All posts by MBusiness

Peruvian President Defends Himself Against Impeachment

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra told lawmakers Friday that he had committed no crime and would not be cowed ahead of an impeachment hearing. “I am here, with my head high and my conscience clear,” Vizcarra said in a speech to Congress, adding that the country should not be “distracted” from real challenges. “Let’s not generate a new crisis, unnecessarily, that would primarily affect the most vulnerable,” he said.  Peru has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, along with an economic contraction. Lawmakers planned to vote later Friday on whether to oust Vizcarra from office. The impeachment proceeding is centered on the president’s relationship with a little-known singer, Richard Cisneros, who was given $50,000 in government contracts.  FILE – Event organizer Richard Cisneros arrives to the National Congress to deliver documents for an ongoing investigation into his hiring at the Ministry of Culture, in Lima, Peru, Sept. 11, 2020.Most experts expect Vizcarra to survive the vote. Two-thirds of lawmakers would need to approve the vote to remove him from office. Congress voted last week to begin impeachment hearings against Vizcarra on the ground of moral incompetence, following allegations he tried to interfere in a probe into government contracts given to Cisneros.  The move by Congress was fueled by opposition legislators airing secretly recorded audio that appears to show Vizcarra orchestrating a strategy with his aides to answer questions about his meetings with the singer.  Cisneros claims the $50,000 worth of contracts were legal, according to media reports.  Earlier this week, the country’s top court rejected a request by Vizcarra to stop the impeachment proceedings.  

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Asset Freeze Threatens to Silence Independent Nicaraguan Broadcaster

Journalists at Canal 12 News, one of Nicaragua’s two remaining independent news broadcasters, face an uncertain future after a court in the capital, Managua, ordered the station’s assets seized as part of a tax case that one of its editors says is political retaliation.The freeze affects Nicavision S.A., which operates Canal 12. The court order enforces a demand by the country’s tax agency that Canal 12 pay more than U.S. $500,000 in taxes due from 2011 to 2013, according to Managua weekly newspaper Confidencial.Judge Luden Quiroz García’s September 11 order to seize the broadcast facilities, station vehicles and the owner’s personal estate is the latest in a series of audits and asset seizures faced by news organizations that report critically on the government of President Daniel Ortega.“The government is going to try to silence the few TV stations that are left and telling the stories they don’t want to hear,” Canal 12 News director Marcos Medina told VOA.In Nicaragua, the majority of large media outlets are owned by members of Ortega’s family or his political allies.“This perverse action threatens freedom of the press and expression,” tweeted the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights. “We demand that the regime desist from its strategy of intimidating journalists and destroying independent media.”FILE – Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega.Officials at the Nicaraguan General Income Directorate, the country’s tax agency, and Managua’s embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment. The Ortega government, which is currently observing a weeklong holiday, has not commented on the court order, although sources close to the ruling party told VOA’s Latin America division that the decision was justified. They did not elaborate.Silencing last independent voicesCanal 12 News director Medina said the decision, which creates uncertainty for more than 20 staff at the station, mirrors harassment of other outlets.”The same type of pressure was faced by 100% Noticias and La Prensa,” he said, referring to outlets that faced Ortega government-led actions after reporting on the 2018 demonstrations.La Prensa, Nicaragua’s longest-running and best-known daily broadsheet, nearly folded after an 18-month government-enforced blockade of newsprint supplies, resulting in massively diminished circulation and newsroom-wide layoffs. The government lifted the blockade in February amid international pressure and calls from the Vatican.In December 2018, 100% Noticias, also known as Canal 15, had its operating license revoked and its offices confiscated by Nicaragua’s National Police. The channel’s director, Miguel Mora, and journalist Lucía Pineda Ubau both served six-month jail sentences for inciting terrorism.”Now the same is happening to Canal 12,” Medina said. “They don’t like the type of journalism we do, especially since April of 2018.”Tabloid newsroom taken overAlso commandeered by police was the newsroom of weekly tabloid Confidencial, whose publisher, Carlos Fernando Chamorro, fled to Costa Rica, where he spent 10 months operating the publication in a digital-only format. Chamorro returned to Nicaragua in November 2019 to run Confidencial from a new building.In January, Nicaraguan Supreme Court Magistrate Francisco Rosales told VOA a verdict on the police-confiscated outlets would soon be issued, but the court has yet to rule.If Canal 12 doesn’t survive, Canal 10, which boasts Nicaragua’s largest television audience, would remain the country’s sole independent broadcaster. On September 13, Managua-based news site Articulo66 reported that Canal 10 received a tax assessment declaring it more than $3 million in debt to the tax agency.Some already speculate that the Canal 10 assessment is also politically motivated.”[Canal 10] has fulfilled [all of its tax obligations], but you know how this is,” said a source who spoke with VOA on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.Washington imposed sanctions on the Ortega government and national police for human rights violations following the anti-government protests in 2018 and urged Managua to ease restrictions on other organizations. In May, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned Nicaraguan army commander Julio Cesar Aviles Castillo and Finance and Public Credit Minister Ivan Adolfo Acosta Montalvan for human rights abuses and “seeking to silence pro-democracy voices in Nicaragua.””Daniel Ortega strangles dissent and denies Nicaraguans access to information,” Michael G. Kozak, acting U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, tweeted Sept.13. “On the eve of Nicaraguan independence day, his regime is using spurious tax measures to close two vital independent TV broadcasters. Until Ortega releases his grip, Nicaraguans will not be free.”Daniel Ortega strangles dissent and denies Nicaraguans access to information. On the eve of Nicaraguan independence day, his regime is using spurious tax measures to close two vital independent TV broadcasters. Until Ortega releases his grip, Nicaraguans will not be free.— Michael G. Kozak (@WHAAsstSecty) September 13, 2020This story originated in VOA’s Latin America division.

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Pompeo Lands in Brazil on Third Stop of Latin American Tour

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived Friday in Brazil and visited a Venezuelan refugee processing center, while calling for democracy and for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to step down.About 250,000 Venezuelan refugees are now in Brazil, with about 600 arriving daily before the border was closed because of the coronavirus. Pompeo visited the center alongside Brazil’s Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo.During a joint press conference in Guyana earlier in the day, Pompeo and Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali discussed the need for democracy in Venezuela.”We know that the Maduro regime has decimated the people of Venezuela and that Maduro himself is an indicted narcotics trafficker. That means he has to leave,” the secretary of state said, referring to U.S. drug trafficking charges against Maduro. “The United States and dozens of countries have made clear that Juan Guaidó is the duly elected leader of Venezuela. This is the objective — we want democracy and freedom and the rule of law.”Suriname’s President Chan Santokhi and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walk together, in Paramaribo, Suriname, Sept. 17, 2020.The visit to Brazil comes after a historic first-ever trip to Suriname and Guyana by a U.S. secretary of state. There, he met with those nations’ leaders to discuss economic development in the wake of recent oil discoveries in both countries.Pompeo met Thursday with the president of Suriname, Chan Santokhi, before heading to Guyana. Both presidents are newly elected.In 2015, Exxon announced it had discovered a large oil reserve off the coast of Guyana, South America’s second-poorest nation. The BBC has reported that the 5.5 billion barrels’ worth of crude could make it the continent’s wealthiest nation.Exxon is already working in Suriname.During a brief appearance Friday, Ali and Pompeo both said they had not discussed Exxon’s deal with Guyana.“We did not discuss this. But I want to say that we are open to investment,” Ali said. “We are open to investors. … As we have said, prior to the elections, there are issues that we’ll have to review.”Pompeo said the negotiations were between Exxon and the Guyanese government, something he called “the American model.”China has been courting both Guyana and Suriname as they seek foreign investment.

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Pompeo Wraps Up Historic Visits to Suriname, Guyana

In a historic first-ever trip to Suriname and Guyana by a U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo met with those nations’ leaders to discuss economic development in the wake of recent oil discoveries in both countries. Pompeo met Thursday with the president of Suriname, Chan Santokhi, and on Friday with the president of Guyana, Irfaan Ali, both of whom are newly elected. In 2015, Exxon announced it had discovered a Suriname’s President Chan Santokhi and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walk together, in Paramaribo, Suriname, Sept. 17, 2020.Pompeo said the negotiations were between Exxon and the Guyanese government, something he called “the American model.” A State Department official told reporters that Pompeo “will highlight through these meetings how U.S. companies throughout the hemisphere invest responsibly and transparently.” “This draws a stark contrast with China, whose predatory loans and vanity projects saddle countries in the Western Hemisphere with unsustainable debts,” the official said. China has been courting both Guyana and Suriname as they seek foreign investment. Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas and a former State Department official, told AFP that getting a U.S. secretary of state to visit Latin America or the Caribbean was “a heavy lift.” “For him to go to both of these countries is extraordinary and shows that something big is happening.” During a joint press conference Friday, Pompeo and Ali also discussed the need for democracy in Venezuela, reiterating the call for that country’s President Nicolas Maduro to step down. “We know that the Maduro regime has decimated the people of Venezuela and that Maduro himself is an indicted narcotics trafficker. That means he has to leave,” the secretary of state said, referencing U.S. drug trafficking charges against Maduro. “The United States and dozens of countries have made clear that Juan Guaidó is the duly elected leader of Venezuela. This is the objective — we want democracy and freedom and the rule of law.” From Guyana, Pompeo travels to Brazil later Friday for talks with the Brazilian foreign minister. 

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Nicaraguan Government Threatens to Close Independent TV Station

Canal 12 is one of the few independent TV stations in Nicaragua. But it could be forced to shut down if the Nicaraguan Justice Department seizes what it says is some $350,000 the station owes in taxes. If that happens, observers say it will continue a trend by the government of President Daniel Ortega of censoring the media and harassing journalists who are critical of the government. VOA’s Donaldo Hernandez in Managua filed this report, narrated by Cristina Caicedo Smit. 

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Interim President Jeanine Áñez Quits Bolivia Presidential Race

Bolivian Interim President Jeanine Áñez says she has dropped out of the nation’s presidential race in an effort to block ex-leader Evo Morales from returning to power.Áñez said she did not want to split the votes in the October 18 election, enabling the Movement for Socialism party of Morales return to power.Prior to her announcement, Áñez was trailing in fourth place in recent opinion polls.Áñez has yet endorse another candidate but she said she wants to link up with a party that has support in opposing Morales’ party.She said if voters do not unite, Morales will return, and democracy will lose.Áñez was named interim president when Morales fled Bolivia last year during protests over allegations of election fraud. 

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Peruvian Congress to Hold Impeachment Hearing Friday Against President

Peruvian lawmakers will hold an impeachment hearing Friday, a day after the country’s top court rejected a request by President Martin Vizcarra to stop the proceedings.Congress voted last week to begin impeachment hearings against Vizcarra on grounds of moral incompetence, following allegations he tried to interfere in a probe into government contracts given to a singer.The move by Congress was fueled by opposition legislators airing secretly recorded audio that appears to show Vizcarra orchestrating a strategy with his aides to answer questions about his meetings with singer Richard Cisneros.Media reports say Cisneros claims the $50,000 worth of contracts were legal.On Thursday, the president did not comment on the allegations while touring a banana plantation in the region of Piura, but a day earlier Vizcarra seemed to lash out at his detractors for attempting to create a political crisis in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. 

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Brazil President’s Third Health Minister is Sworn In

General Eduardo Pazuello has become Brazil’s third health minister after taking the job on an interim basis in April.Pazuello, who has no health credentials, was officially sworn in Wednesday at the Planalto Palace, in the country’s capital, Brasilia.Pazuello first became health minister following the resignations of the previous ministers after being at odds with President Jair Bolsonaro over policies to curb the spread of the coronavirus.President Bolsonaro, who has been infected with the coronavirus, has always downplayed its threat, clashing with local leaders who imposed restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, saying the measures hurt the economy.During the ceremony Wednesday, Bolsanaro repeated his support for a controversial anti-malarial drug, hydroxychloroquine, which most experts reject as an effective treatment for the coronavirus.Brazil has the largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Latin America, with more than 4 million cases and more than 134,400 deaths.

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UN Investigators Accuse Venezuelan Government of Crimes Against Humanity

U.N. investigators alleged Wednesday that the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has committed crimes against humanity that include murders, torture and other atrocities.
 
Independent investigators commissioned by the Human Rights Council, the U.N.’s top human rights body, said in a report that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that Maduro and his defense and interior ministers were aware of crimes committed by government security forces and intelligence agencies.
 
In attempts to silence the opposition, the report said, they committed crimes that include extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture. The report also said senior Venezuelan officials had control over the security forces and intelligence agencies, making those officials responsible.
 
Maduro’s socialist government did not immediately respond to the allegations in the report, which are based on 3,000 cases and more than 270 interviews with victims, witnesses, former officials, confidential documents and attorneys.
 
“Far from being isolated acts, these crimes were coordinated and committed pursuant to state policies, with the knowledge or direct support of commanding officers and senior government officials,” panel chair Marta Valinas said in a statement.
 
The report is likely to result in increased global scrutiny on the Maduro administration, which is governing a country torn by hyperinflation, a violent government crackdown and a migration of millions of citizens who have fled to nearby countries to escape the chaos that has persisted since he took office in 2013.
 
Maduro’s government has faced mounting pressure from the United States and dozens of other countries that recognize politician Juan Guaido as the legitimate president.
 
Maduro has said this is part of a plan to overthrow him so the U.S. can exploit Venezuela’s vast oil reserves.
 
The U.N. fact-finding mission, established by the Human Rights Council to investigate alleged crimes since 2014, was not given access to Venezuela. The authors of the report said the Maduro government did not respond to inquiries.
 
Article 7 of the U.N. treaty that established the International Criminal Court defines a crime against humanity as an act that is part of a “widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population.”  
 

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