Venezuela news: Generals arrested for coup plot; fresh deaths, protests; OAS rejects far right leader; ties with Air Canada cut; and more

March in Caracas in support of the government and for peace, March 15. Photo from AVN/Venezuela Analysis.

The news below is mostly accumulated from recent coverage at Venezuela Analysis, asides from the first report from Prensa Latina. Venezuela Analysis is the best English-language source of news and analysis on Venezuela, its popular revolutionary process and the media war against the country and its democracy.

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Three air force generals arrested for coup plot

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced on March 25 that three generals from the Military Air Force were captured the previous night for planning a military coup against the constitutional government in conspiracy with extreme right opposition. All have been brought to military courts.

The officers were investigated "thanks to the powerful morale of our revolutionary armed forces," Maduro said during the first meeting of a commission of
Foreign ministers of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in Caracas that is
accompanying peace efforts in this nation .

The group is directly linked to opposition sectors, Maduro said. "They were saying that
this would be the critical week."

Read the full article here.

Fresh deaths, protests as opposition rejects dialogue

Several more have died in Venezuela’s political violence, while the opposition has again rejected talks to end the conflict.

On March 23, a pregnant woman was shot and killed while trying to get home in Los Teques, Miranda State. Adriana Urquiola, 28, got off a bus whose route was obstructed by a protest barricade and had begun to walk past the blockade when she was shot twice. Investigations are underway as to where the shots originated from.

Nicolas Maduro said on March 21 that protesters have caused about US$10 billion dollars in damage, including the vandalisation of fifteen universities, most recently the UNEFA in Tachira state, completely burnt by violent opposition groups last Tuesday.

Maduro promised 98 million bolivars to rebuild the UNEFA as well as 50 million for the 14 other universities that were harmed by what authorities call “far-right” groups.

While addressing a crowd on March 22, he said: “It’s incredible. Never in the history of Venezuela has a political sector dared to burn and destroy a university. If this counterrevolution achieves its objectives, what would their policies be towards culture, towards youth?”

Both opposition and government supporters took to the streets of the capital on March 22 in support of their respective political positions in the current conflict.

Thousands of pro-government students gathered in the central Plaza Venezuela to denounce the destruction of the UNEFA campus in Táchira state by what are considered to be far-right groups.

During the speech, the crowd shouted slogans such as “we are the majority” and “they won’t return,” in reference to the elite that governed Venezuela before Hugo Chavez was elected president in 1998.

Meanwhile, in the wealthy Chacao district to the east of Caracas, the opposition gathered in a demonstration “for freedom”.

In an interview on March 23 with private TV channel Televen, Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz responded to the opposition’s accusations that the state has repressed protests and committed human rights abuses during the disturbances.

“There have been abuses, we’re not going to deny it,” Ortega Diaz stated, adding that these incidents were isolated and were not hte result of orders from above.

Of about 20,000 National Guard deployed in the country, along with regional and local police forces, she said that the Attorney General’s office had received 60 denouncements of abuses and excess use of force by officers.

Ortega Diaz warned against calls “seeking to depose a legitimately constituted government” and said there was a campaign “to make Venezuela look like a violator of human rights”.

Ortega Diaz said public property, state employees and police officers had been victims of the violence. Five National Guard officers and one public prosecutor were among the dead.

Read the full article here.

Venezuela's ombuswoman accuses NGOs of 'false reports'

Venezuelan ombudswoman Gabriela Ramírez has accused international organiations of misrepresenting human rights conditions in Venezuela.

According to Ramirez, non-government organizations have been part of a campaign of “attacks” on Venezuela, saying on March 24: “A few NGOs have forged reports against our institution with false information.”

On February 21, the United States-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Venezuelan security forces of using excessive force, while claiming it couldn't find evidence of “anti-government protesters carrying firearms or using lethal force against security forces or third parties”.

Since February, photographs have circulated on social media websites including Twitter and Facebook of alleged cases of human rights violations by Venezuelan security forces. However, many of the photographs appear to be taken in countries as diverse as Syria, Chile and Egypt, but with inaccurate captions indicating they were taken in Venezuela.

HRW's own report is accompanied by a photograph of what is claimed to be “a tank in San Cristobal”. The “tank”, was a statue that had been moved into the middle of the road and vandalized by opposition protesters.

Ramirez accused NGOs of being backed by the US State Department, which has also attacked Venezuela.

Read the full article here.

OAS rejects bid by far right leader

The Organisation of American States (OAS) has voted not to hear Venezuelan far right legislator Maria Corina Machado discuss the situation in her country. However there are reports she was able to speak later in the session, but not on Venezuela as an agenda item.

Machado had been offered Panama's seat at the regional organisation to testify on ongoing disturbances in Venezuela, during a meeting today in Washington.

Machado is a fierce critic of the government who signed a decree backing a 2002 coup against the current Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

Just days before, Venezuela's National assembly called for criminal charges against Machado, in relation to her role in recent violent protests.

The decision was welcomed by Venezuelan foreign minister Elias Jaua, but condemned by some representatives, including those from the US and Panama.

“Some people out there asking the intervention of the homeland, I think the yankee-lovers are defeated again,” Jaua stated, according to Telesur.

Read the full article here.

Maduro accuses oppositon mayor of supporting violece after two mayors arrested

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has threatened to arrest a third opposition mayor accused of advocating street violence.

On March 20, Maduro released a video recording which he says shows opposition mayor of the Chacao municipality of Caracas Ramon Muchacho calling for a coup, and backing violent demonstrators.

An affluent area of the capital, Chacao has been paralysed by protests and opposition barricades since last month. Repeated demonstrations have taken place in Altamira Square, along with roadblocks and attacks on security forces. Earlier this week, security forces retook the square, removing barricades and cleaning the area of garbage.

In the recording, Muchacho can appear to be heard stating “the government must go”.

Maduro said: “At the end [Muchacho] says a key phrase: don't think that we started this struggle to have corn flour, this fight is for the regime to go.”

Maduro warned that the government could take action against Muchacho, hinting at arrest. Two other opposition mayors in protest-hit municipalities were detained by authorities just days before.

The opposition mayor of San Cristobal, Daniel Ceballos is being investigated for failing to remove opposition roadblocks in the city despite an order from Venezuela's Supreme Court. He also faces charges of rebellion and conspiracy.

Enzo Scarano, mayor of San Diego, Valencia, has been jailed for likewise failing to carry out a similar order from the Supreme Court.

Read the full article here.

Venezuela cuts commercial ties with Air Canada

The Venezuelan government declared on March 18 that it would sever all commercial ties with Air Canada, after the airline suspended operations in the country.

Describing Air Canada's decision as “unilateral”, Venezuela's air and sea transport minister Hebert Garcia accused the airline of flouting international standards.

“That relationship with Air Canada is over until the president decides otherwise,” Garcia sais. Garcia's statement came in response to a statement from Air Canada on March 17 that it would halt flights to Venezuela, citing "ongoing civil unrest" in the country.

On March 14, President Nicolas Maduro had warned he would take “severe measures” against airlines that reduce services. “A company that leaves the country will not return while we hold power,” Maduro said.

Read the full article here.

Food mission celebrated, card to combat scarcity unveiled

Workers marched to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of Misión Alimentación on March 16, Venezuela’s vastly accessible nutritional program, launched by Hugo Chavez in 2003.

During that time the program created more than 22,000 distribution points ranging from supermarket-sized stores to neighborhood bodegas; selling nutritional staples at prices subsidized by up to 80%. The government has long cited the mission as part of efforts to reduce malnutrition.

According to Venezuela’s National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), child malnutrition in Venezuela was found to have been reduced by 58.5%, from 7.7% to 3.2% in 1990 and 2010, respectively.

“Compared to the 4th Republic [the regime that preceded Chavez], there is plenty of access to nutrition. Now you don’t see hunger in the streets like before,” said Belkys Mogollón, resident of La Guaira, as she stood amongst the congregation of people celebrating in front of the presidential palace, Miraflores.

President Nicolas Maduro met the workers outside of Miraflores, outlining in his speech a development of the program that is meant to combat scarcity.

Scarcity has been pointed to as a source for recent unrest, despite a number of distributing vehicles from Misión Alimentación being burned by student protestors in the states of Carabobo, Táchira and Zulia in the past few weeks.

According to the government, one reason for scarcity is that private companies hoard food in hopes to then sell them for higher prices as demand rises. Maduro said that of the subsidized products sold by the two main distributing organizers, Mercal and Pdval, more than 40% leave the country to be sold at inflated prices.

He went on to describe the Food Card, or Ensured Supply Card. The free, non-mandatory bank card will give the user certain benefits, and is primarily meant to combat contraband and price speculation.

According to Maduro, the card represents a marriage between the Mision Alimentación and the Fair Price Law, enabled late last year amid rampant speculation when certain chain stores were found to have marked prices up as much as 1,200%. The card is expected to bring greater efficiency to both initiatives.

Read the full article here.

Government handsout 90 ambulances to commucal councils., hopstials

The national government handed out ninety ambulances to a range of communal councils, Integral Diagnostic Centres (CDI) and hospitals on March 18.

Vice-president Jorge Arreaza handed out the documents and vehicle keys to the new ambulance owners, who had requested the vehicles through the Federal Council of Government (CFG). The total cost of the vehicles was Bs70,707,266.

Health minister Francisco Armada also said the ambulances will connect regional and communal health centres with specialised hospitals. He said that many will cover zones that don’t have health services or are in hard to access areas.

Arreaza said: “We’re going to keep going. Here, no conspiratorial process can stop the effort that a people have made for 15 years. While others go about still throwing stones, setting things on fire and setting up barricades, we are here handing out life and health to communities and mayoralties.”

Read the ful article here.

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