Archive for South America
Venezuelan President-elect Nicolas Maduro has blamed the United States for fuelling violence in the South American country. Maduro said that the US Embassy in Caracas is responsible for all the violence that has happened in the wake of Sunday’s presidential elections. He stated that the US Embassy has been “financing and leading all the violent acts,” adding that it is backing what he called “neo-Nazi groups” in his country. The 50-year-old accused the opposition of trying to stage a coup after anti-government protests on Monday and Tuesday left seven people dead in Venezuela. Maduro won the election by a margin of 50.8 percent to 49 percent over Henrique Capriles. On Tuesday evening, Capriles called on the government to start a dialogue to quell the violence.
A decade after an accountant at the Canadian embassy in Venezuela is said to have misappropriated more than $2 million, the federal government is still trying to get most of its money back. Figures released last fall show Canada has yet to recoup $1.75 million of the $2.2 million lost to “fraud involving immigration revenue.” But a newly released document tells the full story. A report by Foreign Affairs’ special investigations unit reveals for the first time how an accountant and his brother-in-law allegedly siphoned the money from the embassy’s bank accounts. It also takes the department to task for missing red flags, allowing the alleged fraud to go undetected for years. The books were already in a bad way when accountant Rafael Beltran started work at the Caracas embassy in summer 1999. A fire the previous year destroyed part of the building and made a mess of the accounting records. “The disorder in the accounting records created the perfect opportunity for the accountant and enabled him to cover up several fraudulent transactions,” the report says. Foreign Affairs officials visiting Caracas in April 2001 found “a significant discrepancy” in the embassy’s books, the report says, but didn’t properly follow up on it. The discrepancy was reported — twice — to embassy officials. But the officials unknowingly asked Beltran to look into his own alleged fraud. Two years passed before the full extent of Beltran’s alleged “fraudulent activities” became known. The Foreign Affairs investigators eventually found Beltran allegedly made some 190 fraudulent transactions between January 2000 and April 2003. Most of the money he is alleged to have withdrawn from two embassy accounts at the Banco del Caribe was in the form of cash or traveller’s cheques. He was suspended in early April 2003, and fired days later. In August 2004, Venezuelan authorities arrested and charged Beltran and his brother-in-law, Larry Enrique Ramirez Canelon, who had both eluded arrest for some time. Beltran spent some time in a Venezuelan prison but has since been released, but his whereabouts are currently unknown. Venezuelan court records show Canadian officials faced accusations of harassment as they tried to recover money. In January 2008, Beltran admitted to the fraud, according to the court documents. He also accused Canadian officials of harassing him. They denied doing so.
Within a month Trinidad and Tobago will open its embassy in Bejing, China, more than 30 years after China established its embassy here in T&T. On June 20, 1974 China established diplomatic relations with T&T and in April of 1975 the embassy was established. Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran sees no issue in the delay in reciprocating. “It is all a matter of timing,” he said. According to a document from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1974 T&T has entered into 40 bilateral agreements with China, where, “many of these agreements have included financial arrangements in the form of grants and interest-free and concession loans.” To forward the county’s interest in strengthening bilateral relations, Dookeran said the Government is about to send two “young diplomats” to study and learn the diplomacy requirements of China. The Chinese are known to be very particular about protocol. “Within a short time they will go to physically establish an office, the preparatory work is being done. Cabinet has already approved the setting up of the Bejing office.” Within a month, Minister Dookeran said a core group will be sent to staff the embassy office, while he anticipates it will take another three to six months to have the mission fully staffed and functioning to optimum.
Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone has given a boost to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange by visiting him at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The Born on the Fourth of July filmmaker met with the controversial whistleblower and later took to his Twitter.com page to detail their “hopeful talk”. Stone tweeted, “(It was also) a sad occasion in that Julian could not follow me out the door. He lives in a tiny room with great modesty and discipline. (He has a) strong mind, no sun, friends who visit, work to be done.” Stone also blasted a string of upcoming films about Assange, including The Fifth Estate, which will star Benedict Cumberbatch as the Australian, as well as Alex Gibney’s documentary, We Steal Secrets.
In a secret US cable published online by WikiLeaks, former ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield, outlines a comprehensive plan to infiltrate and destabilize former President Hugo Chavez’ government. Dispatched in November of 2006 by Brownfield — now an Assistant Secretary of State — the document outlined his embassy’s five core objectives in Venezuela since 2004, which included: “penetrating Chavez’ political base,” “dividing Chavismo,” “protecting vital US business” and “isolating Chavez internationally.” The memo, which appears to be totally un-redacted, is plain in its language of involvement in these core objectives by the US embassy, as well as the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), two of the most prestigious agencies working abroad on behalf of the US. According to Brownfield, who prepared the cable specifically for US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), the “majority” of both USAID and OTI activities in Venezuela were concerned with assisting the embassy in accomplishing its core objectives of infiltrating and subduing Chavez’ political party. In total, between 2004 and 2006, USAID donated some 15 million dollars to over 300 organizations, and offered technical support via OTI in achieving US objectives which it categorized as seeking to reinforce democratic institutions.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been confined to the Ecuadorean embassy in London since last June, is unlikely to be able to leave Britain before 2015 and his hosts are now hoping for a future Labour government to help break the impasse, a media report said. The Ecuadorean government has been seeking a commitment from the UK’s Conservative-led coalition that it will not support Assange’s extradition to the US if he goes to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault. Given the ongoing diplomatic stand-off , Ecuadorean diplomats now seem to have set their sights on a possible change in government in the 2015 British general elections and approached the Opposition Labour Party for a similar assurance.
Ecuadorean diplomats have raised the case of Julian Assange with the Labour party as part of attempts to lay the groundwork for a resolution of the diplomatic standoff between Britain and the South American state over the WikiLeaks’ founder. As part of its continuing search for an end to the impasse, Ecuador has been seeking a commitment from the coalition that it would not support Assange’s onward extradition to the US should he choose to go to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault. In an indication that the Ecuadoreans are now also setting their sights on a possible change of government after the 2015 election, Ecuador’s ambassador, Ana Alban, raised Assange’s case during a meeting with the shadow foreign minister, Kerry McCarthy. The WikiLeaks founder has been living in the embassy in central London since June in order to avoid arrest and extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual offences. There is a permanent police guard and he will be arrested if he leaves the premises. Ecuadorean diplomats have been in discussions with the Swedish and UK governments since Assange unexpectedly sought refuge at the embassy.
The U.S. embassy in Chile has apologised for an earlier tweet indicating it was bored or irritated by former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet’s bid to run in the November presidential polls. “Our apologies for the last tweet. An unauthorised user sent the message from this account,” the embassy said via its official Twitter account. The offensive tweet was erased, but the apology was still there Thursday. The erased message read: “Bachelet, Bachelet, Bachelet … Is there no other news?” Bachelet, the first female to lead Chile from 2006 to 2010, was until recently head of the United Nations agency in charge of women’s affairs. She returned to Chile on Wednesday to seek a second term in the Nov 17 elections as candidate of the left-leaning opposition.
Peru’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs appointed new Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Peru to Sweden, Singapore and Thailand. Former Deputy Foreign Minster Jose Baraun Aranibar will serve as new ambassador to Sweden. Ambassadors Felix Denegri Boza and Manuel Talavera Espinar will lead the Peruvian diplomatic mission in Thailand and Singapore respectively.
Venezuela’s government has halted lines of communication established by a top U.S. diplomat to protest what it says has been U.S. interference in the country’s internal affairs ahead of an election set next month to replace the late President Hugo Chavez. Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said in a news conference Wednesday that U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson had violated Venezuela’s sovereignty despite reaching out to the South American country’s government before Chavez’s March 5 death. He accused Jacobson of supporting opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, although he didn’t provide any evidence. “We want normal relations with the United States based on mutual respect,” Jaua said. He said the government had formally “suspended any contact and any communication that had been established with the call of Mrs. Jacobson in the month of November.” He emphasized, however, that diplomatic and consular relations would remain between the two countries. Venezuela’s government expelled two U.S. military attaches this month for allegedly talking to members of the country’s armed forces. Washington responded by ejecting two Venezuelan diplomats, who were honored by Jaua Wednesday. The two countries haven’t had ambassadors posted in each other’s capitals since 2010.