Photo: AP, retrieved


Luis Almagro opened the 8th Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru. He spoke of how close the corrupt and the oppressor are; of how essential it is for the hemisphere to recover freedom and democracy; he spoke of remembering political prisoners, the families of the victims of repression, those who suffer from hunger and disease and those who can’t vote, “Because looking the other way is also corruption,” he said.

But the world turned and the summit lost notoriety when president Donald Trump announced an attack operation against Syria coordinated with the United Kingdom and France, to reduce chemical weapon capacities of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. Vice-president Mike Pence left the opening of the Summit, while Trump explained that Russia “failed to keep its promise” about the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria, restating that the goal of this operation was establishing “a strong deterrent against the production, propagation and use of chemical weapons.” On social media, most people wondered if Russia would retaliate against this military action, while others mused about how it would affect the celebration of the World Cup and some others discussed on this attack’s impact on oil prices, although Venezuela, with its dwindling output, wouldn’t be much affected.

Yesterday morning, before the UN Security Council, António Guterres cautioned about the risks of a military escalation in Syria, explaining that this country is the greatest threat for peace and security in the world.

A tweeted attack

Several journalists reported from Damascus the long columns of smoke in the east of the city. United Kingdom prime minister Theresa May said that there was no alternative but the use of force in Syrian territory. The attacks hit military bases and research centers. Emmanuel Macron said that the attack was motivated by the chemical weapon capacities of the Syrian regime. After the attack, Defense secretary James Mattis said that they avoided wounding Syrian civilians, urging “civilized nations” to unite and end the civil war in Syria, remarking that they’ve sent a strong message to Al Assad. Aside from chemical weapon development centers, they attacked places for storage of those weapons, claiming that they’ve stripped the Syrian regime of years of chemical weapons development. General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the attack was not coordinated with Russia and that they have no plans to attack Syria again. The Syrian President’s Office tweeted: “God’s souls will not be humiliated.” Later, Anatoli Antónov, Russian ambassador to the U.S., warned that these actions will have consequences.

And since we’re talking about soldiers

During the events commemorating April 13, 2002, Nicolás offered to broaden the reach of militias to fulfill the goal set by el finado and have a million milicianos for 2019, because “if we want to guarantee peace, we need the militia to keep playing its role.” Reasonable, huh? Nicolás claimed that “the right” keeps conspiring to implement a new Operation Condor against Venezuela, a statement which he’ll surely revise after the action against Syria. To reduce risks of sabotage in the May 20 election, he offered to deploy 300,000 National Guardsmen to guarantee peace, because according to him: “Venezuela wants more Revolution, more socialism.” Additionally, Defense minister Vladimir Padrino López headed a meeting in the Higher Bureau of the Sovereign Supply mission, to discuss plans to regulate the supply and distribution of food products that we’re neither producing nor importing. Without giving any details, Padrino López said that the government is preparing measures to overcome shortages and he had the nerve to claim: “Never had the country been so well-stocked in raw materials than in 2018.”

Broad powers

Nicolás granted “broad powers” to the Oil minister, so he can enact the changes in the industry and see if PDVSA increases its productive capacities with them. The minister will be able to create, suppress or made modifications to public sector companies, under a “Special Regime” effective until December 31, extendable for a year to manage and administrate the oil industry; and he will also be able to establish special staff recruitment rules and procedures by categories of products, goods and services. The decree also authorizes PDVSA to contract the purchase of crude and derivatives, work execution and ship freights using the price consultation scheme, “regardless of amount.” It also establishes direct contracts for the purchase of spare parts for oil drills, well services, pumping facilities, production stations, electric power systems, oil pipelines, gas pipelines, poliducts, and to build infrastructure.

By the way, the decree doesn’t mention current minister Manuel Quevedo, huh?

Abroad

  • Ecuadorian president Lenín Moreno confirmed yesterday the death of the journalistic team from newspaper El Comercio, kidnapped by FARC terrorists. He also ordered the restart of military and police operation in the border. The team of journalists was composed of Javier Ortega, photographer Paúl Rivas and the driver Efraín Segarra, and they were in the Ecuadorian province of Esmeraldas, reporting on the living conditions of the area’s inhabitants, highly affected by criminal gangs at the border.
  • Roraima state governor Suely Campos asked the Federal Tribunal of Brazil to temporarily close the border with Venezuela because the migrant crisis has overwhelmed their capacities and available resources. President Michel Temer replied that the closure is inappropriate because Brazil isn’t a country that closes its borders and he expects the Supreme Tribunal to decide based on that criteria.
  • Venezuela decided to request Guatemalan citizens for a tourist visa, as a measure of reciprocity. Guatemala replied that they respect the decision because: “Each country has the right to act as they see fit to guarantee their security, sovereignty and commerce.”
  • Airport authorities in Argentina arrested Venezuelan citizen Isabel Rangel Baron with 90,000 euros in cash. Rangel is a contractor for the Venezuelan Institute of Social Security (IVSS), co-owner of a group of companies benefitting for more than 10 years from Carlos Rotondaro’s management at the IVSS. She was barred from leaving the country and the money was confiscated until the Prosecutor’s Office investigates.
  • U.S. vice-president Mike Pence said that he’ll use his speech and his meetings at the Summit of the Americas to ask Latin America and the world to harden sanctions against Venezuela and to help keep the humanitarian crisis at bay.
  • After meeting with members of the opposition, Pence also announced $16 million in humanitarian aid for Venezuelans who have left the country, a contribution that will benefit UNHCR’s program in the region and the communities of Venezuelan refugees in Colombia and Brazil.
  • The Inter American Press Association expressed the “historic obligation” that American nations have to take concrete measures to accomplish a fast and irrevocable democratic transition in Venezuela and Cuba. The IAPA detailed that all the region’s governments have witnessed the “complete collapse of the freedom of expression and press in both nations”; they denounced the reiterative human rights violations committed by their governments and asked the development of “more drastic measures that prevent” Nicolás Maduro from holding on to power.

Several professional sectors expressed their support for the national protest called by doctors and health workers, set for next April 17 in all hospitals and healthcare centers in the country.

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