Geopolitics

Venezuela's Maduro Has A Surprising New 'Ally' — Trump

The socialist strongman has plenty of critics. But he also has a remarkable amount of staying power, in part because of the tacit support he receives from certain fellow presidents.

During Venezuelan protests against U.S. sanctions

-Editorial-

SANTIAGO — Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile who now heads the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), recently released a new report that, among other things, implicates the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in the suspected executions of at least 38 young people in the period from May 2019 to May 2020.

More generally speaking, the report raises concerns over a pattern of arbitrary detentions, violations of due process and allegations of torture and disappearances. It is also highly critical of the new National Electoral Council, the CNE in Spanish, which the government appointed to oversee parliamentary elections scheduled for Dec. 6.

And yet, not everyone seems to share the OHCHR​"s concerns. Indeed, Bachelet's criticisms sharply contrast with the recent actions of Maduro's three new "allies': presidents Alberto Fernández of Argentina, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico and Donald Trump in the United States.

Citing the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of states, Argentina and Mexico abstained in a recent Organization of American States (OAS) vote that censured the Maduro government for illegally appointing CNE members. The Venezuelan Constitution states that they must be named by the legislature (the National Assembly), where the opposition, led by Assembly speaker Juan Guaidó, has a majority. Instead, the Supreme Court — which Maduro controls — made the CNE appointments.

The CNE's first great responsibility is precisely to oversee the next election for the Assembly, Venezuela's single-chamber legislative branch. Its last elections, won by the opposition, took place in late 2015. Guaidó"s democratic legitimacy along with that of his interim government depends entirely on the opposition coalition's parliamentary majority, so these elections are crucial to the country's future.

With their abstention or refusal to condemn the unconstitutional move to appoint regime loyalists to the CNE, Argentina and Mexico are siding with the country's authoritarian ruler. They are helping weaken the democratic, shadow government led by Guaidó, which is weak enough as it is.

The coalition of almost 60 states that backs Guaidó"s shadow government continues to lose momentum, and the demonstrations it organized of late drew far fewer people than last year's protests. On top of that, the Maduro regime has taken over the legislature's premises, preventing Guaidó and opposition lawmakers from holding sessions there. That has deprived them of a symbolic building where Guaidó exercised his legitimacy.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido speaks to supporters in a protest against the government in March 2020 — Photo: Rafael Hernandez/DPA/ZUMA

The Guaidó government's biggest problem, however, is that it failed to reach its central goal: Maduro's exit. The ruler retains all of this powers, and has even fortified himself in recent months.

The desertion of the OAS by Argentina and Mexico, and their reduced roles in the Lima Group of regional states, which wants democratic elections in Venezuela, are a boon to Maduro. They say they are neutral over Venezuela. Days ago the Mexican president even said he was ready to sell oil to Venezuela for humanitarian reasons, in violation of the U.S.-led imposed sanctions.

But curiously, Maduro may have received his biggest support in past weeks from the United States, which has imposed most of the economic sanctions on his country. In a June 21 interview, President Trump said he had never quite been convinced about backing Guaidó, whom he considered "a kid." The White House emitted a statement the next day to reiterate U.S. support for Guaidó, but by then the damage was done.

Two days later, Trump said he was ready to meet with Maduro, prompting a positive response from the latter. Many analysts were puzzled by Trump's comments, which can only be interpreted as a bid to end the impasse in Venezuela and achieve something there, even if it's not what the U.S. has sought so far. His words may have been influenced by his fondness for authoritarian strongmen.

Whatever the motives, the actions of these three "allies' are not helping the cause of democracy in Venezuela. Maduro has duly named his electoral overseers, which could mean, once elections are held in December, the end of the country's last, remaining democratic body. And Argentina, Mexico and the United States seem to be helping him do it.

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La Sagrada Familia Delayed Again — Blame COVID-19 This Time

Hopes were dashed by local officials to see the completion of the iconic Barcelona church in 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of the death of its renowned architect Antoni Guadí.

Work on La Sagrada Familia has been delayed because of the pandemic

By most accounts, it's currently the longest-running construction project in the world. And now, the completion of work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882, is going to take even longer.

Barcelona-based daily El Periodico daily reports that work on the church, which began as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. But a press conference Tuesday, Sep. 21 confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin).

El Periódico - 09/22/2021

El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world.

One tower after the other… Slowly but surely, La Sagrada Familia has been growing bigger and higher before Barcelonians and visitors' eager eyes for nearly 140 years. However, all will have to be a bit more patient before they see the famous architectural project finally completed. During Tuesday's press conference, general director of the Construction Board of the Sagrada Familia, Xavier Martínez, and the architect director, Jordi Faulí, had some good and bad news to share.

As feared, La Sagrada Familia's completion date has been delayed. Because of the pandemic, the halt put on the works in early March when Spain went into a national lockdown. So the hopes are dashed of the 2026 inauguration in what would have been the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

Although he excluded new predictions of completion until post-COVID normalcy is restored - no earlier than 2024 -, Martínez says: "Finishing in 2030, rather than being a realistic forecast, would be an illusion, starting the construction process will not be easy," reports La Vanguardia.

But what's a few more years when you already have waited 139, after all? However delayed, the construction will reach another milestone very soon with the completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years and the second tallest spire of the complex. It will be crowned by a 12-pointed star which will be illuminated on December 8, Immaculate Conception Day.

Next would be the completion of the Evangelist Lucas tower and eventually, the tower of Jesus Christ, the most prominent of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated 13.5 meters wide "great cross." It will be made of glass and porcelain stoneware to reflect daylight and will be illuminated at night and project rays of light.

La Sagrada Familia through the years

La Sagrada Familia, 1889 - wikipedia

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