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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

#Venezuela's New Economic Tool Could Advance Negotiations @Stratfor

.... the government will likely try to
bring the more conciliatory segments of the opposition into some kind
of negotiation. This could weaken the protest movement by isolating the
more combative groups among the protesters from the movement's
leadership negotiating with the government. If Sicad II effectively
distributes foreign currency, it could provide the opposition's business
representatives with a reason for continuing negotiations. However, the
Maduro government will need to give the opposition's political leaders
-- including Capriles -- more concessions to bring them into talks. ... Maduro may need to make other moves, such as
releasing political prisoners, to bring a wider part of the opposition
coalition into negotiations. These are concessions he may not be able to

Venezuela's New Economic Tool Could Advance Negotiations


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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

#Venezuela’s Failing State by @LeopoldoLopez #OpEd @NYTimes

Jailed Venezuelan leader writes in the NY Times

Venezuela’s Failing State

Los Teques, Venezuela — As I compose these words from the Ramo Verde military prison outside Caracas, I am struck by how much Venezuelans have suffered.
For 15 years, the definition of “intolerable” in this country has declined by degrees until, to our dismay, we found ourselves with one of the highest murder rates in the Western Hemisphere, a 57 percent inflation rate and a scarcity of basic goods unprecedented outside of wartime.
Our crippled economy is matched by an equally oppressive political climate. Since student protests began on Feb. 4, more than 1,500 protesters have been detained, more than 30 have been killed, and more than 50 people have reported that they were tortured while in police custody. What started as a peaceful march against crime on a university campus has exposed the depth of this government’s criminalization of dissent.
I have been in prison for more than a month. On Feb. 12, I urged Venezuelans to exercise their legal rights to protest and free speech — but to do so peacefully and without violence. Three people were shot and killed that day. An analysis of video by the news organization Últimas Noticias determined that shots were fired from the direction of plainclothes military troops.
In the aftermath of that protest, President Nicolás Maduro personally ordered my arrest on charges of murder, arson and terrorism. Amnesty International said the charges seemed like a “politically motivated attempt to silence dissent.” To this day, no evidence of any kind has been presented.
Soon, more opposition mayors, elected by an overwhelming majority in December’s elections, will join me behind bars. Last week the government arrested the mayor of San Cristóbal, where the student protests began, as well as the mayor of San Diego, who has been accused of disobeying an order to remove protesters’ barricades. But we will not stay silent. Some believe that speaking out only antagonizes the ruling party — inviting Mr. Maduro to move more quickly to strip away rights — and provides a convenient distraction from the economic and social ruin that is taking place. In my view, this path is akin to a victim of abuse remaining silent for fear of inviting more punishment.
More important, millions of Venezuelans do not have the luxury of playing the “long game,” of waiting for change that never comes.
We must continue to speak, act and protest. We must never allow our nerves to become deadened to the steady abuse of rights that is taking place. And we must pursue an agenda for change.
The opposition leadership has outlined a series of actions that are necessary in order to move forward.
Victims of repression, abuse and torture, as well as family members of those who have died, deserve justice. Those who are responsible must resign. The pro-government paramilitary groups, or “colectivos,” that have tried to silence the protests through violence and intimidation must be disarmed.
All political prisoners and dissenters who were forced into exile by the government, as well as students who were jailed for protesting, must be allowed to return or be released. This should be followed by restoring impartiality to important institutions that form the backbone of civil society, including the electoral commission and the judicial system.
Continue reading the main story
In order to get our economy on the right footing, we need an investigation into fraud committed through our commission for currency exchange — at least $15 billion was funneled into phantom businesses and kickbacks last year, a move that has directly contributed to the inflationary spiral and severe shortages our country is experiencing.
Finally, we need real engagement from the international community, particularly in Latin America. The outspoken response from human rights organizations is in sharp contrast to the shameful silence from many of Venezuela’s neighbors in Latin America. The Organization of American States, which represents nations in the Western Hemisphere, has abstained from any real leadership on the current crisis of human rights and the looming specter of a failed state, even though it was formed precisely to address issues like these.
To be silent is to be complicit in the downward spiral of Venezuela’s political system, economy and society, not to mention in the continued misery of millions. Many current leaders in Latin America suffered similar abuses in their time and they should not be silent accomplices to the abuses of today.
For Venezuelans, a change in leadership can be accomplished entirely within a constitutional and legal framework. We must advocate for human rights; freedom of expression; the right to property, housing, health and education; equality within the judicial system, and, of course, the right of protest. These are not radical goals. They are the basic building blocks of society.
Leopoldo López is the former mayor of the Chacao district of Caracas and the leader of the Popular Will opposition party.

Venezuela’s Failing State -

Friday, March 14, 2014

@Tufts offers to pay students to take year off

What will they think of next? Tufts University will introduce a new “gap year” program this fall that will pay students to take a year off to travel, work, or volunteer. The program, in which Tufts would pay for things like housing and plane tickets, is to remove financial obstacles for less-wealthy students to see more of the world. The amount of money could add up to $30,000 or more. Other universities have aid programs for gap years, including Princeton and the University of North Carolina. Around 40,000 U.S. students were in a gap-year program in 2013, up 20 percent since 2006.

College offers to pay students to take year off - News Local Massachusetts -

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The chutzpah! #Putin Defends #Ukraine’s Jews, Slams Ukraine’s Jewish Oligarchs

The chutzpah!

Putin Defends Ukraine's Jews, Slams Ukraine's Jewish Oligarchs

Cites Ukraine's appointment of oligarchs as governors as reason for unrest
Yesterday morning, Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation, gave his first post-Crimea invasion press conference. What rapidly became apparent, as he slouched in a gilded hall studded with Russian flags, was that the combination of Putin's surreal interpretation of events with his lavishly baroque epistemology has given form to some bizarrely contradictory dualities in his worldview. He railed against a politicized judiciary selectively prosecuting the enemies of the chief executive, overlooking that it's exactly what the Russian Judiciary does routinely; he argued the change of government in Kiev was an armed coup, but the one in Crimea was entirely legitimate. The usage of force by Ukrainians is unjustified, but completely justified from the Russian side.

The Russian leader also insisted that Ukraine's deposed president, Viktor Yanukovych, retains authority as the country's elected head of state, but also described him as a corrupt failure whose political career was finished. Putin also admitted that he understood well popular demands for "cardinal changes in government" by Ukrainians—demands, he asserted, that simply stemmed from their "having become habituated to switching one thief and opportunist for another thief and opportunist." He spat out the word "opportunist" in disgust.

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