Venezuela marks 100 days of unrest, at a glance

Sun, 2017-07-09 03:00

CARACAS, Venezuela: Anti-government protests in Venezuela hit the symbolic mark of 100 days on Sunday with a grim record of at least 92 dead and more than 1,500 injured. The decision Saturday to release opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez from prison and place him under house arrest has once again stirred hopes that socialist President Nicolas Maduro and his opponents could sit down for talks aimed at ending the bloodshed.
Here’s a look at how one of Latin America’s richest nations descended into chaos and the prospects for resolution.
The opposition gained control of the National Assembly in 2015 by a landslide amid mounting frustration with Maduro’s handling of the economy, spiraling crime and food shortages. After a year of intense feuding, in late March the government-stacked Supreme Court issued a ruling stripping the legislature of its last powers. The decision was later reversed amid a storm of international criticism but it had already touched off anger among the government’s opponents and triggered street protests that still occur almost daily.
Then Maduro did something to anger his opponents even more: He called on May 1 for rewriting Venezuela’s constitution. A vote to elect delegates to the special assembly to rewrite the charter is scheduled for July 30. Maduro insists rewriting the constitution is the only way to restore peace, but the opposition views it as a ruse to install a Cuba-like dictatorship. They have called for a symbolic vote of their own on July 16 to reject Maduro’s plans.

One reason that mistrust between the government and opposition is running so high is because negotiations last year ended with little to show for them. Those talks were sponsored by the Vatican and a group of former leaders of other nations led by ex-Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain, who helped broker Lopez’s release.
To sit down again, the opposition is demanding Maduro honor commitments that it says he made during the previous round of talks, including freedom for political prisoners and a schedule for gubernatorial elections that were postponed last year. It’s less clear what the government would bargain for besides an end to the unrest and political cover for some tough measures to get the economy back on its feet. Many also suspect that as Maduro’s grip on power weakens he and his inner circle will seek assurances that they won’t face prosecution in the event of a transition.

Last month, a police inspector stole a police helicopter and strafed the Supreme Court and another government building with gunfire and grenades. The surprise attack prompted concerns about a possible uprising by the military, which has traditionally been the arbiter of political disputes in Venezuela.
Since the protests began, more than 100 members of the military are believed to have been jailed for crimes ranging from theft of weapons to rebellion and treason — a high number that suggests the military’s support for the government may be wavering.
But while Maduro has repeatedly warned about attempts by what he says are US-backed agents to sow dissent within the military, there so far is little to suggest a mass revolt is underway. The late President Hugo Chavez and Maduro spent years winning over top military brass with bonuses in sought-after dollars, powerful government jobs and patronage.

Oil accounts for 96 percent of Venezuela’s export earnings and the plunge in world petroleum prices hit the government hard, leaving it owing money across the board, from foreign airlines to oil service companies. But every day Venezuela is paralyzed by protests it digs itself deeper into an economic hole that will be harder for Maduro or his successor to recover from.
The International Monetary Fund forecast the economy will contract 8 percent this year with inflation expected to soar to four digits next year.

Polls say 75 percent of Venezuelans want Maduro gone, but about 20 percent still back him. That is actually similar to the support enjoyed by leaders in Brazil, Chile and Colombia. More importantly, Maduro maintains a tight grip on almost every branch of government and institution, though support within his ruling socialist party is fraying.
The opposition has historically been divided by big egos and had a tough time connecting with poor people who still revere Chavez and his socialist revolution. But the opposition is more united than it has been in recent years. Both hardcore and moderate opposition leaders want to keep up street protests and push for new general elections.

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N. Korea warns of nuclear ‘tipping point’ over US bomber drill

Sun, 2017-07-09 07:45

SEOL: North Korea on Sunday lashed out at a live-fire drill the US and South Korea staged in a show of force against Pyongyang, accusing Washington of pushing the peninsula to the “tipping point” of nuclear war.
The allies held the rare live-fire drill as tensions grew over the peninsula following the North’s first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test held last week.
The test sparked global alarm as it suggested North Korea now possessed an ICBM capable of reaching Alaska, a major milestone for the reclusive, nuclear-armed state.
Saturday’s drill, designed to “sternly respond” to potential missile launches by the North, saw two US bombers destroy “enemy” missile batteries and South Korean jets mount precision strikes against underground command posts.
The North’s state-run Rodong newspaper accused Washington and Seoul of ratcheting up tensions with the drill, in an editorial titled “Don’t play with fire on a powder keg.”
“The US, with its dangerous military provocation, is pushing the risk of a nuclear war on the peninsula to a tipping point,” it said, describing the peninsula as the “world’s biggest tinderbox.”
During Saturday’s drill, long-range B-1B Lancer bombers reportedly flew close to the heavily-fortified border between two Koreas and dropped 2,000-pound (900 kilogram) bombs.
Pyongyang described the joint drill as a “dangerous military gambit of warmongers who are trying to ignite the fuse of a nuclear war on the peninsula.”
“A small misjudgment or error can immediately lead to the beginning of a nuclear war, which will inevitably lead to another world war,” it said.
Tension has been high as the US administration under President Donald Trump and the North’s regime under leader Kim Jong-Un have exchanged hostile rhetoric for months.
Tension further escalated after Tuesday’s ICBM test, a milestone in the North’s decades-long quest for weapons capable of reaching the US.
The impoverished, isolated country has staged five nuclear tests — including two last year — and has made a significant progress in its missile capability under Kim, who took power in 2011.
In another drill held after the ICBM test, US and South Korean troops fired ballistic missiles simulating an attack on the North’s leadership “as a strong message of warning,” the South’s military said at the time.
The US Missile Defense Agency said Friday it would soon test an anti-ballistic missile system in Alaska.

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Middle Easterners have managed to stuff almost every vegetable you can think of but I think malfouf, or stuffed cabbage, is their most genius creation! Malfouf is my absolute favourite stuffed dish, which is why I made sure to master it and it is now one of the most requested dishes by my family and guests. Various versions of the dish are made across the Middle East, including in the Levant, Egypt, Iraq and Turkey. Like many Middle Eastern dishes, each country, city and family has its own way of making the dish, and today I’ll be making my interpretation of the Levantine version. Malfouf has two meanings in Arabic, “cabbage” and “rolled”, and both words describe the dish perfectly. […]

CL <b>Crude Oil</b> Daily Analysis

Couple of expected targets to the downside are in place for Crude Oil if we break the $42 level. First, we will have the $39 and then the $37 @ the .618 …The post CL <b>Crude Oil</b> Daily Analysis appeared first on