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cnn war propagandaVenezuela has revoked or denied press credentials for seven CNN journalists working in the country for what President Nicolas Maduro called “war propaganda” amid coverage of anti-government protests.

Before the conditions on credentials were announced, Maduro said he would eject CNN from the country if it did not “rectify” its coverage amid a spike in the unrest that has gripped Venezuela. According to officials, at least eight people have been killed since demonstrations mounted by the opposition turned violent last week.

“They want to show the world that there is a civil war in Venezuela,” Maduro said of CNN in a televised speech on Thursday.

He added that CNN was not showing “the people working, studying, building the homeland.”

“I’ve asked the [information] minister to tell CNN we have started the administrative process to remove them from Venezuela if they don’t rectify [their behavior],” Maduro said during the speech aimed at supporters, according to Reuters. “Enough! I won’t accept war propaganda against Venezuela.”

The pro-government audience applauded, chanting “Fuera! Fuera!” (“Out! Out!”)

The seven journalists – working for CNN International and CNN en Español – were notified later on Thursday about their credentials being revoked or denied. Despite the move, both entities said they will continue to broadcast from Venezuela.

Maduro did not mince words when describing how he viewed CNN’s coverage of demonstrations that have challenged his authority.

“A group of fascists with their aggressions want to take us away from peace,” Maduro said. “They are not going to do that. And we are going to show them.”

CNN has requested meetings with Venezuelan officials. Both CNN and CNN en Español were invited to a Maduro news conference scheduled for Friday afternoon.

“CNN has reported both sides of the tense situation in Venezuela, even with very limited access to government officials,” CNN en Español said in a statement, adding that at the time of the credentials announcement, they were seeking an interview with the president.

“We hope the government will reconsider its decision. Meanwhile, we will continue reporting on Venezuela in the fair, accurate and balanced manner we are known for.”

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro greets supporters during a rally in Caracas February 18, 2014.(Reuters / Miraflores Palace)

Local television networks have offered very little coverage of the protests, Reuters reported, leaving opposition leaders to use streaming websites on unreliable broadband to speak live to fellow Venezuelans.

Maduro ordered that Colombia-based network NTN24 be removed from Venezuelan cable after it showed live coverage of the demonstrations last week. The move was criticized by the likes of Reporters Without Borders.

Maduro, who was elected last year as the heir apparent following the death of long-time President Hugo Chavez, has accused the opposition – which he calls “fascists” – of fomenting a coup and inciting violence.

The majority of the opposition consists of middle class students who are frustrated with the country’s sputtering economy and soaring crime rate, and are seeking a regime change. They also allege that the recent presidential election was rigged for Maduro.

Venezuela’s ruling party, meanwhile, has long maintained that the US is playing a role in propping up the country’s opposition, and seeking to subvert the Maduro administration. That vitriol was sustained during Hugo Chavez’s tenure as the country’s leader; he often referred to an unsuccessful 2002 coup which heavily implicated US coordination.

Earlier this week, Venezuela expelled three US diplomats from the country, alleging they were working with opposition members against the government. The US State Department has denied the accusations.

The latest spout of violence came on the heels of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez’s surrender to government authorities during a large rally in Caracas. Lopez, who has recently become a rising star among Maduro opponents, is alleged to have played a role in the 2002 coup attempt.

Lopez, the Harvard educated 42-year-old leader of the Popular Will party and a former mayor, is being held responsible for the casualties that have resulted as demonstrators continue to clash with government forces. Though according to his lawyers, prosecutors have dropped the most serious charges of murder against him.

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maduro_floresVenezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has stated he will take “the most radical measures to protect our people’s economy” as a deadline for businesses to adhere to new price controls approaches.

“We will expropriate whatever needs to be expropriated,” the president said during a speech in Caracas amid commemorations of the 22nd anniversary of the 1992 failed coup d’état. The coup was led by Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez. Although he served prison time for the insurrection, Chavez’s popularity was bolstered, and he went on to win the 1998 presidential elections by a landslide.

Maduro has pledged to continue the socialist revolution started under Chavez. “I’m determined to make an economic revolution. Nobody, nothing will stop me,” Maduro added.

New Price Controls

During his address on Tuesday, Maduro declared that businesses have until 10 February to fully comply with new price controls.

The Law for the Control of Fair Costs, Prices and Profits came into effect nationwide on 23 January, but businesses were given a grace period to adhere to the new controls. Under the law, profit margins are restricted to a maximum of 30%, though specific regulations vary between sectors, products and geographic areas. The law also imposes new penalties for economic crimes such as hoarding and price speculation – both of which are punishable by up to a decade imprisonment.

Three new offences are also added under the law: economic destabilisation, unauthorised resale of certain products and a new category of corruption.

Other offences listed under the law include usury, product tampering, price tampering, smuggling and speculation.

Maduro urged the private sector to voluntarily comply with the new law by self-regulating prices.

“Next Monday, if companies are found violating the fair prices law, I will implement the most radical measures [yet],” the president warned.

However, within hours of the speech Venezuela’s largest commercial lobby group declared it’s planning a legal challenge to the new law.

Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce (Fedecamaras) president Jorge Roig stated that the law imposes undue restrictions on businesses.

“Not only it is unconstitutional, but also makes the situation of the country dramatically worse,” Roig stated, according to conservative newspaper El Universal.

“In a meeting of the board of directors, it was unanimously decided to take legal actions to request the annulment of the Law on Costs and Fair Prices,” he said.

Colombia and Venezuela cooperate to “crush” smugglers

Along with warning businesses, during his speech yesterday Maduro also declared that a “shock” plan would be launched to tackle smugglers.

“The Bolivarian National Armed Forces will continue to be deployed throughout the country, confronting the economic war that we have been attacked by since 2013,” Maduro stated.

The Venezuelan head of state said he is committed to ending “this problem that is affecting all of us Venezuelans”.

In the morning before his speech security forces uncovered a smuggler’s “warehouse with thousands of products, food and blankets” near the Colombian border, according to Maduro.

“The boss who was responsible has been arrested, and will pay with 14 years in prison,” Maduro stated.

30 tonnes of contraband flour and 110,000 litres of diesel fuel were also seized this week in the border state of Zulia, according to local police.

In a press release issued today, Zulia state deputy police chief Cesar Augusto Martínez stated the contraband was found in a municipality south of the state capital Maracaibo.

“It’s assumed that the fuel would have been transferred to a neighbouring country,” Martinez stated.

Tomorrow the government will meet with Colombian authorities to discuss strategies to counter smuggling on the shared border.

Maduro has stated he hopes to see the meeting produce tougher new measures to “crush the smugglers”.

Earlier this week the head of the National Assembly (AN) Diosdado Cabello stated that between 30 and 40 percent of Venezuela’s imported and domestically made food products are smuggled to Colombia.

“A bottle of water costs Bs10 in Venezuela, while when it goes to Colombia it costs Bs600,” Maduro said yesterday.

The president has labeled smugglers part of an “economic war” that he says is driving inflation and scarcity of consumer goods.

Products ranging from corn flour to dish washing soap have been scarce in some parts of the country in recent weeks.

Business groups including Fedecamaras have blamed currency controls for the shortages, claiming the government isn’t supplying out enough foreign cash for imports.

However, last week Maduro announced a government initiative to streamline imports.

The Estado Mayor de Abastecimiento (Supply Command) is an administrative task group mandated with overseeing improvements to Venezuela’s import process. Its members include the ministers of agriculture, food, industry, economics, finance and the head of the new consumer protection body, the National Superintendency for the Defence of Socioeconomic Rights (Sundde).

“The Supply Command will be installed to coordinate plans and actions needed,” Vice President  Jorge Arreaza tweeted on Monday.

SICAD cancelled this week

Maduro has also pledged to increase access to dollars for industries through the Complimentary System of Foreign Currency Acquirement (Sicad).

Although the government tightened access to official rate currency in January, Maduro stated that double the amount of cash would be offered this year in the government’s weekly Sicad dollar auctions.

Sicad has held regular currency auctions since last year, offering foreign currency at a rate of around Bs11.30 to the dollar, according to the latest figures. US$220 million was set to be up for offer at this week’s auction, until it was unexpectedly cancelled by the central bank yesterday.

“This determination owes to a series of anomalies and noncompliance with required procedures, which were detected after an exhaustive review of the orders,” the central bank stated in a brief press release.

No further details of the cause of the cancellation were provided.

Suppliers of paper and timber products, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, textiles and footwear had been invited to participate in this week’s auction.

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By Peter Simonenko 

The Communist Party of Ukraine expresses its condolences for the tragic loss of life during the armed clashes provoked by neo-fascists extremists on Hrushevskoho street in Kiev.

Responsibility for these deaths, for the bloodshed and violence rests in equal measure on those in power, which has brought the country to the brink, and on the leaders of the so-called opposition, the ultra-nationalist militant organizations and foreign politicians, who urge people to “radicalize the protests” and “fight to the bitter end.”

We demand that the government and leaders of the Maidan immediately remove from the streets of Kiev, Svoboda militants from across the country and other criminal elements, to stop the use of force, to ensure non-interference in the internal affairs of Ukraine by foreign powers and their representatives.

Any attempts to create parallel structures of power such as “People’s Parliament”, “interim president” and the like will only strengthen the opposition and create a real threat of escalating the conflict into Civil War. One part of the population will support the current government, and the other, the self-proclaimed opposition, which will inevitably lead to a final split of Ukraine.

The Communist Party is ready to present concrete proposals to resolve the situation.

We believe it is necessary:

1. Declare a referendum on the definition of Ukraine’s integration into foreign economic bodies.

2. To carry out political reform, eliminate the institution of the president and install a parliamentary republic, significantly expand the rights of territorial communities.

3. Adopt a new electoral law and return to a proportional system of elections of people’s deputies of Ukraine.

4. In order to overcome the administrative chaos and ensure strict control over the government and politicians, to establish an independent civilian body of  ”national control” by giving it the broadest powers.

5. Adopt judicial reform and institute elections of judges.

The Communist Party warned from the very beginning: the rejection of democratic mechanisms for solving social contradictions — the ban on a Ukrainian referendum, organized jointly by the government and the so-called opposition — could be catastrophic.

It is not too late, there can still be a peaceful solution to the political crisis. We the urge the people to condemn extremism, not to succumb to provocations, and demand constructive talks with the President, the leaders of political parties and public organizations.

The Communist Party of Ukraine declares that there is no other way to stop the escalation of violence and destruction of the country!

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time-for-battle1

 

Up close, Christodoulos Xiros does not come across as a menacing man – in many ways he still resembles the soft-spoken craftsman he once was. But this weekend, barely three weeks after absconding from the high-security Korydallos prison in Athens, the dark-eyed 56-year-old, a key member of the defunct 17 November terror group, has struck fear into the hearts of many across crisis-hit Greece.

 

In the space of five days, panic-stricken authorities have launched the biggest manhunt in modern times, placed a €4m bounty on his head – dead or alive – and thrown a security cordon around the capital not seen since the 2004 Olympics.

 

On Friday, as European justice ministers gathered in the country that currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, there were sharpshooters on the roofs, sniffer dogs roaming the streets and more than 2,000 riot police outside government offices and hotels.

 

“I am worried that soon there will be an attack,” said former foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis, giving voice to the fears stalking Greece after Xiros failed to report to authorities while visiting his family during a nine-day leave from prison earlier this month.

 

It was 15 days before the self-described “free member of 17 November” re-emerged, with a video message vowing a return to armed action. “It’s time for battle,” Xiros said against a background of images depicting resistance fighters and a second world war communist hero. “I have decided to thunder the guerrilla shotgun against those who stole our lives and sold our dreams for profit.”

from The Guardian

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spain-protestA mid-January mass rebellion in one neighborhood of a mid-sized city in north-central Spain beat back a rightist City Hall government and sparked solidarity protests in nearly 50 other cities. This first working-class victory since the capitalist crisis exploded in 2008 has turned the name of the area — Gamonal — into a cry of resistance that could reverberate from Athens to Detroit.

Historically an independent village, Gamonal later developed as the industrial area of the city of Burgos and became its main working-class residential neighborhood, filled with apartment houses. The capitalist collapse of 2008 closed the factories and left 80 percent of Gamonal’s residents unemployed.

Burgos is a city of 180,000 people. Like most of Spain today, the whole city suffers high unemployment. Growing poverty has replaced working-class stability. As in the U.S., many were evicted, their homes turned over to the banks, so that now most people between 30 and 55 years old are living with their parents. In addition, the parents’ pensions have been frozen by the national government, which is enforcing “austerity” on behalf of the biggest European banks.

The right-wing Popular Party — which governs the Spanish state — also heads the city government of Burgos. To fill the coffers of a powerful construction company, this government ordered a large street to be torn down and replaced by an unneeded boulevard.

Besides squandering $11 million and slowing traffic, the new setup eliminated already scarce and inexpensive parking spots. The plan was to replace them with expensive private parking spaces beyond the reach of the unemployed residents. They would cost up to $26,000 for a 40-year lease. ­(publico.es, Jan. 14)

Many left analysts have said this was the straw that broke the camel’s back, the drop that overflowed the vase. It was one abuse too many.

Gamoral’s community organization said 5,000 residents joined a demonstration on the afternoon of Jan. 13. When it was over, some 2,000 remained and occupied the construction area to prevent machinery from entering. (publico.es, Jan. 13 and 14) The next night, police began to attack and arrest demonstrators at random, with no restraint on their brutality.

Instead of stopping the protests, the police assault just brought out more people, who became furious with the police and with the banks that own the city — much as the banks now own Detroit in the U.S.

Leftist groups called solidarity demonstrations in at least 46 cities in all regions. The state authorities insulted and baited the demonstrators, charging them with planning violent and barbaric acts.

Most of those joining the demonstrations were workers fed up with the rapid impoverishment of a quarter of the ­population.

Burgos Mayor Javier Lacalle blamed the resistance on “outside agitators” from “ultra-left groups” who came from other parts of the Spanish state. It turned out, however, that all those arrested were from Burgos, and for once the corporate media contradicted the authorities. The mayor finally conceded and said the demolition and construction would stop, as the city could not guarantee safety at the site.

The residents are celebrating the victory, which they know may only be temporary, and are continuing to demand the mayor resign and that the 46 residents still held in prison as of Jan. 19 be released. Those on the left analyzing “the lessons of Gamonal” can’t resist remarking that the street (“la calle”) beat Lacalle.

The group Red Roja, paraphrasing a remark by Argentine/Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara about the Vietnamese liberation struggle, called for “two, three, many Gamonals.” (redroja.net, Jan. 18)

Many of Spain’s 6 million unemployed are undoubtedly hoping that Gamonal is no accident. And given the similar situation throughout Greece and Portugal and in many other European and U.S. cities under the gun of the banks’ austerity, if this is the start of a general rebellion, why should it stop at Spain’s borders?

from Worker’s World

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nicolas-mVenezuelan authorities have warned of a suspected plot by “extreme right-wing” groups to assassinate Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro.

The alleged conspiracy was revealed in a press conference on Monday by Interior Affairs Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres, who said that figures in Venezuela, Colombia and the United States were involved.

Rodriguez informed that on 15 August Venezuelan authorities captured two Colombian citizens in a hotel in Miranda state, near Caracas. They were found in possession of two rifles with laser sight, ten Venezuelan army uniforms, and a photograph of President Maduro and National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello.

The two men, of eighteen and twenty two years of age, were presumably contracted by a Colombian named Alejandro Caicedo Alfonso (alias David), and crossed the border into Venezuela on 13 August. The men are part of a “destabilization group” of about ten people, said Rodriguez.

The Venezuelan intelligence service SEBIN is also searching for a Venezuelan man named Carlos Salcedo, who authorities believe is involved in the alleged plot and is responsible for supplying the rifles to the apprehended Colombians.

INTERNATIONAL LINKS

Interior affairs minister Rodriguez said that the government believes the suspected plot to assassinate Maduro is part of a conspiracy planned by the Venezuelan “extreme right wing” in collaboration with counterparts in Colombia and the United States.

Authorities consider the “brains” of such an operation to be Luis Posada Carriles. Cuban-born Carriles is resident in Miami, and is wanted by Venezuela and Cuba on extradition charges for his alleged role in the bombing on a Cuban airliner in 1976 that killed 78 people.

Further, Rodriguez accused former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe of involvement in the alleged plot. “I am denouncing that this conspiracy is being woven from Miami, in connection with Bogota, and that Alvaro Uribe, without any doubt, has knowledge of everything happening here,” he stated.

RESPONSES

President Nicolas Maduro responded to Rodriguez’s affirmations by demanding U.S. President Barack Obama confirm whether he possesses information of any such conspiracy, and if so, to act accordingly.

“President Obama, is it that you don’t know that in the United States the Posada Carriles group conspires, monitored and tutored by Otto Reich and Roger Noriega, to commit terrorist acts and presidential assassination in Venezuela?” asked Maduro.

The Venezuelan president further stated that if Obama does know of such a plot and does not act, then “he is implicated”.

Maduro said that the alleged assassination plot would be in order to “destroy” the Bolivarian revolution, arguing that, “To assassinate me is to begin a civil war in Venezuela”.

“I am a guarantee of peace…I’ll do everything within my ability to continue building peace in this country,” the Venezuelan head of state continued.

The conservative opposition in Venezuela meanwhile has taken a dismissive attitude to the information, with opposition leader Henrique Capriles referring to the government’s accusations as “lies” and “recycled stories”.

Alvaro Uribe and Posada Carriles have likewise denied the veracity of the allegations, calling them “infamy” and “absurd”.

Nicolas Maduro responded by commenting that among the Venezuelan opposition, “there is a strange nervousness; they try to make it [the alleged plot] into a joke”, which he said made the opposition “look bad in front of the country”.

The Venezuelan government has previously alerted the country to suspected plots to assassinate President Maduro, claiming that since the death of late President Hugo Chavez extremist conspiracy efforts have increased in an attempt to “finish” the Bolivarian revolution.

The most notorious of these alerts occurred two days before the April 14 presidential election, when authorities announced the capture of armed paramilitaries in possession of explosives who were presumed to be on a mission to “destabilize” the election.

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fidel3Compañero Fidel’s letter to leaders of delegations visiting Cuba on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the assaults on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Garrisons

A few days ago, as I observed, from the middle seat of a 4-wheel drive vehicle, what had been an old genetic center for milk production, I was able to read a brief, synopsis of just one paragraph from a speech I made on May Day in 2000, already 13 years ago now.

Time will erase those words written in black letters, on a white-washed wall.

“Revolution […] is struggling with audacity, intelligence and realism; it is never lying or violating ethical principles; it is a profound conviction that there is no power in the world that can crush the power of truth and ideas. Revolution is unity; it is independence, it is struggling for our dreams of justice for Cuba and for the world, which is the foundation of our patriotism, our socialism and our internationalism.” …

Unfortunately, no one can insure that there will be a number 70, an 80, a 90 or a 100th anniversary of the Moncada. During the Río de Janeiro international conference on the environment[1992], I said that a species was in danger of extinction: the human race. But then I thought it was a question of centuries. I am not as optimistic now. In any event, nothing worries me; life will continue to exist in the boundless dimensions of space and time. …

One Latin American and world leader to whom I wish to render a special tribute, given what he did for our people and others of the Caribbean and the world, is Hugo Chávez Frías. He would be among us today if he had not fallen during his valiant struggle for life. He, like us, did not struggle to live, but lived to struggle.

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