Venezuela

Associated Press

Venezuelans took to the streets again Thursday, braving tear gas, beatings and bloodshed as they try to force President Nicolás Maduro to hold elections in the crisis-riddled nation.

But even as a growing number of people seem willing to put their lives on the line to push for change, Maduro appears to have the backing of the one group that might make a difference: the military.

Since taking office in 2013, Maduro has showered the armed forces with privileges and powers that have isolated them from the worst of the economic malaise, and guaranteed their loyalty.

Updated at 6:00 p.m. ET

General Motors has stopped operations in Venezuela after its only plant there was illegally seized by authorities, the automaker says in a statement. The details are murky: Multiple employees at the plant tell NPR that they believe auto dealers, not government officials, were responsible for the takeover.

The seizure happened Wednesday, as the "mother of all protests" brought hundreds of thousands of people into the streets to demonstrate against socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Racked by food shortages and political unrest, Venezuela swelled with what organizers are calling the "mother of all protests" on Wednesday. Demonstrators have taken to the streets in the capital, Caracas, and other major cities across the country to rally against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, who assumed office precisely five years ago.

Throughout the day, those rallies often devolved into clashes between demonstrators and security forces — chaotic, violent scenes rent by tear gas, tossed rocks and even two reported deaths.

Carl Juste / Miami Herald

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson was in Miami Tuesday with a message about Venezuela: People there “are starving.” 

Nelson was briefed on Venezuela’s crisis by Admiral Kurt Tidd, who heads the U.S. Southern Command in Miami. Oil-rich Venezuela is suffering the worst economic collapse in modern Latin American history. And its socialist regime has become a quasi-dictatorship. Nelson said a record 18,000 Venezuelans sought asylum in the U.S. last year.

As a result, he urged the Trump administration to increase legal and economic sanctions on abusive Venezuelan leaders.

Ariana Cubillos / AP via Miami Herald


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COMMENTARY

How much do Venezuelans hate President Nicolás Maduro? Apparently they revile him so much that – in a country where food shortages are so acute the average adult lost almost 20 pounds last year – they’re willing to throw eggs at him.

This is Semana Santa, the Easter Holy Week, a time when Maduro hoped most Venezuelans would pause their angry anti-government protests and head to the beach. Instead they pelted him with stones and eggs as his open car moved through Ciudad Guayana on Tuesday.

Juan Pablo Guanipa is running for governor of the western Venezuelan state of Zulia, and as he campaigns in the state capital of Maracaibo, people complain of food shortages and hyperinflation.

The solution, Guanipa tells them, is to vote against the ruling Socialist Party — which controls 20 of Venezuela's 23 states — and to elect opposition candidates like himself.

It's unclear whether voters will get that chance.

Venezuela's Supreme Court restored powers to the country's legislature amid increasing domestic and international accusations that President Nicolas Maduro and the allied court were consolidating power.

The Supreme Court of Venezuela has taken over the functions of the country's National Assembly in what critics at home and abroad say is a move by President Nicolas Maduro to establish "a dictatorship."

The high court, dominated by Maduro loyalists, announced late Wednesday that since the National Assembly was in contempt of its rulings, the magistrates would assume legislative duties.

Venezuela's deeply unpopular government is holding more than 100 political prisoners — and some legal experts are including an American among them. Utah native Joshua Holt traveled to Venezuela last year to marry his Venezuelan fiancée. But in a bizarre twist, he's ended up behind bars on weapons charges.

An Eagle Scout and a Mormon missionary, Holt, 24, met Thamara Candelo through a religious website. After a whirlwind online romance, Holt and Candelo, a Venezuelan Mormon, agreed to get married in her home country.

Roberto Koltun / Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

South Miami teacher Jorge Cast has his enemies of the people all neatly figured out – including the mainstream media.

“My family came from Cuba, and they taught me something very basic,” Cast told WLRN last Saturday at a rally in Tropical Park in support of President Trump.

“When the media tells you something is white, you believe it’s black. When they tell you it’s right, you believe it’s wrong.”

Jessica Meszaros

This week on The Florida Roundup...

Miami is the second worst city in the Country, next to San Francisco, when it comes to finding affordable hosing. So if you're looking to buy a home in Miami-Dade, where do you go? The Miami Herald has a new tool to help people find homes to fit their price-range. We speak with the reporter behind the special report Nick Nehamaas. 

Associated Press

The U.S. government added Venezuelan Vice President Tarek El Aissami to its sanctions list Monday, saying he “played a significant role in international narcotics trafficking” and freezing his access to a fortune estimated at $3 billion after a lengthy investigation of his alleged links to drug traffickers and Muslim extremists.

The measure also covers Samark Lopez — accused of being the principal front man for El Aissami — and nearly a dozen companies linked to Lopez, including some in Miami.

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, who died of cancer in 2013, is coming back to life – on television. A new Spanish-language series, from Sony Pictures Television, recounts how Chavez rose from obscurity to carry out a socialist revolution in his homeland. But even before hitting the airwaves, the series, called El Comandante, has sparked controversy – because it shows how Chavez set the stage for Venezuela's current crisis.

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