Wednesday, September 22, 2021

November 29, 2019   -In the last few years, amid an escalating political, economic and humanitarian crisis, the Venezuelan government has repeatedly been accused of posing a threat to the stability, prosperity and democratic integrity of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).

These accusations gained momentum in recent months in light of the protests in Ecuador and Chile against price increases in the transportation sector. In both cases, incumbent authorities implied that Nicolas Maduro's government is to blame for the chaos and destabilisation in their countries. The government of Colombia, meanwhile, accused the Venezuelan government this past August of threatening the country's stability by supporting and financing the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) organisations that are classified as "terror" groups by the international community.

But do these accusations carry any weight? Is the Maduro government responsible for the protests that occurred in Ecuador and Chile? Is it responsible for the rearming of the FARC in Colombia? And perhaps most importantly, does Caracas really pose a "threat" to the stability of the LAC? The answer to all these questions is clearly a no.

In the case of Chile, the people are protesting against a socioeconomic system that is increasing social inequality. This is an issue that dates back to the times of Pinochet and which both left- and right-wing governments have repeatedly failed to resolve.

In Ecuador, the reason behind the protests is President Lenin Moreno's decision to adopt economic measures promoted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which led to an increase in fuel prices.

In Colombia, the resurgence of the FARC is caused not by any outside intervention but the mutual distrust between the FARC and the Democratic Centre Party founded by former president Alvaro Uribe. In 2018, Democratic Centre's candidate Ivan Duque Marquez won Colombia's presidency with a campaign which opposed the peace treaty with the FARC. 

It is, of course, impossible to deny that Venezuela has occasionally tried to intervene in the domestic affairs of these states with the aim of harming governments that are pursuing ideologies contradictory to its own.

This, however, is not a move specific to Venezuela. All states try and support the adversaries of their rivals from time to time in an attempt to rig the regional or global power balance in their favour. There is no demonstrable proof that Venezuela's government is acting in a way that is significantly different from its regional rivals, many of whom openly and repeatedly made moves to topple Venezuelan governments. 

For instance, in 2002, the United States and other regional powers endorsed a coup attempt against Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. And most recently, in 2017, 12 Latin American nations formed the "Lima group" to "bring a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Venezuela" - an action that can easily be interpreted as an attempt to bring down the Venezuelan government and interfere in the internal affairs of the country.

There are countless other examples of states intervening in each other's affairs in the LAC. For example, when Paraguay's President Fernando Lugo was impeached by the Senate in 2012, both Brazil and Venezuela strongly opposed the move.

Brazil and Venezuela, along with Argentina and Uruguay, also promoted Paraguay's ban from Mercosur in response to the Senate's decision. In other words, Venezuela is hardly the only country in the region that is trying to exert influence over other countries by meddling in their internal affairs.

On closer inspection, the accusation that the Venezuelan government is a threat to the survival, stability and democratic integrity of the countries in the LAC region appears to be an exaggeration. Caracas currently has neither the intention nor the military, economic or political power to take on any major political actor or alter the dynamics within the region.

Caracas' petrol income has reached record lows and its economy is in a shambles. The Maduro government is incapable of providing for its own citizens let alone spending money abroad to hurt its political rivals. Moreover, Venezuela does not currently have the capacity to embark on a military intervention in another country. 

Perhaps the only credible accusation directed at the Venezuelan government on the regional level is that it is falling short of meeting the standards of representative, liberal democracy - the dominant political model in Latin America. It is true that the Chavista government has long been ignoring fundamental democratic principles, such as holding fair and free elections, acknowledging and protecting political minorities and respecting the rule of law. The current state of affairs in Venezuela, wherewith the passing of time there is less and less room for dialogue, negotiation and agreement, is indisputable proof that Maduro is no champion of democracy. 

Whether Maduro's assault on democratic principles makes Venezuela a "threat" to the region, however, is questionable. The government's democratic shortcomings hurt first and foremost the Venezuelan people and the damage they cause on the regional level is only incidental.

In conclusion, the accusation that Maduro's government is a "threat" to the region is a political talking point used by his rivals to further isolate his regime rather than a demonstrable reality.

This line of discourse put forward by opposition leaders in Venezuela and right-wing governments in the region, has the potential to backfire and trigger an even more radicalised stance from Maduro against the "persecution" and "criminalisation" of his government.

The debate on the Chavista regime must keep its focus on the domestic issues being faced by Venezuelans and the possible solutions to the current situation in this country. If the focus shifts towards a regional scenario, the opportunities to solve this crisis may be wasted.

SXM Radio Online

Entertainment

September 7, 2021  NEW YORK (AP) — Actor Michael K. Williams, who as the rogue robber of drug dealers Omar Little on “The Wire” created one of the most beloved and enduring characters in a prime era of television, died Monday. Williams was found dead Monday afternoon by family members in his Brooklyn penthouse apartment, New York City police said. He was 54. His death was being investigated as a possible drug overdose, the NYPD said. The medical examiner was investigating the cause of death. Little, a “stick-up boy” based on real figures from Baltimore, was probably the most popular character among the devoted fans of “The Wire,” the HBO show that ran from 2002 to 2008 and is re-watched constantly in streaming.

September 8, 2021 LOS ANGELES (AP) — Britney Spears’ father filed Tuesday to end the court conservatorship that has controlled the singer’s life and money for 13 years. James Spears filed his petition to terminate the conservatorship in Los Angeles Superior Court. “As Mr. Spears has said, again and again, all he wants is what is best for his daughter,” the document says. “If Ms. Spears wants to terminate the conservatorship and believes that she can handle her own life, Mr. Spears believes that she should get that chance.” Judge Brenda Penny, who oversees the case, will need to approve the move. Britney Spears attorney Matthew Rosengart said in an email the filing “represents another legal victory for Britney Spears — a massive one — as well as vindication for Ms. Spears.”

September 8, 2021  NEW YORK (AP) — With Katie Holmes and Lil’ Kim on his front row and singer Marina on the mic high above his runway, Christian Siriano helped kicked off New York Fashion Week’s first big pandemic round of in-person shows Tuesday with a flurry of neon and lace-inspired in part by all the Italian women in his life. From ornate Gotham Hall, beneath a stained-glass skylight 70 feet up, Siriano’s commitment to size inclusivity was never stronger as he opened and closed the show with plus-size breakout model Precious Lee. She first walked in a stunning yellow trouser suit with wide loose pants and an asymmetrical jacket, a matching crossover bralette underneath.

September 7, 2021  VENICE, Italy (AP) — Paul Schrader knows he has a limited number of films left, so whatever he does from here on out is going to be for himself. At 75 years old, the writer of “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull” and director of “American Gigolo” and “Mishima” was even somewhat prepared to call it a day after his 2018 film “First Reformed,” for which he got his first Oscar nomination. He didn’t want to. He just knew it might be the reality. “I thought I would go back to this character again for about the fifth time,” Schrader said in a recent interview. By “this character” he means “the man in the room.” It’s Travis Bickle. It’s John LeTour. It’s Julian Kay. And it’s a formula he’s been working with for 45 years.

Business News

September 8, 2021  -Stocks were mostly lower in Asia on Wednesday after a lackluster session on Wall Street, where weak jobs data and pandemic concerns weighed on sentiment. Shares rose in Tokyo after economic growth for the April-June quarter was revised upward to an annualized 1.9% from an earlier estimate of 1.3%. “Any feel-good factor was ignored, though, given the climb was less than half of the 4.20% fall in Q1,” Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a commentary. “Japan will be lucky to break even this year as the current Covid-19 wave will almost certainly have weighed on domestic consumption,” he said.

September 8, 2021 NEW YORK (AP) — There will be something missing at two Whole Foods stores opening next year: the rows of cashiers. Amazon, which owns the grocery chain, said Wednesday that it will bring its cashier-less technology to two Whole Foods stores for the first time, letting shoppers grab what they need and leave without having to open their wallets. Cameras and sensors track what’s taken off shelves. Items are charged to an Amazon account after customers leave the store with them. But there will be an option for those who want to shop the old-fashioned way: Self-checkout lanes will be available that take cash, gift cards and other types of payment. Amazon first unveiled the cashier-less technology in 2018 at an Amazon Go convenience store and has expanded it to larger Amazon supermarkets. But it will be the first time it has appeared at Whole Foods, a chain of more than 500 grocery stores Amazon bought four years ago.

September 8, 2021  BEIJING (AP) — An avalanche of changes launched by China’s ruling Communist Party has jolted everyone from tech billionaires to school kids. Behind them: President Xi Jinping’s vision of making a more powerful, prosperous country by reviving revolutionary ideals, with more economic equality and tighter party control over society and entrepreneurs. Since taking power in 2012, Xi has called for the party to return to its “original mission” as China’s economic, social and cultural leader and carry out the “ rejuvenation of the great Chinese nation.” The party has spent the decade since then silencing dissent and tightening political control. Now, after 40 years of growth that transformed China into the world’s factory but left a gulf between a wealthy elite and the poor majority, the party is promising to spread prosperity more evenly and is pressing private companies to pay for social welfare and back Beijing’s ambition to become a global technology competitor.

Fashion News

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