. However, Li’s new, more assertive Twitter voice is part of a trend among Chinese diplomats in Latin America that has emerged in response to China-blaming over the Covid-19 pandemic. Li also retweets institutionally unaffiliated pro-Maduro Twitter accounts. He disseminates web pages from La Tabla or Misión Verdad, that are government-aligned but not officially connected. According to the Venezuelan Press and Society Institute, Misión Verdad distributes pro-Maduro propaganda whilst posing as a fact verification website. Along with Li, there are at least three other Chinese ambassadors in Latin America that are prolific on Twitter. They are led by Wei Quiang, in Panama, who has 15,400 followers. The ambassadors to Brazil, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador make up China’s other so-called “wolf warriors” around the world. They aim to counteract the “political virus” they say emanates from the US and impedes international efforts to tackle the pandemic.

Newsline: Venezuela to allow EU ambassador to remain in Caracas

Venezuela will allow the European Union’s ambassador to remain in Caracas, reversing an earlier decision to expel the envoy in response to sanctions the bloc imposed on officials loyal to the socialist government, the foreign ministry said on Thursday. (https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/venezuela-to-allow-eu-ambassador-to-remain-in-caracas—foreign-ministry/45877470) The EU subjected 11 officials to financial sanctions, citing their actions against the democratic functioning of Venezuela’s National Assembly. “Cooperation between both parties can facilitate the path of political dialogue,” said the ministry, adding that Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza and EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell had spoken about the issue over the phone.

Newsline: Venezuela president orders EU ambassador to leave country following sanctions

Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro ordered the EU ambassador Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa to leave the country within 72 hours. Her expulsion came hours after the EU placed sanctions on 11 Venezuelan officials for “undermining democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela.” (https://www.jurist.org/news/2020/07/venezuela-president-orders-eu-ambassador-to-leave-country-following-sanctions/) The sanctions are against those who were “responsible notably for acting against the democratic functioning of the National Assembly,” specifically in the removal of the democratically elected congressional president Juan Guaidó and his subsequent replacement by Maduro’s ally Luis Parra. Despite his removal, Guaidó has maintained the international support of the US and the EU. The sanctions also stated that those included on the involved in “politically motivated prosecutions and creating obstacles to a political and democratic solution to the crisis in Venezuela, as well as serious violations of human rights and restrictions of fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of press and speech.” With the 11 new additions to the list, the new total number of those sanctioned is brought to 36 individuals affected by “a travel ban and an asset freeze.” In a broadcast on state television, Maduro reportedly said, “If they can’t respect Venezuela, then they should leave it.” He also added that “A plane can be loaned for her [Pedrosa] to leave,” because Venezuela’s air space is currently closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The EU has not yet provided any formal comment on the situation. Pedrosa has not yet left the country.

Newsline: Protectors of the Venezuelan Embassy declare victory after federal charges are dropped

Federal charges against the four protectors of the Venezuelan Embassy, who defended the building in Washington DC against violent opposition crowds for several weeks between April 10 and May 16 of 2019, were completely dropped in a case that was brought directly by prosecutors of the Trump administration. After several months of proceedings that produced a mistrial in February 2020, the four activists expressed in a public statement that “Today’s sentence marks yet another victory in the effort to protect the Venezuelan Embassy. The Embassy Protection Collective broke through the blockade and got supplies to the people inside; the people inside prevented the coup supporters from staying in the embassy; the embassy was not turned over to Guaidó—it remains empty today—and now the federal charges have been dropped.” (http://www.coha.org/protectors-of-the-venezuelan-embassy-declare-victory-after-federal-charges-are-dropped/) The federal charges the US Government prosecutors were seeking, “interfering with certain protective functions,” were dropped entirely. The defenders were found guilty of a minor charge, “incommoding,” which corresponds to “causing a disturbance,” and falls under local DC jurisdiction. These charges resulted in a penalty of six months’ probation and a $500 fine. Under the federal charges, the defenders were risking one year in jail and up to $100,000 in fines. Last February, Trump administration prosecutors were unable to convince the jury that retired nurse practitioner David Paul, lawyer Kevin Zeese, pediatrician Margaret Flowers and academic Dr. Adrienne Pine, broke any law during their stay at the Venezuelan Embassy while protecting it by request of the legitimate Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro.

Newsline: France accuses Venezuela of harassing Caracas embassy, summons envoy

France has summoned Venezuela’s envoy over accusations President Nicolas Maduro’s government has been harassing its embassy in Caracas, including by cutting water and electricity to the ambassador’s residence, diplomats said on Thursday. France is among dozens of nations which do not recognise Maduro’s disputed 2018 re-election and consider opposition leader Juan Guaido to be Venezuela’s rightful president. Maduro has previously accused French ambassador Romain Nadal of meddling in internal affairs, and diplomats say the services to his home in Caracas have been cut since the start of May. “France strongly condemns the measures taken in recent days, which hinder the normal functioning of our diplomatic mission in Caracas,” deputy foreign ministry spokesman Olivier Gauvin said in a statement, adding that the measures contravened the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. (https://www.france24.com/en/20200514-france-accuses-venezuela-of-harassing-caracas-embassy-summons-envoy) “French officials expect these measures to be rescinded without delay in order to restore normal operations at our diplomatic mission.”

Newsline: Venezuela’s opposition leader Guaido taking refuge in European embassy after coup attempt

Diosdado Cabello, the number two man in the Venezuelan government said opposition leader Juan Guaido is taking refuge in a European embassy to avoid arrest by the prosecutor’s office. “He has already chosen the embassy where he wants to go, it is European. He knows what I am talking about because he already sent some suitcases,” Cabello said during a television show. “What will those suitcases have?” (https://nation.com.pk/08-May-2020/venezuela-s-opposition-leader-guaido-taking-refuge-in-european-embassy-after-coup-attempt) Guaido is accused by the Nicolas Maduro government of being linked to a failed raid and several attempts at a “coup d’état” in the last two years, for which he was called to testify before the prosecutor’s office last March but did not appear. The government said the raids that led to the capture of two American “mercenaries” were intended to assassinate Maduro. Maduro said the attack led to 15 arrests and eight fatalities by state security forces. He described it as a plot coordinated with Washington to enter the country via the Caribbean coast to oust him.

Newsline: Brazil’s top court blocks Bolsonaro move to expel Venezuelan diplomats

A Supreme Court judge issued an injunction on Saturday suspending for 10 days a decision by Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro to expel Venezuela’s 30 diplomats and consular staff. Bolsonaro and Brazil’s Foreign Ministry had given Venezuela until Saturday to remove its diplomats in the latest chapter of worsening relations between the ideologically opposed neighbors. Justice Luis Roberto Barroso took up an injunction request from a Workers Party lawmaker that argued the expulsion could violate Brazil’s Constitution, international agreements on human rights and the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. Bolsonaro said in a Twitter post that he had decided on the “compulsory withdrawal of Venezuelan diplomatic corps” and he criticized the injunction sought by lawmaker Paulo Pimenta. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-venezuela/brazils-top-court-blocks-bolsonaro-move-to-expel-venezuelan-diplomats-idUSKBN22E0VG) Barroso said the immediate ejection of the diplomats in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic countered humanitarian principles. The consular personnel are based in the cities of Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Manaus, Belem and Boa Vista. Brazil withdrew the remainder of its diplomats from Caracas on April 17 and the Bolsonaro government had expected Venezuela to do the same by May 2, citing a verbal agreement on a reciprocal move to close each countries’ missions, Brazilian officials said. But Venezuela’s leftist government said in a statement on Thursday that there had been no such negotiation and that its diplomats would stay put. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza accused Brazil in a Twitter post of violating international law by forcing its diplomatic personnel to leave.

Newsline: Brazil pulls diplomats from Venezuela Embassy

Brazil’s right-wing government has begun to pull its diplomats out of the embassy and consulate in Caracas as it moves to downgrade relations with Venezuela’s leftist government. Instructions published in the official gazette removed five diplomats and 11 members of consular staff in Caracas, including Consul General Elza de Castro and two minister counselors at the embassy. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-brazil/brazil-pulls-diplomats-from-venezuela-embassy-idUSKBN20S2TS) Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has not broken off relations with Venezuela as other governments in the hemisphere have, including Canada, because Brazilian diplomats and military officers have wanted to keep a door open.

Newsline: Venezuelan embassy in Washington reopens amid criticism

After evicting the Embassy Protectors, the Venezuelan embassy in Washington D.C. reopened yesterday under new ownership, as new “Ambassador” Carlos Vecchio and other allies of U.S.-supported anti-president Juan Guaidó moved into the building. Yet despite the façade of normalcy, there were a number of problems with the situation in the plush Georgetown district of the capital. Firstly, the “ambassador” was neither appointed nor even recognized by the government of Venezuela, only by the United States, who attempted to overthrow democratically elected President Nicolas Maduro at least four times in 2019 (each with less success than the last). Secondly, the embassy is not able to carry out any normal functions, such as granting visas. (https://www.mintpressnews.com/copy-of-venezuelan-embassy-washington-reopens/265111/) Thirdly, the entrance was surrounded by antiwar activists, protesting its reopening as a farce. Even the police officer guarding the property could see the bizarre nature of the situation, telling journalist Anya Parampil on camera “it’s not an actual working embassy.

Newsline: Case Against Venezuela Embassy Protectors Ends in Mistrial in Washington

The case against activists who were arrested last April while they were staging a weeks-long protest at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C., ended in a mistrial after a hung jury. (https://www.democracynow.org/2020/2/17/headlines/case_against_venezuela_embassy_protectors_ends_in_mistrial) The four activists were staying at the embassy at the behest of the Venezuelan government to prevent its takeover by U.S.-backed supporters of opposition leader Juan Guaidó. Margaret Flowers, one of the embassy protectors, after the mistrial was declared, said: “We’re very happy with this verdict. Of course, we would have been happier with an acquittal. But, for today, we remain innocent, as we are. And we appreciate the tremendous amount of support that we’ve received from people here coming to the trial, as well as people around the world sending us messages of solidarity. La lucha continua.”