In his first State of the Union address to U.S. Congress, President Donald Trump took aim at the governments of Cuba and Venezuela calling them “dictatorships” as he ramps up his country’s long standing interventionist and regime-change policy towards left-wing governments in Latin America.
Venezuela’s Interior Minister confirmed that seven members of what officials are calling a “terrorist cell” were killed during an operation in the outskirts of Caracas Monday.
“We wanted to report the dismantling of a powerful cell that during the last months have committed terrorist acts,” said Nestor Reverol, the Minister of People’s Power for Interior Relations, Justice and Peace at a press conference Tuesday.
Reverol reported that the operation resulted in the deaths of seven members of the group, including Oscar Perez, the former police helicopter pilot who grew in prominence after publishing videos on social media calling for armed rebellion against the Venezuelan government.
The Venezuelan government has called the first steps toward refinancing its foreign debt a resounding success after it released a public statement confirming that the process of refinancing the country’s external debt is aimed at complying with its foreign obligations.
The document also stated that “despite the attempts made by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, an entity linked to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, to prevent this,” with measures aimed at attacking the Venezuelan economy and hindering the country’s foreign economic commitments, the government intends to fulfill its obligations “regardless of the difficulties we face and malicious intentions of blockades.”
This success did not prevent Standard & Poor from downgrading Venezuela’s debt status Tuesday to SD, or selective default, penalizing the country for what it said was late payment, but at the same time, the ratings agency conceded that overall, Venezuela is still committed to honoring its international debts.
The first meeting between Venezuelan authorities and foreign debt holders on Monday was attended by 414 investors, including U.S., European and British banks.
He reiterated that seeking reconciliation in Venezuela is an ANC task; hence, it will work to establish order in the country.’
The nursery at the Venezuela Television offices in Los Ruices in eastern Caracas was evacuated after the channel was threatened by violent opposition protesters who threw rocks into the nursey’s garden and set a police post on fire across the street from the station.
The attack was repelled by VTV workers themselves before the national guard arrived to arrest six people involved in the attempted assault.
Workers were seen coming out of the building to defend the station and freedom of the press in Venezuela, dismantling barricades set up by opposition forces in their efforts to shut down the city.
President Nicolas Maduro blamed the attack squarely on the mayor of the municipality of Sucre, “I blame Carlos Ocariz for this attack and I call for swift justice in this case.”
Trump’s man for South America has promised robust measures against Venezuela but refused to give details in a White House briefing Tuesday.
Fernando Cutz, the director for South America of Donald Trump’s National Security Council, told journalists that no decision has yet been taken on new sanctions against Venezuela, so he was not prepared to discuss specific actions or the names of individuals or entities that might be targeted. Cutz was answering questions from the media in a telephone briefing after President Trump threatened to take “strong and swift economic action” if the Venezuelan government continues with elections for a Constituent Assembly on July 30.
The Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino Lopez stated in a press conference Wednesday that the National Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela strongly rejects the interference of western powers in the internal affairs of the country.
“The FANB categorically rejects the alliance of governments operating against the nation and repudiates as firmly as possible the statements of (U.S. President Donald) Trump who, in an affront to Venezuela has dared to threaten the Venezuelan people with imposing economic sanctions on the government if it goes ahead with its Constituent Assembly. It is a shameless and vile statement that represents clear meddling in the internal affairs of the country.”
The minister also denounced the opposition that calls its supporters into the streets, leading to violence that “sets people on fire, attacks medical and educational centers, and attempts to destroy cities.”
Stating the firm anti-imperialist character of the armed forces, Padrino called on the military to close ranks against these interventionists attacks.
The military official also described how forces will be deployed starting Friday to distribute electoral equipment to the over 14,000 polling centers in the country ahead of the CNA vote on July 30.
Vice President Tareck El Aissami also denounced Trump’s interventionist plans, stating that the civic-military alliance will be activated on July 21 to ensure the safe and free participation of the Venezuelan people during the vote.
The statement came after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro led a session of the National Defense Council Tuesday night at the Miraflores Presidential Palace aimed at developing strategies to defend Venezuela’s sovereignty after Trump promised “swift and strong actions” if Venezuela decided to proceed with elections for the National Constituent Assembly.
Maduro criticized Trump’s threats as “vulgar,” arguing “the process of the constituent assembly is already in the hands of the people who will exercise their right to vote.”
“This is my response, the constituent assembly does not belong to me. On July 16 the people said this constituent assembly belongs to me,” added Maduro, referring to the historic dry run vote where million
Maduro’s call for the National Defense Council after the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry in a statement rejected the U.S. government’s “unbelievable” comments on Venezuela that “shows its absolute bias towards the violent and extremist sectors of Venezuelan politics, which favor the use of terrorism to overthrow a popular and democratic government.”
The ministry was referring to a statement issued Monday by President Donald Trump, who said, “If the Maduro regime imposes its Constituent Assembly on July 30, the United States will take strong and swift economic actions.”
Trump’s threats were repeated by the U.S. State Department which released a statement calling on “the Government of Venezuela to abandon the proposed National Constituent Assembly. ”
“The thin democratic veil of the Venezuelan opposition has fallen, and it reveals the brutal interventionist force of the U.S. government, which has been behind the violence suffered by the Venezuelan people in the last four months. It is not the first time that we denounce and confront threats as ludicrous as those contained in this unbelievable document,” the statement added.
The document called on the people of the world to defend sovereignty, self-determination and independence.
“The National Constituent Assembly will be elected by the direct, universal, and secret ballot of all Venezuelans, under the authority of the National Electoral Council, as contemplated in our legal framework. It is an act of political sovereignty of the Republic, nothing and no one can stop it. The Constituent Assembly will go on!” the statement concluded.
The threats come after record high numbers turned out to participate in the historic dry run vote for the ANC, which is aimed at easing tensions and creating a more representative constitution. Despite the mass show of public support, the event was largely ignored, as international leaders continued to criticize the Venezuelan government and demand immediate elections.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer called on Miraflores to cancel the ANC and convene “free and fair elections.”
EU diplomat Federica Mogherini likewise urged President Nicolas Maduro to suspend plans to convene the ANC, noting that the move would be “an important gesture” toward de-escalating tensions.
This message was echoed by Spanish President Mariano Rajoy and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, who penned an opinion piece for Spanish newspaper El Mundo criticizing the Venezuelan government.
Organization of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro chimed in Tuesday, saying that if the ANC went ahead it would be inappropriate, and he demanded that the assembly be canceled.
Venezuela’s Ombudsman Tarek William Saab reported on his Twitter account that Venezuelan authorities have verified an attempted lynching outside the “Los Verdes” residence in the El Paraiso neighborhood of Caracas Saturday.
Saab denounced that those “who committed this hate crime did so with the greatest impunity and in broad daylight.”
The official received news Saturday afternoon when former mayor and police chief, Freddy Bernal called to inform him about the hate crime.
‘You, young people, must know that even when we have struggled and made history in these first two decades, the large history of the homeland is yet to be built, and it needs a cohesive Armed Force that loves the people from the heart’, said Maduro in the ceremony held yesterday at the National Mausoleum, in Caracas.