jueves, 7 de enero de 2016

Venezuelan cabinet reshuffled, parliament orders Chávez portraits removed

The broadcaster Globovisión listed on 7 January the names of the new Venezuelan cabinet formally sworne in the day before before President Nicolás Maduro. The reshuffle was in response to the socialist government's defeat in the 6 December parliamentary elections, but also a bid to address the country's economic problems. A former Caracas mayor and state governor Aristóbulo Isturiz was named Executive Vice-President. One newly-elected opposition parliamentarian criticized the addition of four ministries to the government "bandwagon," at a time of dire economic conditions for ordinary Venezuelans and reduced government revenues. The newly elected, opposition-dominated parliament in turn began its legislative term to 2021 on 5 January. The assembly formalized its roster of members with 112 opposition members and 54 pro-government parliamentarians, in spite of court action by the government to have disqualified three opposition MPs, allegedly for their fraudulent election. Removing the three would reduce the size of the opposition's majority and could curb its legislative powers. The new Speaker of parliament, Henry Ramos Allup, insisted on Twitter that the opposition was standing firm against this challenge whose outcome was not yet clear. His predecessor, the socialist legislator Diosdado Cabello, effecively accused the new majority of breaking the laws and "doing what they want," by holding onto the three seats. The country's Supreme Court - which the opposition denounces as obedient to the president - had ordered the seats provisionally suspended on 30 December. Parliament caused a stir with one of its first acts on 6 January, the removal of portraits of the late socialist leader Hugo Chávez Frías, and a computerized portrait of the 19th century revolutionary Simón Bolívar from the building. The latter was a "reconstruction" of Bolívar's face, which Chávez had made and printed out in 2012.

Shootouts, shootings kill over 20 around Venezuela

At least 20 were killed around Venezuela in murders or in shootouts between police and suspected criminals through 4-6 January, three days whose violence was typical of the entire first week of 2016. On 5 January police operations against a criminal gang east of Caracas provoked two shootouts, one at the AB Beach hotel in Higuerote and another in La Troja further south, which killed four suspects, El Universal reported. Police shot dead eight suspected gangsters in two or more gun fights on 6 January in Petare, in the district of Sucre in the state of Miranda. These were identified in several papers as members of a gang, two of whose members police had shot on 3 January. Police went looking for the remainder of that gang, and found them at the two's funeral on 6 January. The daily also reported police shooting dead four suspects in the state of Zulia on 5 January. Late on 4 January, gunmen riding bikes shot dead five men playing a card game outside, in La Rinconada in southern Caracas. The dead included an army sergeant and a pastry chef, El Universal reported. In the capital's Catia neighbourhood, two thieves were shot dead by a man they had robbed as they left the scene, early on 5 January. Witnesses said he also fled, presumably to avoid arrest, El Nacional reported. The same day, a councilman for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela was shot 20 times while driving in Miranda in the state of Zulia. According to a local daily La Verdad, he had received death threats after dismissing several local officials following the government's election defeat on 6 December, El Universal reported. Overall, in the first five or six days of January, "at least" 80 bodies were counted as taken to the main Caracas morgue, Bello Monte. Most bodies taken there are believed to be of crime victims in and around Caracas.