Maduro Pushes Venezuela To The Brink

A May 1 rally in Caracas
A May 1 rally in Caracas
Alidad Vassigh

With his recent "state of emergency" declaration and decision to put the army on high alert against the threat of hostile "interventions," Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro continues to show that he has no intention of being either pushed or voted out of power.

Since opposition parties won a parliamentary majority in December, Maduro and his deputies have done everything to curb the legislature's powers, alternately declaring it fraudulent, treacherous or illegitimate, and using the Supreme Court to block new legislation.

Parliament has barked back, but done little else, first failing to pass a law to free political prisoners and now finding itself obstructed in its constitutional bid to hold a referendum on sacking Maduro.

The government and opposition positions "have reached a point of maximum tension," Colombia's El Espectador observed on Wednesday, with Maduro's vice president, Aristóbulo Istúriz, saying "there won't be a referendum here," and leading opponent Jesús Torrealba saying Maduro is ready to sacrifice "the people's blood."

The government, the Colombian daily reported, "is forcing the opposition to take to the streets... while preparing to suppress protests, citing its right to use force” to prevent a coup, which “has been the excuse for everything in the past 17 years."

An editorial in Spain's El País on Monday said Maduro and his clique are no longer accepting any laws, "not even those established" by his late predecessor, Hugo Chávez. Opposition leaders have urged people to disregard any declared state of emergency as a fraud and a farce.

"Let Maduro bring out the tanks," former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles Radonsky declared, insisting that the opposition will pursue its marches planned Wednesday to the offices of the national electoral commission. That government body is slowly â€" very slowly â€" reviewing the 1.8 million votes the opposition has garnered for its recall referendum against the Venezuelan president.

Just as commentators expected, Maduro has accused unnamed elements of trying to turn these marches into "violent events."

Spain's El País reported on Wednesday that Capriles Radonsky, in turn, addressed the army, saying it must realize that "the hour of truth has come. We don't want a military solution, but this is unacceptable.”

Miguel Henrique Otero, editor of El Nacional, one of Venezuela’s two main opposition newspapers, claims the army provided a partial check on Maduro's ambitions, noting that the defense minister warned Maduro not to commit electoral fraud last December. But Otero also indicated that parliament's popularity may well plummet if Venezuelans see it as consistently incapable of standing up to the regime.

Stalling has been one of Maduro's most effective tools against his opponents. Another opposition daily, El Universal, speculated on Wednesday that "there must be" people inside the regime "suffering" from the current disaster and willing to talk to the opposition, people who do not agree with the regime's "ridiculous" strategy of blaming "imperialism" for the country's ills. But El Universal did not support this speculation with the names of any actual regime moderates.

2001, a Venezuelan daily that often focuses on crime, recently observed that the country’s instability has led its insurance sector to introduce new policies, including protection against "mutinies, popular uprisings, labor disturbances and malicious damage."

A sign of what's to come in Venezuela?

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

Queen Elizabeth II with UK PM Boris Johnson at a reception at Windsor Castle yesterday

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.



• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.

• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.

• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.

• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.

• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.

• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."

• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.


"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.



For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.


Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction

Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.

🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.

😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.

🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.

➡️


We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.

— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.


Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Thoughts on Facebook's new name? Zuckerverse? Tell us how the news look in your corner of the world: Drop us a note at!

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!