Caracas, Jan 22 (AP/UNB) — Venezuela plunged deeper into turmoil Monday as security forces put down a pre-dawn uprising by national guardsmen that triggered violent street protests, and the Supreme Court moved to undercut the opposition-controlled congress' defiant new leadership.
Socialist party chief Diosdado Cabello said 27 guardsmen were arrested and more could be detained as the investigation unfolds.
The mutiny struck at a time when opposition leaders have regained momentum in their efforts to oust President Nicolas Maduro. They have called for a nationwide demonstration Wednesday, urging Venezuelans — especially members of the armed forces — to abandon Maduro.
The uprising triggered protests in a poor neighborhood just a few miles (kilometers) from Venezuela's presidential palace. It was dispersed with tear gas as residents set fire to a barricade of trash and chanted demands that Maduro leave power.
The military said in a statement said that it had recovered all the weapons and captured those involved in what it described as "treasonous" acts motivated by "obscure interests tied to the far right."
It said at around 2:50 a.m. (06:50 GMT), a small group of guardsmen took captive a captain in charge of a police station in western Caracas and then moved across the capital in two military trucks to the poor neighborhood of Petare, where they stole a cache of weapons from another outpost.
Officials said 25 soldiers were quickly caught at the National Guard outpost 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the Miraflores presidential palace, and two more arrests were made at another location.
A few hours earlier, a group of heavily armed national guardsmen published a series of videos on social media saying they won't recognize Maduro's government, which has come under increasing domestic and international pressure over a newly begun second term that the opposition-controlled congress and many nations consider illegitimate.
In one of the videos, a man identifying himself as 3rd Sgt. Alexander Bandres Figueroa, addressing the "people of Venezuela," urges his compatriots to take to the streets to show support for their rebellion.
"You asked to take to the streets to defend the constitution, well here we are," he said in a video shot at night in which several heavily armed men and a national guard truck can be seen in the background.
"You wanted us to light the fuse, so we did. We need your support," he added.
At daybreak in the adjacent neighborhood of Cotiza, a group of shirtless young men, some with their faces covered, built a barricade across the street with a burning car, heavy sewer grates and a large chunk of concrete.
An angry group of women shouted that they have lived for too long without running water and tear gas fired by security forces choked their children.
"Freedom! Freedom!" they chanted. "Maduro has to go!"
"We must defend our homeland," Maria Fernanda Rodriguez, a 36-year-old manicurist, told The Associated Press, her eyes welling from the tear gas.
Hours later, the government-stacked Supreme Court said it was throwing out recent measures by the National Assembly that declared Maduro's presidency illegitimate, deepening a standoff with the opposition-controlled legislature.
The justices ruled that the new leadership of congress itself is invalid, and urged the country's chief prosecutor to investigate whether congressional leaders acted criminally in openly defying the nation's constitution.
Juan Guaido, a 35-year-old newly seated as president of congress, appealed to the military, urging them to demand Maduro abandon power in a nationwide protests Wednesday — a historic date commemorating the end of Venezuela's military dictatorship in 1958.
We are not asking you to mount a coup. We are not asking you to shoot," Guaido said in a video circulated on social media. "On the contrary, we are asking you not to shoot at us, but rather to defend together with us the right of our people to be heard."
Late Monday, Colombian TV played a video showing a group of unidentified men claiming to be soldiers who are friends of Venezuela's armed forces holed up in Colombia, saying they are responding to Guaido by preparing an advance into Venezuela to help restore democracy.
The video shown on NTN-TV in Bogota shows roughly two dozen men wearing combat fatigues, but unarmed. The Associated Press could not independently verify where the soldiers were located or their identities.
Dozens of foreign governments have refused to recognize Maduro's second term, some saying they are ready to recognize Guaido as interim president until fair elections can be held.
In addition, the Trump administration is weighing tougher financial sanctions on Venezuela, while a dozen mostly conservative Latin American and Caribbean governments said they will block officials from Maduro's government from entering their countries and take steps to freeze assets that are the byproduct of corruption
While discontent among Venezuelans is rising amid widespread food shortages and hyperinflation, Maduro is believed to have the loyalty of his top military command. In the past, troops have easily put down small uprisings.
Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said on Twitter that those responsible for the incident would be punished with the full force of the law.
Maduro was the target of an apparent assassination attempt Aug. 4 when two drones armed with explosives detonated near him as he spoke at a military parade. Officials have jailed dozens of suspects, including an opposition lawmaker.
In June 2017, rogue police officer Oscar Perez stole a helicopter and flew it over the capital, launching grenades at the Supreme Court building. He and several comrades died in a gunbattle with police after months on the lam.
Cabello, Venezuela's powerful socialist party leader, said the opposition demonstration expected Wednesday doesn't worry him, because the government will flood the streets with its own loyal supporters.
"It's the right that stirs up violence — not us," Cabello said. "How many marches do we hold here every week without a single act of violence?"
Washington, Jan 21(AP/UNB) — Thirty-one days into the partial government shutdown, Democrats and Republicans appeared no closer to ending the impasse than when it began, with President Donald Trump lashing out at his opponents after they dismissed a plan he'd billed as a compromise.
Trump on Sunday branded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a "radical" and said she was acting "irrationally." The president also tried to fend off criticism from the right, as conservatives accused him of embracing "amnesty" for immigrants in the country illegally.
Trump offered on Saturday to temporarily extend protections for young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children and those fleeing disaster zones in exchange for $5.7 billion for his border wall. But Democrats said the three-year proposal didn't go nearly far enough.
"No, Amnesty is not a part of my offer," Trump tweeted Sunday, noting that he'd offered temporary, three-year extensions — not permanent relief. But he added: "Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else."
The criticism from both sides underscored Trump's boxed in-position as he tries to win at least some Democratic buy-in without alienating his base.
With hundreds of thousands of federal workers set to face another federal pay period without paychecks, the issue passed to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to bring Trump's proposal to the floor this week.
Democrats say there's little chance the measure will reach the 60-vote threshold usually required to advance legislation in the Senate. Republicans have a 53-47 majority, which means they need at least some Democrats to vote in favor.
McConnell has long tried to avoid votes on legislation that is unlikely to become law. And the Kentucky Republican has said for weeks that he has no interest in "show votes" aimed only at forcing members to take sides after Trump rejected the Senate's earlier bipartisan bill to avert the shutdown.
What's unclear is how McConnell will bring Trump's plan forward — or when voting will begin. The Republican leader is a well-known architect of complicated legislative maneuvers. One question is whether he would allow a broader immigration debate with amendments to Trump's plan on the Senate floor.
McConnell spokesman David Popp said Sunday, "When we have (a plan) we will be sure to let everyone know."
One key Republican, Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, said that he and other lawmakers had been encouraging the White House to put an offer on the table — any offer — to get both sides talking.
"Get something out there the president can say, 'I can support this,' and it has elements from both sides, put it on the table, then open it up for debate," Lankford said on ABC's "This Week."
"The vote this week in the Senate is not to pass the bill, it is to open up and say 'Can we debate this? Can we amend it? Can we make changes?'" Lankford said. "Let's find a way to be able to get the government open because there are elements in this that are clearly elements that have been supported by Democrats strongly in the past."
"The president really wants to come to an agreement here. He has put offers on the table," said Rep Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., on NBC's "Meet the Press." ''The responsible thing for the Democrats to do is put a counteroffer on the table if you don't like this one."
Vice President Mike Pence said on "Fox News Sunday" that Trump had "set the table for a deal that will address the crisis on our border, secure our border and give us a pathway" to reopen the government.
Democrats, however, continue to say that they will not negotiate with Trump until he ends the shutdown, the longest in American history.
"The starting point of this negotiation ought to be reopening the government," Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., told NBC. "We cannot reward the kind of behavior of hostage taking. Because if the president can arbitrarily shut down the government now, he will do it time and again."
As news media reported the outline of Trump's proposal ahead of his Saturday speech, Pelosi and other Democrats made clear the president's plan was a non-starter — a quick reaction Trump took issue with Sunday.
"Nancy Pelosi and some of the Democrats turned down my offer yesterday before I even got up to speak. They don't see crime & drugs, they only see 2020," he said in first of a flurry of morning tweets.
Trump also lashed out at Pelosi personally — something he had refrained from early on — and accused her, without evidence, of having "behaved so irrationally" and moving "so far to the left that she has now officially become a Radical Democrat."
He also appeared to threaten to target millions of people living in the country illegally if he doesn't eventually get his way, writing that "there will be no big push to remove the 11,000,000 plus people who are here illegally-but be careful Nancy!"
Pelosi responded with a tweet of her own, urging Trump to "Re-open the government, let workers get their paychecks and then we can discuss how we can come together to protect the border."
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer also dug in during an appearance in New York, where he predicted Democrats would block the president's proposal from passing the Senate.
"If he opens the government, we'll discuss whatever he offers, but hostage taking should not work," Schumer said as he pushed legislation that would protect government workers who can't pay their bills because of the government shutdown. "It's very hard to negotiate when a gun is held to your head."
Washington, Jan 20 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump said Saturday that "things are going very well with North Korea" and he plans a second summit with leader Kim Jong Un to try to broker a deal that would entice the North to give up its nuclear weapons.
"We've agreed to meet sometime probably the end of February. We've picked a country, but we'll be announcing it in the future. Kim Jong Un is looking very forward to it and so am I," the president told reporters Saturday at the White House.
The initial news of a second meeting with the reclusive North Korean leader came after Trump's 90-minute session Friday in the Oval Office with a North Korean envoy, Kim Yong Chol, who traveled to Washington to discuss denuclearization talks.
"We have made a lot of progress as far as denuclearization is concerned and we're talking about a lot of different things," Trump said, adding it's "not been reported, unfortunately, but it will be. Things are going very with North Korea."
In May, North Korea released three American detainees and sent them home with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after his meeting with the North Korean leader in Pyongyang.
The second summit signals stepped-up efforts by both countries to continue talks. Trump has exchanged letters with the North Korean leader amid little tangible progress on the vague denuclearization agreement reached at their first meeting last June in Singapore.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said "it's high time" for serious negotiations between the United States and North Korea to outline a road map for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. The U.N. chief said New York on Friday that would allow both sides "to know exactly what the next steps will be, and to have predictability in the way negotiations take place."
Trump has spoken several times of having a second summit early this year. Vietnam has been considered as a possible summit venue, along with Thailand, Hawaii and Singapore.
Since the Singapore talks, several private analysts have published reports detailing continuing North Korean development of nuclear and missile technology. A planned meeting between Pompeo and the envoy, who is North Korea's former spy chief, in New York last November was abruptly canceled. U.S. officials said at the time that North Korea had called off the session.
The special U.S. envoy for North Korea negotiations, Steve Biegun, planned to travel to Sweden for further talks over the weekend.
The talks have stalled over North Korea's refusal to provide a detailed accounting of its nuclear and missile facilities that would be used by inspectors to verify any deal to dismantle them. The North also has demanded that the U.S. end harsh economic penalties and provide security guarantees before it takes any steps beyond its initial suspension of nuclear and missile tests.
Harry Kazianis, a North Korea expert at the Center for National Interest, said any talks between the two nations are a positive development, but the hard work of negotiating an agreement has only begun.
As a possible first step, Kazianis said, North Korea could agree to close its nuclear centrifuge facility at Yongbyon in exchange for some relief from U.S. sanctions or a peace declaration ending the Korean War. The three-year war between North and South Korea ended in 1953 with an armistice, not a peace treaty.
South Korea said it expects the second summit between Trump and Kim to be "a turning point in firmly establishing a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula."
Kim expressed frustration in an annual New Year's address over the lack of progress in negotiations. But on a visit to Beijing last week, he said North Korea would pursue a second summit "to achieve results that will be welcomed by the international community," according to China's official Xinhua News Agency.
Kim's latest trip to China, his fourth since last year, came as the North's strongest ally has encouraged negotiations with the U.S. while at the same time arguing in favor of an immediate easing of sanctions.
The U.S. and North Korea seemed close to war at points during 2017. The North staged a series of weapons tests that brought it closer to its nuclear goal of one day being able to target anywhere on the U.S. mainland. The two sides then turned to insulting each other: Trump called Kim "Little Rocket Man" and North Korea said Trump was a "dotard."
Washington, Jan 20 (AP/UNB) — In a bid to break the shutdown stalemate, President Donald Trump on Saturday offered to extend temporary protections for young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children and those fleeing disaster zones in exchange for his long-promised border wall. But while Trump cast the move as a "common-sense compromise," Democrats were quick to dismiss it at a "non-starter."
With polls showing a majority of Americans blaming him and Republicans for the impasse, Trump said from the White House that he was there "to break the logjam and provide Congress with a path forward to end the government shutdown and solve the crisis on the southern border."
Hoping to put pressure on Democrats, the White House billed the announcement as a major step forward. But Trump did not budge on his $5.7 billion demand for the wall and, in essence, offered to temporarily roll-back some of his own hawkish immigration actions — actions that have been blocked by federal courts.
Following a week marked by his pointed clashes with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, it was not clear if Trump's offer would lead to serious steps to reopen the government, shut for a record 29 days. Trump's move came as hundreds of thousands of federal workers go without paychecks, with many enduring financial hardship. Many public services are unavailable to Americans during the closure.
Democrats dismissed Trump's proposal even before his formal remarks. Pelosi said the expected offer was nothing more than "a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives" and that the effort could not pass the House
"What is original in the President's proposal is not good. What is good in the proposal is not original," she later tweeted.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also panned the proposal as "more hostage taking," saying that it was Trump who had "single-handedly" imperiled the future of the immigrants he proposed to help.
The New York Democrat said there is only "one way out" of the shutdown. "Open up the government, Mr. President, and then Democrats and Republicans can have a civil discussion and come up with bipartisan solutions." he said.
Democrats had made their own move late Friday to try to break the impasse when they pledged to provide hundreds of millions of dollars more for border security. But Trump, who has yet to acknowledge that offer, laid out his own plan, which officials said had been in the works for days.
Seeking to cast the plan as a bipartisan way forward, Trump said Saturday he was incorporating ideas from "rank-and-file" Democrats, as top Democrats made clear they had not been consulted. He also said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would bring the legislation to a vote this week, though Democrats appeared likely to block it. McConnell had previously stated that no vote should be held in the Senate until Trump and Democrats agreed on a bill.
Trump's remarks from the Diplomatic Room marked the second time he has addressed the nation as the partial shutdown drags on. On this occasion, he sought to strike a diplomatic tone, emphasizing the need to work across the aisle. He maintained a border barrier was needed to block what he describes as the flow of drugs and crime into the country — but described "steel barriers in high-priority locations" instead of "a 2,000-mile concrete structure from sea to sea."
The proposal was met with immediate criticism from some conservative corners, including NumbersUSA, which seeks to reduce both legal and illegal immigration to the U.S. "The offer the President announced today is a loser for the forgotten American workers who were central to his campaign promises," said Roy Beck, the group's president.
At the other end of the political spectrum, Trump's offer was panned by progressive groups, with Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, calling it a "one-sided proposal."
Trump embraced the shutdown in December in large part because of angry warnings from his most ardent supporters that he was passing up on his last, best shot to build the wall before Democrat took control of the House in the new year. After his announcement Saturday, some supporters appeared unhappy with his effort to bridge the divide with Democrats.
"Trump proposes amnesty," tweeted conservative firebrand Ann Coulter. "We voted for Trump and got Jeb!" she said, in a reference to Trump's 2016 rival, Jeb Bush.
In a briefing with reporters, Vice President Mike Pence defended the proposal from criticism from the right. "This is not an amnesty bill," he insisted.
White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney also sought to increase the pressure on congressional Democrats in advance of Tuesday, the deadline for the next federal pay period and the day officials said McConnell would begin to move on legislation.
"If the bill is filibustered on Tuesday...people will not get paid," he said.
Mulvaney said that Trump had not ruled out one day declaring a national emergency to circumvent Congress to get his wall money — as he has threatened — but added that Trump maintains that the "best way to fix this is through legislation."
Trump's son-in-law and senior aide, Jared Kushner, along with Vice President Mike Pence, had led the efforts build the plan Trump announced on Saturday, according to three people familiar with White House thinking who were not authorized to speak publicly. After a heated meeting with Pelosi and Schumer that Trump stormed out of, the president directed his aides to bypass Democratic leaders and instead reach out to rank-and-file members for ideas.
To ensure wall funding, Trump said he would extend temporary protections for three years for "Dreamers," young people brought to the country illegally as children. Administration officials said the protections would apply only to the approximately 700,000 people currently enrolled in the Obama-era program shielding them from deportation, and not all those who could be eligible. The plan would offer no pathway to citizenship for those immigrants — a deal breaker for many Democrats.
Trump also proposed a three-year extension to the temporary protected status the U.S. offers to immigrants fleeing countries affected by natural disasters or violence. Officials said the exemption would apply to about 300,000 people who currently live in the U.S. under the program and have been here since 2011. That means people from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Haiti — countries that saw the status revoked since Trump took office — would get a reprieve.
Democrats, however, criticized Trump's proposal for failing to offer a permanent solution for the immigrants in question and because he refuses back away from his demand a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which the party strongly oppposes. Democrats have told Trump he must reopen government before talks can start.
Trump had repeatedly dismissed the idea of a deal involving Dreamers in recent weeks, saying he would prefer to see first whether the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, survived a court challenge.
On Friday, the Supreme Court took no action on the Trump administration's request to decide by early summer whether Trump's bid to end that program was legal, meaning it probably will survive at least another year.
But during a recent trip to the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump hinted at the possibility, saying he would consider working on the wall and DACA "simultaneously."
A previous attempt to reach a compromise that addressed the status of "Dreamers" broke down a year ago as a result of escalating White House demands.
Washington, Jan 19 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump said he'll be making a "major announcement" on the government shutdown and the southern border on Saturday afternoon as the standstill over his border wall continues into its fifth week.
Democrats are now proposing hundreds of millions of dollars for new immigration judges and improvements to ports of entry from Mexico but nothing for the wall, a House aide said, as the party begins fleshing out its vision of improving border security.
After days of bitter clashes between Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, it was unclear if the twin developments represented serious steps toward resolving the nasty partisan fight or posturing. But they were the first tangible signs of movement in a dispute that has caused a partial government shutdown, which Saturday was entering its record 29th day.
Trump's refusal to sign spending bills that lack $5.7 billion he wants to start constructing that wall, which Democrats oppose, has prompted the shutdown.
The White House declined to provide details late Friday about what the president would be announcing. But Trump was not expected to sign the national emergency declaration he's been threatening as an option to circumvent Congress, according to two people familiar with the planning.
Instead, Trump was expected to propose the outlines of a new deal that the administration believes could potentially pave the way to an end to the shutdown, according to one of the people. They were not authorized to discuss the announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The move, amid a shutdown that has left hundreds of thousands of federal workers without paychecks, represents the first major overture by the president since Jan. 8, when he delivered an Oval Office address making the public case for his border wall. Democrats have said they will not negotiate until the government reopens, raising questions about how Trump might move the ball forward.
Democrats were proposing $563 million to hire 75 more immigration judges, who currently face large backlogs processing cases, and $524 million to improve ports of entry in Calexico, California, and San Luis, Arizona, the Democratic House aide said. The money is to be added to spending bills, largely negotiated between the House and Senate, that the House plans to vote on next week.
In addition, Democrats were working toward adding money for more border security personnel and for sensors and other technology to a separate bill financing the Department of Homeland Security, but no funds for a wall or other physical barriers, the aide said.
It was possible Democrats would unveil that measure next week as the cornerstone of their border security alternative to Trump's wall, the aide said. Earlier Friday, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., who chairs the House Appropriations Committee's homeland security subcommittee, said in an interview that some Democrats were asking leaders, "What is our plan?"
The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the details publicly. The Democrats' spending plans were first reported by The New York Times.
In a video posted on his Twitter feed late Friday, Trump said both sides should "take the politics out of it" and "get to work" to "make a deal." But he also repeated his warnings, saying: "We have to secure our southern border. If we don't do that, we're a very, very sad and foolish lot."
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said only that Trump was "going to continue fighting for border security" and "going to continue looking for the solution" to end what the administration had repeatedly referred to as a "humanitarian and national security crisis at the border."
While few would argue that a humanitarian crisis is unfolding at the U.S.-Mexico border, as the demand for entry by migrants and the Trump administration's hardline response overwhelm border resources, critics say Trump has dramatically exaggerated the security risks and argue that a wall would do little to solve existing problems.
Trump will be speaking from the Diplomatic Room at 3 p.m.
Trump's Friday evening tweeted announcement came after Pelosi, D-Calif., on Friday canceled her plans to travel by commercial plane to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan, saying Trump had caused a security risk by talking about the trip. The White House said there was no such leak.
It was the latest turn — and potentially the most dangerous — in the high-stakes brinkmanship between Trump and Pelosi that has been playing out against the stalled negotiations over how to end the partial government shutdown.
And it showed once again the willingness of the former hard-charging businessman to hit hard when challenged, as he was earlier this week when Pelosi suggested postponing his State of the Union address until after the shutdown.
It was an unusually combative week between the executive and legislative branches.
Tensions flared when Pelosi suggested Trump postpone the annual State of the Union address, a grand Washington tradition — and a platform for his border wall fight with Democrats — that was tentatively scheduled for Jan. 29.
Trump never responded directly. Instead, he abruptly canceled Pelosi's military flight on Thursday, hours before she and a congressional delegation were to depart for Afghanistan on the previously undisclosed visit to U.S. troops.
Trump belittled the trip as a "public relations event" — even though he had just made a similar stop in a conflict zone during the shutdown — and said it would be best if Pelosi remained in Washington to negotiate to reopen the government.
Pelosi, undeterred, quietly began making her own preparations for the overseas trip.
But on Friday, Pelosi said her plan to travel by commercial plane had been "leaked" by the White House.
"The administration leaked that we were traveling commercially," Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol. She said it was "very irresponsible on the part of the president."
She said the State Department told her "the president outing" the original trip made the scene on the ground in Afghanistan "more dangerous because it's a signal to the bad actors that we're coming."
The White House said it had leaked nothing that would cause a security risk.
Denying military aircraft to a senior lawmaker — let alone the speaker, who is second in line to the presidency after the vice president, traveling to a combat region — is very rare.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California slammed Trump for revealing the closely held travel plan, calling it "completely and utterly irresponsible in every way."
Some Republicans expressed frustration. Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted, "One sophomoric response does not deserve another." He called Pelosi's State of the Union move "very irresponsible and blatantly political" but said Trump's reaction was "also inappropriate."