Vovan and Lexus, Russian telephone pranksters known for their trolling of politicians from around the world, have struck again, targeting US special representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams to find out more about the US-backed effort to unseat that country's legitimate government. Sputnik got ahold of the full audio from the talks.
Posing as Swiss President Ueli Maurer, who also serves as the country's finance minister, the pranksters contacted Abrams on two occasions – in mid-February and early March, speaking to him for over 23 minutes about Swiss policy on the ongoing effort to freeze the Venezuelan government's assets as part of broader plans to replace President Nicolas Maduro with US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido.
The highlight of the pair of conversations was when 'Maurer' asked Abrams about the chances of Washington following through with its threat to use military force to topple Maduro. Here is what he revealed:
"You know, we are not going to do that. Unless the regime does something completely crazy like attacking the US embassy. But our information suggests that people in the regime and in the military are actually nervous about a US invasion. And we think it is useful to keep them nervous, which is one reason why we will not say publicly 'no, no, no, this will never happen.'"
"In private briefings to members of Congress, this is exactly what I say to them, [that] 'we are not trying to make you in Congress nervous. We are trying to make the Venezuelan military nervous. And we think that it is a mistake tactically to give them endless reassurances that there will never be American military action.' But I can tell you this is not what we're doing. What we're doing is what you see – financial pressure, economic pressure, diplomatic pressure, political pressure," Abrams said.
"Tell me if you would about the confidentiality questions here. For example, if you meet next week with representatives of Guaido in the national assembly and you say to them 'we have blocked this account or that account', are they then free to not only access the account, but are they free to announce things?" Abrams asked.
When the pranksters assured him that the answer was 'yes', the representative said he "didn't realise that," adding that "that's obviously great, frankly it's a great help to Guiado."
In what might be construed as a veiled threat, the Trump official also warned that because the US and dozens of its allies have now declared that the "Maduro regime" is "an illegitimate regime," there was now a "risk for any Swiss bank that hands those assets over."
"There is the risk of future litigation from the future legitimate government of Venezuela that the bank allowed those assets to be, in essence, stolen," Abrams explained. At this point, a diplomat from the US embassy in Caracas who was also on the line chimed in, saying that even without litigation, dealing with Venezuelan government "comes with high reputational risks."
Ukrainian and now Venezuelan Crisis'
Posted 06 March 2019 - 08:57 AM
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Posted 11 March 2019 - 07:53 AM
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Despite a massive blackout that has plunged most of embattled Venezuela into darkness, a Palestinian delegation of doctors continued its efforts this week to provide aid in the capital of Caracas.
Sent by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a team of 16 doctors arrived Feb. 28 on a monthlong mission to perform free surgeries there, where a struggle for the presidency has thrown the country into chaos. The blackout struck March 7 and continued today, worsening the situation.
Meanwhile, Osama al-Najjar, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority (PA) Ministry of Health in Ramallah, the West Bank, said the medical team includes physicians specializing in general surgery, vascular surgery, orthopedic surgery, pediatrics, and gynecology and obstetrics, in addition to anesthesia and recovery specialists.
He told Al-Monitor the delegation is distributed over three hospitals in Caracas and, before the blackout, planned to carry out six specialized surgeries per day.
The doctors took with them medical equipment, medicine and medical consumables for the operating rooms and emergency departments, at the request of the Venezuelan Ministry of Health.
“The medical delegation’s mission comes as a message of loyalty to the Venezuelan people, and the leaders who stand with the Palestinian people,” Najjar said. “It is a humanitarian message to all the countries of the world that Palestine can offer support to any friendly country that needs support and assistance.”
He noted that Maduro has shown distinctive and supportive positions toward the Palestinian people. “We hope this medical delegation will be a message of support to him," Najjar said.
Posted 13 March 2019 - 12:09 PM
A September 2010 memo by a US-funded soft power organization that helped train Venezuelan coup leader Juan Guaido and his allies identifies the potential collapse of the country’s electrical sector as “a watershed event” that “would likely have the impact of galvanizing public unrest in a way that no opposition group could ever hope to generate.”
The memo has special relevance today as Guaido moves to exploit nationwide blackouts caused by a major failure at the Simon Bolivar Hydroelectric Plant at Guri dam – a crisis that Venezuela’s government blames on US sabotage.
It was authored by Srdja Popovic of the Center for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS), a Belgrade-based “democracy promotion” organization funded by the US government that has trained thousands of US-aligned youth activists in countries where the West seeks regime change.
CANVAS is a spinoff of Otpor, a Serbian protest group founded by Srdja Popovic in 1998 at the University of Belgrade. Otpor, which means “resistance” in Serbian, was the student group that worked alongside US soft power organizations to mobilize the protests that eventually toppled the late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.
CANVAS has been funded largely through the National Endowment for Democracy, a CIA cut-out that functions as the US government’s main arm of promoting regime change. According to leaked internal emails from Stratfor, an intelligence firm known as the “shadow CIA,” CANVAS “may have also received CIA funding and training during the 1999/2000 anti-Milosevic struggle.”
A leaked email from a Stratfor staffer noted that after they ousted Milosevic, “the kids who ran OTPOR grew up, got suits and designed CANVAS… or in other words a ‘export-a-revolution’ group that sowed the seeds for a NUMBER of color revolutions. They are still hooked into U.S. funding and basically go around the world trying to topple dictators and autocratic governments (ones that U.S. does not like .”
Stratfor subsequently revealed that CANVAS “turned its attention to Venezuela” in 2005, after training opposition movements that led pro-NATO regime change operations across Eastern Europe.
A key to Chavez's current weakness is the decline in the electricity sector. There is the grave possibility that some 70 percent of the country's electricity grid could go dark as soon as April 2010. Water levels at the Guris dam are dropping, and Chavez has been unable to reduce consumption sufficiently to compensate for the deteriorating industry. This could be the watershed event, as there is little that Chavez can do to protect the poor from the failure of that system. This would likely have the impact of galvanizing public unrest in a way that no opposition group could ever hope to generate. At that point in time, an opposition group would be best served to take advantage of the situation and spin it against Chavez and towards their needs. Alliances with the military could be critical because in such a situation of massive public unrest and rejection of the presidency, malcontent sectors of the military will likely decide to intervene, but only if they believe they have sufficient support. This has been the pattern in the past three coup attempts. Where the military thought it had enough support, there was a failure in the public to respond positively (or the public responded in the negative), so the coup failed.
Edited by amor de cosmos, 13 March 2019 - 12:11 PM.
Posted 15 March 2019 - 08:03 AM
HOUSTON (Reuters) - Venezuelan congress head Juan Guaido is preparing a groundbreaking reversal of late President Hugo Chavez’s energy industry nationalization, allowing private companies a bigger role in its oilfields and shrinking state-run PDVSA, according to opposition advisers and a draft seen by Reuters.
To Guaido, the self-declared interim president seeking to oust President Nicolas Maduro, the proposal is vital to reverse the collapse of the OPEC-member nation’s oil industry.
Oil provides 90 percent of Venezuela’s export revenue, and such a move could win Guaido support among foreign energy companies to help finance a desperately-needed rebuilding, after crude production has fallen to a seven-decade low.
“We need to change the current framework ... we need to open up the oil industry to private investment,” said Ricardo Hausmann, Guaido’s delegate to the Inter-American Development Bank. Speaking at an energy conference in Houston, Hausmann said that PDVSA’s role had to be limited due to its operational and financial weakness.
Neither PDVSA nor the Information Ministry replied to a request for comment.
Guaido’s team is proposing a variety of exploration and production contracts to allow private companies for the first time in decades to operate oilfields individually and in partnership with PDVSA. Private companies could also apply to operate oil refineries and retail service stations under the draft proposal.
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, who has urged Maduro to resign, had called for opening the energy industry to foreign operators. “It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela,” he told Fox News in late January.
Posted 16 March 2019 - 08:41 AM
QUESTION: If it matters, does the U.S. view that as constitutional under their system?
MR ABRAMS: Yes. I mean, we’re taking the – the National Assembly is the only legitimate democratic institution left in Venezuela, and their interpretation of the constitution, as you know, is that as of the date of this alleged term for Maduro, the presidency is vacant. But they have also said that that 30-day period starts when Maduro goes.
QUESTION: So Juan Guaido is the interim president of an interim that doesn’t exist yet?
MR ABRAMS: The 30-day end to his interim presidency starts counting. Because he’s not in power, that’s the problem. Maduro is still there. So they have decided that they will count that from when he actually is in power and Maduro’s gone. I think it’s logical.
QUESTION: So then he really isn’t interim president, then?
MR ABRAMS: He is interim president, but he’s not --
QUESTION: With no power.
MR ABRAMS: -- able to exercise the powers of the office because Maduro still is there.
QUESTION: So their interpretation is that until and unless he actually has the power to run the country, he’s not actually the interim president?
MR ABRAMS: No. Their interpretation is that the constitution requires a 30-day interim period, but it – those 30 days should not be counted while Maduro is still there exercising the powers of his former office.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is considering imposing financial sanctions that could prohibit Visa Inc , Mastercard Inc and other financial institutions from processing transactions in Venezuela, a senior Trump administration official said on Thursday.
The move, which has not been finalized, would represent another step in tightening the financial noose on the government of President Nicolas Maduro and his supporters.
The sanctions would be targeted at the elite and groups loyal to Maduro, including members of the military, armed gangs and Cubans operating in Venezuela, while aiming to spare ordinary Venezuelans.
“The purpose of these sanctions is to continue to deprive the illegitimate Maduro regime of access to funds and deny their ability to continue stealing from the Venezuelan people,” the official said.
Posted Yesterday, 08:19 AM
CARACAS (Reuters) - Citigroup Inc plans to sell several tons of gold placed as collateral by Venezuela’s central bank on a $1.6 billion loan after the deadline for repurchasing them expired this month, sources said, a setback for President Nicolas Maduro’s efforts to hold onto the country’s fast-shrinking reserves.
Maduro’s government has since 2014 used financial operations known as gold swaps to use its international reserves to gain access to cash after a slump in oil revenues left it struggling to obtain hard currency.
In the past two years, however, it has struggled to recover its collateral.
Under the terms of the 2015 deal with Citigroup’s Citibank, Venezuela was due to repay $1.1 billion of the loan on March 11, according to four sources familiar with the situation. The remainder of the loan comes due next year.
Citibank plans to sell the gold held as a guarantee - which has a market value of roughly $1.358 billion - to recover the first tranche of the loan and will deposit the excess of roughly $258 million in a bank account in New York, two of the sources said.
The ability of Maduro’s government to repay the loans have been complicated by the South American country’s dire economic situation as well as financial sanctions imposed by the United States and some European nations.
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