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Stalemate in Venezuela persists after days of protests and violence. What comes next? – National



Stalemate in Venezuela persists after days of protests and violence. What comes next National


CARACAS, Venezuela — After days of upheaval, Venezuela is sinking back into political stalemate.

In the fourth month of their standoff, President Nicolás Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó are unable to deliver a knock-out blow as Venezuela spirals deeper into neglect, isolation and desperation. Abrupt shifts or behind-the-scenes power plays can’t be ruled out, but there is a sense that the two camps are entrenched — too strong to be dislodged, too weak for clear-cut victory.

Venezuela’s Juan Guaido called for the ‘largest march’ in its history. Then protesters drifted home

So what’s next?

The opposition and its chief patron, the United States, emerged with fewer options after Guaidó, leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, stood Tuesday outside a military base and urged the armed forces to overthrow Maduro. The plan collapsed. Venezuela’s military commander instead pledged loyalty to Maduro, and four people died in clashes between protesters and police after the opposition’s risky bid for control.

The streets of Caracas were calm on Thursday after the violence of the previous two days. Guaidó’s new plan is to build toward a general strike, though the date is not fixed and how effective that would be in a country with a shattered economy and an exhausted population is open to question.

WATCH: White House says all options on the table for Venezuela

One Venezuela expert said the opposition and the U.S. now have the hard task of devising a new way forward after seeing a small contingent of security forces join Guaidó outside the military base, but no sign that any other military units had heeded the call to rebel.

“You only get to play this card once, and now that it’s been played it’s hard to see what else can be done,” said Fernando Cutz, who until April 2018 led U.S. policy on Venezuela at the National Security Council under both Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

READ MORE: Who is Leopoldo Lopez, the prisoner behind Venezuela’s Juan Guaido?

At the same time, Maduro’s government is under massive strain, loathed by much of the population as it attempts to steer a decaying nation. The fact that it has not yet moved to arrest Guaidó after accusing him of trying to stage a coup suggests it is not confident enough to do so and is wary about any increase in diplomatic and economic pressure from the U.S. and dozens of other nations that say Guaidó is Venezuela’s rightful president.

Any attempt to detain Guaidó would be “highly inflammatory,” said Eileen Gavin, senior Latin America analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, a global risk consultancy.

WATCH: Venezuela in chaos amidst opposition uprising

“From Maduro’s perspective, it might be better to simply dismiss Guaidó as a mere nuisance and a U.S. stooge, thereby undermining Guaidó’s faltering movement and — once again — splintering the fractious Venezuelan opposition,” Gavin said in a report.

The government has started to target people since the failed rebellion. On Thursday, Venezuela’s top court ordered the arrest of Guaidó’s political mentor, Leopoldo López, who took refuge in the Spanish Embassy after defying a house arrest order and joining the attempt to topple Maduro this week. The court also opened a treason investigation of Edgar Zambrano, the deputy head of the National Assembly who had joined Guaidó outside the military base in Caracas.

Some analysts believe U.S. allegations that three top Venezuelan officials had been involved in the plot against Maduro will not split his government, but tie those officials closer to him. One of the government figures, Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino López, pledged loyalty to Maduro and indicated that there had been attempts to lure the military into backing the opposition.

READ MORE: Thousands march against Venezuela’s Maduro while troops stay loyal

“They try to buy us as if we were mercenaries,” he said in what amounted to a warning to any would-be defectors in the military.

The United States has imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry as well as on key figures in Maduro’s government, which is digging in despite dire economic and humanitarian problems that have forced around 10% of Venezuelans to leave the country in recent years, creating Latin America’s biggest migrant crisis.

Cutz said that while it’s likely the U.S. will ramp up rhetoric against Maduro’s government, it has already deployed the key weapon — oil sanctions. Its last options include the long-threatened idea of military intervention, which is unlikely, or moving onto another foreign policy priority, according to Cutz.

“It seems more like a temper tantrum than strategic thinking,” he said of the bellicose rhetoric coming out of the White House. “If I’m a low-level colonel, why would I now risk my life to share secrets with the Americans if they aren’t going to keep their mouths shut.”

Trump has indicated that the United States is not focusing on a military option for now.

“And we’re doing everything we can do, short of, you know, the ultimate,” Trump said in an interview Wednesday on Fox Business Network. “There are people that would like to do — have us do the ultimate, but we are – we are – we have a lot of options open. But when we look at what’s going on there, it’s an incredible mess.”

Trump said Maduro was “tough, but I think he’s losing a lot of control.”

Associated Press journalist Joshua Goodman in Caracas contributed.


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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali



Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu

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Harris accepts VP nomination



Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself



Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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