Entries in Venezuela (26)


Presidents of Venezuela, Nicaragua Offer Asylum to Edward Snowden

Photo by The Guardian via Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- The presidents of Nicaragua and Venezuela have offered political asylum to fugitive Edward Snowden.

According to BBC News, Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro announced his willingness to accept Snowden in a speech on Venezuela's Independence Day.

"As head of state and government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young U.S. citizen Edward Snowden," Maduro said.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said that he would do the same "if circumstances permit," according to Agence France-Presse.

Snowden has reportedly asked 21 nations for asylum, however, the majority have rejected his requests. Snowden is believed to still be at an airport in Moscow, where he arrived last month.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Hugo Chavez's Funeral Set for Friday

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(CARACAS, Venezuela) -- Venezuela says a state funeral for its late president, Hugo Chavez, will be held on Friday.

The country's foreign minister, Elias Jaua, declared seven days of mourning and ordered all schools closed until next Monday.  Jaua says the country is in "total normality" in the wake of Chavez's death.

According to Jaua, a funeral procession will carry the late president’s body to the Military Academy in Caracas on Wednesday.  It will remain there until Friday to allow for his supporters to pay their respects.  He called on Chavez supporters to wear clothes in the three colors of the Venezuelan flag to honor the late leader.

Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday that Chavez, the South American country's fiery and controversial socialist president who came to power on a wave of popular sentiment and befriended some of the world's most notorious dictators, had died at the age of 58.

Maduro is now the country’s interim president until new elections can be scheduled within 30 days.

Venezuelan government officials said on Monday that Chavez had developed a severe respiratory infection following cancer surgery, and that his condition was very delicate.  Chavez recently returned to Venezuela after two months of cancer treatment in Cuba and was being cared for in a military hospital.

Maduro declared on state television that a “scientific commission” would look into Chavez’s death and the likelihood that his “historical enemies” had somehow been responsible for his disease, reported El Diario.  Many observers interpret that “historical enemy” as being the United States.  

“An assertion that the United States was somehow involved in causing President Chavez’s illness is absurd, and we definitely reject it,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said on Tuesday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Venezuelan VP Says Chavez Undergoing Chemotherapy 

RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images(CARACAS, Venezuela) -- Speaking after a Mass for President Hugo Chavez on Friday, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro shed some light on Chavez' health.

Maduro told reporters that Chavez is battling for his life, according to the BBC. Maduro added that the president was undergoing "complementary treatments" in the form of chemotherapy.

Speculation had mounted regarding the health of the Venezuelan president, but few specifics had been given.

Chavez has not been seen in public since he had surgery in Cuba in December for an unspecified cancer that is believed to be in his pelvic region. There were reports that Chavez suffered from a severe respiratory infection following his treatment in Cuba.

Maduro has been selected by Chavez as his preferred successor. According to the BBC, if the president is not able to return to office, Venezuela is constitutionally required to hold an election within 30 days.

The 58-year-old president, who won re-election in October, has held that office for 14 years. Chavez had previously reported undergoing radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Hugo Chavez Returns to Venezuela. What Happens Next?

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Hugo Chávez returned to Venezuela in the early hours of Monday morning, two months after heading to Cuba for cancer surgery.

There are still no images of Chávez's return. But according to government officials, the president arrived around 2:30 a.m. local time on a private flight, and was immediately taken to a military hospital in Caracas. A message published on Chávez's personal Twitter account at 3:42 a.m. confirms this.

"We have arrived in Venezuela once again. Thank you god, thank you my beloved people. We will continue treatment here," says the tweet, which is supposedly written by Chávez himself.

So is this the start of a surprise comeback for the cancer-stricken socialist leader?

Probably not, says Jose Marquina, a Florida-based Venezuelan doctor who claims to get inside info on Chávez's closely guarded health status.

Marquina contends that Chávez's cancer, for which he has had four operations in the past 18 months, has reached a point of no return, and is slowly spreading from his pelvic area into vital organs like the pancreas and the lungs.

"There was no sense for him to be in Cuba, when there are no more treatments that can be offered," Marquina tweeted in Spanish on Monday morning. "At this point of the disease there are no more curative treatments, only palliative ones," the doctor also wrote on his Twitter account.

According to Marquina, Chávez has only two to three months left to live, and could have possibly returned home to spend time with friends and relatives.

Marquina has previously been right about the president's health problems. In January, for example, Marquina said that Chávez was suffering a respiratory infection, a couple days before the Venezuelan government acknowledged this same problem in a public statement.

So what happens next in Venezuela?

One interesting development that could take place is that the Supreme Court formally swears Chávez into his fourth term in office, as the Venezuelan leader missed his swearing in ceremony on January 10.

Such a ceremony would quiet legal challenges from opposition groups, which have been arguing for weeks that there is a power vacuum in the country, and new elections must be held, as Chávez was not officially sworn into his fourth term.

However, if doctor Marquina is right about Chávez's short life expectancy, new elections will have to be held anyway after Chávez dies, or if his frail health condition leads him to retire from office.

According to the Venezuelan constitution, elections have to be "called for" within 30 days of a president´s death or retirement, but the rules are not so clear as to when elections actually have to take place.

Political analysts in Venezuela say that Vice President Nicolas Maduro, a close Chávez ally, is the favorite to win. But this could change if economic problems continue to plague the country and force the government to cut back on social programs. If you consider that opposition candidate Henrique Capriles lost by ten points to Chávez in the October presidential elections, and that Maduro is not as well liked or as charismatic as Chávez, the next election could be pretty close.

Of course there is also the possibility that Chávez will make a surprising recovery and will once again be healthy enough to appear in public, and serve out his presidential term, which runs through 2018.

But chances are slim with even government officials saying last week that his condition is delicate, difficult, and that he is "fighting for his life."

For the moment however, Chávez's surprise comeback provides a glimmer of hope to supporters, who welcomed news of his arrival with fireworks, and even gathered in front of the military hospital where Chávez is staying in Caracas.

Chávez's return also takes away some attention from the daily problems that have beset his government, like soaring crime rates and serious food shortages.

Just last week, the Venezuelan government was also forced to devalue the national currency, the Bolivar, by 30 percent of its value relative to the U.S. dollar. This move was necessary in order for the national oil company PDVSA to get more local cash for each barrel of oil it sells, money which can then be diverted to social programs. But devaluation is also expected to drive up the country´s steep inflation rate, it makes crucial food imports more expensive, and it also means that people´s savings are now worth less. Chávez has returned to Venezuela in the middle of difficult times.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Venezuela After Hugo Chavez: What's Next?

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(CARACAS, Venezuela) -- As Venezuelans woke up Thursday morning, hours before Hugo Chavez was supposed to be sworn in for his third term as president, there was as much evidence that the father of the nation's "Bolivarian Revolution" is alive as that he is dead.

Chavez, 58, has not been seen or heard from since leaving the country for Cuba a month ago on Thursday.  Surgeons at Havana's Cimeq hospital operated on him the next day for at least the third time in 18 months, a span in which he had also undergone chemotherapy and radiation treatment for a mysterious cancer than began in his pelvic region.

Now, his supporters will fill the streets for an unofficial inauguration in absentia, a rally to affirm Chavez as their leader even as his ruling legacy is thrown into doubt by illness and a dubious reading of Venezuelan law.

The letter from Havana asking that the official ceremonies be delayed was not signed by Chavez, but by his vice president and would-be successor, Nicolas Maduro.  In Caracas, another top lieutenant of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, Diosdado Cabello, with the backing of the National Assembly, accepted the request and moved to put off the occasion indefinitely.

Their decision defied Articles 231, 233 and 234 of the Venezuelan constitution, which require the president be sworn in on Jan. 10 -- if not before legislators, then in the presence of the Supreme Court -- unless he is declared incapacitated or "absent."

In those cases, the vice president or leader of the National Assembly would temporarily fill the position and the clock would start counting down to new elections.  The current Supreme Court, which is stocked with Chavez appointees, has rejected appeals to intervene.

"Right now, we cannot say when, how or where the president will be sworn in," Supreme Court Chief Judge Luisa Morales said at a news conference Wednesday, neatly summing up the state of play right now in Caracas.

With Chavez gone, confusion reigns and a question threatens to eat up the firmament: What's next?

"Chavismo sin Chávez no existe (Chavismo without Chavez does not exist)," Elias Jaua, his former vice president, said a year ago when concerns about the president's health cast a pall on his re-election campaign.  Jaua also stated that "no one in the ranks of the revolution" had ever discussed the possibility of succession.

Their actions in the past 48 hours would indicate that Jaua was not parrying or keeping a hard line, but that there is, indeed, no real plan in place for when Chavez dies.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Vittorio Missoni's Son Says Plane Crash Scenario 'Least Plausible'

Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images(CARACAS, Venezuela) -- The son of Italian fashion mogul Vittorio Missoni says a plane crash is the "least plausible" explanation for his father's disappearance off the coast of Venezuela, hinting that he might have been kidnapped.

Venezuelan authorities have been searching since the twin-engine plane was lost last Friday near the resort islands of Los Roques.  On board were Missoni, three other Italians -- including his wife -- and two Venezuelan crew members.

Missoni's oldest son, Ottavio, told Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera on Wednesday, "A plane cannot vanish in this way, on a short route, without leaving any trace.  I remain convinced that the least plausible reason is that they crashed into the water."

His opinion is based on a mysterious text message apparently sent from the cellphone of Guido Forsti, who was on the plane, to Forsti's son more than 48 hours after it disappeared.

Ottavio told the newspaper the text message read, "Call now. We are reachable."

He said he has even reached out to his father's potential enemies in search of any explanation.

Venezuelan officials said more than 400 people in boats, planes and helicopters searched Wednesday for a sixth day without success.  No wreckage or debris has been found and Venezuelans will suspend the search after Thursday.  An Italian team that assisted in search efforts last year with the Costa Concordia shipwreck is set to arrive in Venezuela later Thursday to help.

"It's really hard to believe the airplane isn't in the water," John Nance, ABC News' aviation analyst, said.  "By the same token, unless you find wreckage, there's no proof it hasn't flown off someplace else.  But I find that hard to believe."

Corriere Della Sera published the last known image of Missoni, 58, and his friends moments before they boarded the plane in Los Roques last Friday, bound for Caracas.

Thirty minutes after takeoff, the plane vanished into the Caribbean, leaving the tight-knit Missoni clan anxiously waiting for answers.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Ailing President Chavez Will Not Attend Inauguration Thursday 

RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/GettyImages(NEW YORK) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez won't be taking the oath for a fourth term in office on Thursday, his government officials have said.  The Venezuelan National Assembly approved the ailing president's request to postpone his inauguration, BBC News reports.

Mystery has lingered around the exact status of his condition in recent weeks.  President Chavez underwent surgery in Cuba on Dec. 11 for what the government of Venezuela described as a severe lung infection. He has not been seen in public since his operation.

According to several news sources, Chavez, who has undergone four cancer-related surgeries since June 2011, was put in an induced coma because of weak vital signs and remains on life support.

Meanwhile, family members of the socialist president maintain that Chavez is in stable condition and urged supporters not to believe any rumors.

While lawmakers voted to allow Chavez as much recovery time as he needs, Venezuela's opposition is calling the Supreme Court to rule on what steps to take in the president's absence at the inauguration, BBC reports.  Government officials say the ceremony is just a formality.

It is the opposition's hope, according to BBC, that President Chavez will be called absent so that Diosdado Cabello, chairman of the National Assembly, can be declared the interim president.

Already there are conspiracy theories that doctors are keeping Chavez alive so that Vice President Nicolas Maduro, who is more pro-Cuba than Cabello, will become the next president.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Missing Fashion Mogul Vittorio Missoni Turned Family Business Into a Global Brand

(NEW YORK) -- Rescuers searched by air and sea Sunday off the coast of Venezuela for the plane carrying Italian fashion mogul Vittorio Missoni, the man credited with turning his father’s fashion house into a global empire that includes hotels, housewares and bicycles.

The 58-year-old left the remote Los Roques archipelago Friday on a twin-engine plane bound for Caracas, Venezuela. On board were his wife, two friends and two pilots.

Thirty minutes after takeoff, the plane vanished into the Caribbean, leaving the tight-knit Missoni clan anxiously waiting for answers.

Luca Missoni, Vittorio’s brother, is reportedly en route to Venezuela to monitor the search effort, while 91-year-old patriarch Ottavio Missoni remains in Italy with family.

Vittorio, who runs the family business with his siblings, Luca and Angela, has been instrumental in bringing the brand to luxury consumers in Asia.

“It’s quite a family business and we have also a new generation who’s been involved,” Missoni said on a video that was posted on YouTube earlier this year.

The Missoni brand was born in 1953 at a workshop in Gallarte, Italy, when Ottavio Missoni and his wife, Rosita, began creating knitwear.

Known for the trademark Missoni zig-zag pattern, the brand has become a favorite of fashionistas, including Kate Moss and Kate Middleton.

The Missonis used their flair for design and business savvy to move beyond knitwear, starting a hotel chain and a line of housewares.

In 2011, the fashion house partnered with Target to create a low cost, 400-piece line, including a bicycle that sported the trademark Missoni zig-zag.

The collection sold out in minutes at Target stores, while online shoppers managed to crash the big-box retailer’s website.

The fashion house has not yet said whether the Missoni fall 2013 menswear show, which is scheduled for next Sunday in Milan, will go on as planned.

Annuals sales of the Milan-based company are estimated to be between $75 million and $100 million.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Road to Post-Chávez Venezuela Still Nebulous

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The road to a post-Chávez Venezuela became a little bit less hazy Saturday, after legislators re-elected Diosdado Cabello to the post of National Assembly president.

Cabello is a long time Chávez ally with close links to the military. According to some observers, he clashes with Chávez's handpicked successor, Nicolás Maduro, over several issues, including the role of Cuban intelligence officers in Venezuela.

Cabello's re-election to the National Assembly post means that if Chávez dies before January 10 -- when he is scheduled to start his fourth consecutive term in office -- Cabello would have to take over as interim president of the country, until elections are held once again.

But if Chávez lives beyond that date, the transition process in Venezuela will continue to be a confusing affair.

Maduro, the vice president, said in an interview on Friday night that if Chávez is alive but not healthy enough to be sworn into office, Venezuela's Supreme Court could swear him in at a "later date."

"The constitution is flexible in that regard," Maduro told the Venezuelan state-run news channel Venezolana de Televisión. "Chávez has already formed his government," he added.

Maduro, who has taken over several presidential duties while Chávez is in the hospital, argued that Chávez's fourth period in office would begin whether there is an inauguration ceremony or not.

But this interpretation of the Venezuelan Constitution clashes with that of some opposition lawyers, who say that the January 10 swearing-in date is not flexible, and claim that if Chávez is not able to preside over the country on that date, Diosdado Cabello would have to take over as interim president.

Under this interpretation, Chávez's fourth term in office would never begin if he is too sick to be sworn in. Vice President Maduro would be out of a job and new elections would be held in order to form a new government.

For the moment, Maduro's plan to keep the current government running until Chávez can be sworn in at a later date is the most likely to prevail in Venezuela, as the country's Supreme Court is packed with allies of the socialist president.

The general consensus in Venezuela is that if Chávez dies at any time, before or after January 10, elections should be held within 30 days of his passing. However, there is also some room for debate here, with some lawyers arguing that according to the Venezuelan Constitution, elections only have to be "called for," not actually "held" in a 30-day period.

Of course, none of this legal debate may be necessary if Chávez miraculously recovers from his cancer surgery, and triumphantly returns to Venezuela, energized and ready to serve out his upcoming six-year term.

But the prospects of that happening are slim. The Venezuelan president had his fourth cancer surgery in 18 months in early December, and has not spoken in public since he headed to Cuba on December 9, nor written any messages on his massively popular Twitter account, as he did in previous post-surgery periods.

Rumors on the web, from journalists and doctors who claim to have obtained leaked information, say that Chávez is on artificial life support, able to breathe only with the help of a machine. On December 30, the Venezuelan government announced that Chávez had contracted a respiratory infection that arose from post-surgery complications, and on January 3, it updated his status, saying he now had a "severe lung infection."

Making things more uncertain, the Venezuelan government has not provided any further details on the president's health, prompting criticism from the opposition, who say officials want to keep citizens in the dark about Chávez's real status.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Plane Carrying Missoni, Italian Fashion Boss, Reported Missing 

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(CARACAS,Venezuela) -- Vittorio Missoni and his wife are reported missing, who were last seen on board a flight from the archipelago of Los Roques heading towards Maiquetia Airport in Caracas, according to the BBC.

The aircraft disappeared midmorning on Friday and has not be traced since, reports the BBC.

Missoni, 58, is the co-owner of the Missoni Italian fashion empire with his siblings.

The Missoni brand was popular in the fall of 2011 when they did a designer collaboration with Target and sold out of many of their products.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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