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Hometown: America's Finest City
Current location: District 50
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 11,947

Journal Archives

Venezuela needs our attention, but so do dictatorships-in-waiting Nicaragua and Bolivia

While the world is watching Venezuela’s descent into a full blown dictatorship, scant attention has been paid to the slow-motion disappearance of democracy in two other countries: Nicaragua and Bolivia. If they continue on their present course, they may soon be called Latin America’s emerging dictatorships.

The erosion of basic freedoms in these two countries came to mind this week when I interviewed Sergio Ramirez, the Nicaraguan writer and former Sandinista vice president who, on Nov. 16, was awarded the Spanish Royal Academy’s coveted Cervantes literary prize — considered the Nobel literature award of the Spanish-speaking world.

Ramirez, whom I have known since his days in the Sandinista government in the 1980s, became disillusioned with the increasingly totalitarian bent of his leftist comrades and broke ranks with Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega in the early 1990s. In 1996, Ramirez ran for president as leader of a democratic leftist party he founded, and — after losing that election — quit his political career to become a full-time writer and journalist.

After becoming the first Central American writer to win the Cervantes prize, Ramirez got congratulatory calls from across the world. In Nicaragua, many celebrated the news. But there was no congratulatory call from Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, or any acknowledgment from his government, Ramirez told me.


Politics Shadow Arrests of Citgo Executives in Venezuela Graft Inquiry

Source: New York Times

The administration of President Nicolás Maduro called it a necessary move to ferret out “putrid” corruption and end impunity. Outside the government, however, many observers saw it as yet another strong-arm move by Mr. Maduro to consolidate power.

Whatever the motivation, the arrests this week of six senior executives at Citgo, the United States refining subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, have purged the American company’s leadership and stunned the energy sector.

The move, announced on Tuesday by Venezuela’s attorney general, was the latest in an inquiry that has led to the arrests in recent months of about 50 people associated with the vital national oil industry. The purge has come as the state-owned company, Petróleos de Venezuela, or Pdvsa, teeters on the brink of default on billions of dollars in bond debt amid the nation’s worsening economic crisis.

Attorney General Tarek William Saab said the six Citgo executives, including the acting president, faced charges of embezzlement and other crimes in connection with a refinancing deal worth as much as $4 billion that had not been authorized by the appropriate authorities in the Maduro administration. He said the officials had offered the subsidiary as a guarantee, putting it “at risk.”

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/22/world/americas/venezuela-citgo-oil-arrests-corruption.html

Venezuela in fresh defaults on two bonds: S&P

Venezuela failed to make repayments totalling $237 million on two loans, which have overrun their 30-day grace period, ratings agency S&P announced Wednesday.

The oil-rich, cash-poor South American country failed to make the payments on bonds due 2025 and 2026, S&P said in a statement.

The ratings agency also warned of a "one-in-two chance that Venezuela could default again within the next three months."

"Two additional coupon payments are overdue, but within their grace period. We could lower the ratings on the following issues to 'D' if the government fails to pay within the stated grace period," it said.


Whitefish halts power work in Puerto Rico over $83M owed

Source: AP

Whitefish Energy Holdings said late Monday that it was halting work to help restore power in Puerto Rico because the U.S. territory's government has not paid crews as part of a contract that led to accusations of overcharging and incompetence and contributed to the resignation of the power company director.

The Montana-based company said in a statement that invoices for work done in October are outstanding and that it can no longer keep working. The Associated Press obtained a letter dated Nov. 19 and signed by Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski saying that Puerto Rico's government owes Whitefish more than $83 million and that the company would suspend work on Monday if it wasn't paid.

Whitefish said in the letter that the lack of payments is a breach of the $300 million contract that the administration of Gov. Ricardo Rossello cancelled last month. Even though the contract had been cancelled, both sides agreed Whitefish would complete its current projects and remain in Puerto Rico until Nov. 30.

"There is no basis for PREPA to withhold payments from Whitefish Energy," the letter said, referring to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. "We have met the terms of the contract — including completing difficult work on time and under challenging conditions."

Read more: https://www.yahoo.com/news/whitefish-halts-power-puerto-rico-over-83m-owed-025310680.html

Venezuela opposition leader Ledezma flees to Spain

Source: Reuters

Veteran Venezuelan opposition leader Antonio Ledezma, under house arrest since 2015 for alleged coup plotting, escaped across the border to Colombia on Friday and later flew to Spain.

With a 2018 presidential election looming, an array of major Venezuelan opposition figures are now in exile, detention or are barred from holding office.

They say Maduro has turned Venezuela into a dictatorship, while the government accuses them of joining forces with a U.S.-led global plot to topple him.

Ledezma, the best-known detained opponent of leftist President Nicolas Maduro after Leopoldo Lopez, had spearheaded street protests against Maduro in 2014 that led to months of violence and 43 deaths.

Read more: https://www.yahoo.com/news/venezuela-opposition-leader-ledezma-flees-spain-094553800.html

How a conservative group dealt with a fondling charge against a rising GOP star

On a fall evening two years ago, donors gathered during a conference at a Ritz-Carlton hotel near Washington to raise funds for a 31-year-old candidate for the Ohio legislature who was a rising star in evangelical politics.

Hours later, upstairs in a hotel guest room, an 18-year-old college student who had come to the event with his parents said the candidate unzipped his pants and fondled him in the middle of the night. The frightened teenager fled the room and told his mother and stepfather, who demanded action from the head of the organization hosting the conference.

“If we endorse these types of individuals, then it would seem our whole weekend together was nothing more than a charade,” the stepfather wrote to Tony Perkins, president of the Council for National Policy.

“Trust me . . . this will not be ignored nor swept aside,” replied Perkins, who also heads the Family Research Council, a prominent evangelical activist group. “It will be dealt with swiftly, but with prudence.”


Guess that star wasn't the only thing that was rising.

Tesla reveals semi-truck and new sports car

Source: CNN

Tesla revealed an all-new version of its Roadster sports car that can go from a stop to 60 miles an hour in 1.9 seconds, a figure that would make it the fastest-accelerating production car ever.

That was after Tesla unveiled its new semi-truck, which CEO Elon Musk said can go zero-to-60 in five seconds with an empty trailer. That's a figure usually associated with luxury sedans, not big trucks.

With a full load, the truck can still reach that speed in 20 seconds, according to Musk, much faster than any diesel-powered truck.

Only after talking about the truck's speed did Musk mention its range. It can go up to 500 miles with a full load at highway speeds, he said.

Read more: http://money.cnn.com/2017/11/17/technology/tesla-semi-truck-reveal/index.html

Musk keeps pushing the envelope.

Trump Voters Celebrate Massive Tax Cut for Everyone But Them

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Jubilant Trump voters on Thursday celebrated the prospect of a gigantic tax cut that will benefit everyone but them.

Across the country, Trump supporters were overjoyed that, after months of gridlock and wrangling, the man they voted for was about to make Americans other than them wildly richer.

“President Trump has taken a lot of hits from the fake-news media, but he stood his ground,” Carol Foyler, a Trump voter in Ohio, said. “Today he honored his pledge to the American people, except for me and anybody I know.”

Harland Dorrinson, a Trump supporter from Kentucky, agreed. “When I cast my vote last November, I said to myself, ‘I sure hope this means that people with a thousand times more money than I have get even more money,’ ” he said. “Promise kept.”


Venezuela offers chocolates but little else to creditors

Venezuela’s socialist government gifted chocolates to creditors on Monday, but offered no firm proposals at a brief meeting in Caracas that left investors without a clear understanding of the government’s strategy to renegotiate $60 billion in debt.

President Nicolas Maduro confused investors this month with a vow to continue paying Venezuela’s crippling debt, while also seeking to restructure and refinance it.

Both restructuring and refinancing appear out of the question, however, due to U.S. sanctions against the crisis-stricken nation. A default would compound Venezuela’s dire economic crisis.

Monday’s short and confused meeting, attended by senior Venezuelan officials blacklisted by the United States, gave no clarity on how Maduro would carry out his plan, bondholders and their representatives who participated said afterwards.


No headway in Venezuela debt talks

Venezuela hosted a brief meeting of creditors on Monday as the struggling yet oil-rich country sought to stave off a default seen as inevitable by experts, while the EU stepped up the pressure with new sanctions on Caracas.

However, the 25-minute closed-door gathering in a government building across from the presidential palace ended with no agreement and no plan broached, several participants said. Another meeting was promised, but no date was given.

Vice President Tareck El Aissami chaired the meeting, during which he read a statement blaming US sanctions for delays to Venezuela's debt repayments.

His presence was problematic for some, as the US has designated him a drug kingpin with whom US entities are barred from dealing.

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