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
- lanforod likes this
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 21 March 2019 - 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.
Posted 24 March 2019 - 05:20 PM
CARACAS, March 24. /TASS/. More than $30 billion disappeared from Venezuela’s foreign accounts in the past two months, Venezuelan Minister for Communication and Information Jorge Rodgriguez told reporters in Caracas.
"In the past two months, over $30 billion were stolen," he was quoted as saying by Venezuela’s state TV.
The official accused Washington of ordering to seize Venezuela’s assets.
"Assets, which Venezuela has in various banks, are being withdrawn. This is carried out under direct orders from the [US President Donald Trump’s] administration," he said.
The minister’s statement came shortly after opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself the country’s acting president in January, said that in an interview to Reuters that "the diplomatic pressure [on the country’s government] has worked, the economic pressure and the pressure on assets have worked." "They [Maduro’s government] are isolated, alone, they are falling apart day by day," he added.
Sanctions like "Darth Vader"
“The effect of the sanctions is continuing and cumulative. It’s sort of like in Star Wars when Darth Vader constricts somebody’s throat, that’s what we are doing to the regime economically,” said one senior Trump administration official who briefed a small group of reporters on Friday.
While the impact of the banking sanctions was not immediately clear, several experts consulted by Univision aid they would surely have a chilling effect on international financial dealings with Venezuela, potentially closing Maduro off from much needed cash flow from oil exports. Venezuela has the world’s largest proven reserves of oil and gas and relies on its petroelum exports for 90 percent of its income.
“It sounds like they want to make Venezuela radioactive,” said Russ Dallen, managing director of Caracas Capital, a Venezuela-based boutique investment bank. “They want to choke off the money flow,” he added.
Dallen noted that several large private Venezuelan banks operate in the United States, including Banco Mercantil and Banesco, but they were not targeted by Friday's announcement.
"These new sanctions will surely have a chilling effect on anyone with financial dealings in Venezuela," said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas. "However, the impact could be muted somewhat by forcing some banking transactions to go underground making them harder to track," he added.
Posted 25 March 2019 - 07:54 PM
Two Russian military aircraft carrying food/medicine/supplies and 100 troops along with the Russian Chief of staff of the ground arrived in Venezuela a couple of days ago.
This is going to go well.
Posted 26 March 2019 - 07:37 AM
you’d be foolish not to try. especially with a resource rich country like that.
Edited by Victoria Watcher, 26 March 2019 - 07:38 AM.
Posted 29 March 2019 - 08:17 AM
The Venezuelan government on Thursday said it has barred opposition leader Juan Guaido from holding public office for 15 years, though the National Assembly leader responded soon afterward that he would continue his campaign to oust President Nicolas Maduro.
The announcement by state comptroller Elvis Amoroso, a close ally of Maduro, cited alleged irregularities in the financial records of Guaido and reflected a tightening of government pressure on an opposition movement backed by the United States, Canada and dozens of other countries.
Guaido, who was elected to the assembly in 2015, has taken 90 international trips without accounting for the origin of the estimated $94,000 US in expenses, Amoroso said.
He also accused the opposition leader of harming Venezuela through his interactions with foreign governments, dozens of which support Guaido's claim that he is interim president of the country.
Posted 02 April 2019 - 08:53 AM
Venezuela’s Supreme Court has called for opposition leader Juan Guaido to be stripped of his parliamentary immunity, in a move that could soon lead to his imprisonment.
On Monday, Supreme Court Justice Maikel Moreno said Guaido should be prosecuted for violating a travel ban, after the National Assembly leader toured several Latin American countries a few weeks ago.
The pro-government Constituent Assembly is expected to back the request over the coming days.
It comes at a time when Guaido and President Nicolas Maduro are locked in a battle for power in the oil-rich, but cash-poor, country.
The court ruling fueled has fears that Guaido could soon face arrest at the direction of Maduro. However, analysts told CNBC on Tuesday that such a move remained unlikely given the threat of U.S. military intervention.
The Supreme Court has already banned Guaido from holding office for a period of 15 years and arrested his chief of staff on terrorism charges.
- Victoria Watcher likes this
Posted 06 April 2019 - 02:40 PM
Posted 15 April 2019 - 08:30 AM
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada expanded sanctions against the Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro on Monday, according to a statement from Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, targeting an additional 43 people close to the disputed leader.
While the statement did not give names, it said they were “high ranking officials of the Maduro regime, regional governors and/or directly implicated in activities undermining democratic institutions”.
The latest meeting of the Lima group is being held after more than three million Venezuelans have fled hyperinflation, food and medicine shortages and political crisis.
“The Maduro dictatorship must be held accountable for this crisis and depriving Venezuelans of their most basic rights and needs,” Freeland said in a statement. “Canada is committed to supporting the peaceful restoration of constitutional democracy in Venezuela.”
Although most Western nations, including the United States, have recognized Guaido as interim head of state, Russia, China and Cuba have stood by Maduro.
Edited by amor de cosmos, 15 April 2019 - 08:32 AM.
Posted 18 April 2019 - 09:37 AM
The Inter-American Development Bank is quietly circulating an analysis that foresees an up to $48 billion infusion of capital into the Venezuelan economy should President Nicolás Maduro be removed from office. A pair of confidential documents, both called “Venezuela: Challenges and Opportunities,” outlines a four-year plan to open the country’s beleaguered economy to foreign corporations through privatization, structural reforms, and public-private partnerships.
The documents — slide decks that were obtained by The Intercept — are circulating in an 11-slide summarized version and a 27-slide full version, both classified as “confidential.” The author is marked in the first slides of both presentations as the bank’s secretary, who is responsible for organizing discussions between the bank, governments, and private companies. The presentations, which are dated March 15, are addressed to executive directors of the Inter-American Development Bank and IDB Invest, the bank’s investment arm aimed at lending to private companies.
Founded in 1959, the IDB offers financing and technical assistance for infrastructure, health, and education projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. The bank is owned by 48 countries: 26 borrowing member countries and 22 nonborrowing member countries. Currently, the five largest shareholders are the U.S., with 30 percent of voting shares; Argentina and Brazil, with 11.2 percent each; Mexico, with 7.2 percent; and Japan, which has 5 percent of voting shares.
The Maduro regime has long claimed that the country’s economic collapse is the result of a capital crunch driven by sanctions and a coordinated financial assault by the United States for the purposes of undermining and overthrowing the socialist government. The emergence of the IDB-led plan will only heighten those suspicions.
The proposal for international largesse could be a boon to an incoming administration. If all went according to plan, the improvements in Venezuelans’ daily lives would allow opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaidó, or another incoming president, to claim a victory — by benefiting from international assistance that is being denied to the current leadership. Meanwhile, Venezuela would be stripped of its public assets.
Notably, the IDB documents obtained by The Intercept lay out what the bank calls “priority actions”: eliminating obstacles for private companies, financing international trade, and establishing new legislation to re-privatize government-owned companies.
The proposed infusion of cash laid out in the IDB plan would serve as a carrot to induce foreign governments and business leaders to support the U.S.-led push to overthrow Maduro. The plan calls for $4.5 billion in the first year to repair basic infrastructure, such as electricity, water supply, and transportation. The figures, the bank stresses, do not include “private investments in the oil and energy sectors.”
The infusion of capital would have three specific goals, the documents say: “stability,” with the normalization of food stocks and health and education services; “execution” of basic infrastructure repairs; and institutional reforms aimed at “reversing the brain drain.” Professionals have been fleeing the country in droves and a recent nationwide blackout was likely exacerbated by the exodus of expertise needed to keep basic government services running.
Edited by amor de cosmos, 18 April 2019 - 09:39 AM.
Posted 24 April 2019 - 08:42 AM
Venezuelan authorities have arrested five people and are seeking to extradite three more for “electric sabotage” that they blame for rolling blackouts over the past month.
The government has identified 19 saboteurs responsible for power cuts beginning March 7, when much of the nation was plunged into darkness for nearly a week, Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said in a televised address Tuesday. Experts have said the outages are caused by neglected maintenance, and Rodriguez provided no proof for his assertions that they were intentional.
President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist regime alleges that two “cybernetic attacks” paralyzed Venezuela’s main hydroelectric dam last month. Rodriguez said distribution systems have since experienced 45 “minor attacks” that include direct sabotage of infrastructure and brush fires set to damage power lines. Rodriguez said the government was close to “permanently stabilizing electricity service.”
Posted 26 April 2019 - 08:17 AM
Caracas, April 25, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The Washington DC-based Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) published a report Thursday on the effects of US sanctions against Venezuela.
The 27-page paper was authored by economists Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs, who determined that sanctions have “inflicted very serious harm to human life” in Venezuela.
“The sanctions are depriving Venezuelans of lifesaving medicines, medical equipment, food, and other essential imports,” Weisbrot, Co-Director of CEPR, said in a press release. For his part, Sachs added, “American sanctions are deliberately aiming to wreck Venezuela’s economy and thereby lead to regime change.”
Weisbrot and Sachs pointed out in the report that sanctions “would fit the definition of collective punishment of the civilian population as described in both the Geneva and Hague international conventions, to which the US is a signatory.”
While the legal groundwork for sanctions was laid by President Obama’s 2015 executive order declaring Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to US national security, Washington significantly escalated its unilateral coercive measures in August 2017 when the Venezuelan government and state oil company PDVSA were cut off from financial markets.
Based on a number of different studies, the report estimates that sanctions were responsible for 40,000 deaths in 2017-2018, and that there are a further 300,000 people at risk due to lack of access to medicines. This includes “80,000 HIV patients who have not had antiretroviral treatment since 2017, 16,000 people who need dialysis, 16,000 people with cancer, and 4 million with diabetes and hypertension.”
The report likewise argues that sanctions have contributed to a deterioration of Venezuelans’ caloric intake and to malnutrition, with food imports down to $2.46 billion in 2018, from $11.2 billion in 2013. The authors warn that the decline in oil production caused by sanctions could shrink this number even further in 2019.
Weisbrot and Sachs stress that sanctions are illegal under the Organization of American States’ Charter, while pointing out that US officials have explicitly said that their goal is the overthrow of the Maduro government.
“The sanctions also violate US law,” they go on to say, since the executive orders are based on the premise that the US faces a “state of emergency” as a result of the “unusual and extraordinary threat” posed by Venezuela. “This also has no basis in fact,” they add.
Posted 30 April 2019 - 10:24 AM
Shit's going down in Venezuela. Armored trucks were running over protestors.
Posted 30 April 2019 - 04:26 PM
Erik Prince - the founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater and a prominent supporter of US President Donald Trump - has been pushing to deploy a private army to help topple Venezuela's socialist president, Nicholas Maduro, four sources with knowledge of the effort told Reuters.
Over the last several months, the sources said, Prince has sought investment and political support for such an operation from influential Trump supporters and wealthy Venezuelan exiles.
In private meetings in the United States and Europe, Prince sketched out a plan to field up to 5,000 soldiers-for-hire on behalf of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, according to two sources with direct knowledge of Prince's pitch.
One source said Prince has conducted meetings about the issue as recently as mid-April.
Posted 16 May 2019 - 08:55 AM
A major right-wing opposition leader in Venezuela has acknowledged that her country “is not a dictatorship,” calling it a “huge error” to claim otherwise. She also conceded that the only way the government in Caracas can realistically be toppled is through international “humanitarian intervention.”
María Corina Machado has a close relationship to the US government, which has funded her opposition work. She has campaigned for years to overthrow Venezuela’s leftist government, and was identified as one of the four main leaders of the US-led coup attempt initiated on January 23.
But Machado has criticized other opposition figures for characterizing the government of elected President Nicolás Maduro as a “dictatorship.”
“It is not a dictatorship,” Machado insisted in an interview on Argentina’s corporate cable network A24. “And treating it as a dictatorship is a huge error. And that is why it [the coup attempt] has failed.”
“In Venezuela, there is an unconventional war,” she added. “Just because some people do not want to recognize this does not mean it is not the truth.”
When A24 host Rolando Graña tried to compare Venezuela to Latin American dictatorships of the 1980s, Machado again disagreed, stating, “We cannot compare the transition from the traditional dictatorships of Latin America [during the Cold War] with what is happening in Venezuela.”
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