The Conversation

Foreign Affairs: What's going on around the world.

Venezuelan President Sees Eclipse as a 'Socialist Moon'

Apr 17, 2014 2:55 PM PT

During a speech marking the one year anniversary of the day he was elected President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro said he saw this week's lunar eclipse as a "socialist moon."

Maduro narrowly defeated Enrique Capriles-Radonski to succeed Hugo Chavez after Chavez died from cancer last March. Chavez was a promoter of socialism who frequently wore a bright red shirt to advertise his commitment to the cause. His followers likewise often show up at rallies wearing red. So when there was a "blood moon" this week Maduro saw it as symbolic of the departed Chavez.

"When I looked up at the sky, it was already the 15th, and it was marking exactly one year since the results of the popular vote were announced. And in front of me I saw a red moon. How about it? Like a message, right? Like a historical message, clear like the full moon but also very red the moon was at night. We had a 'Chavista' moon last night. A socialist moon, a very red moon full of symbology."

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Globovision Anchor Quits on Air, Cites Censorship

Apr 7, 2014 4:55 PM PT

News anchor Reimy Chavez quit his job at Venezuela's Globovision TV on air last week. In an interview published today, Chavez says he quit because he feared he was becoming an "accomplice to censorship."

Globovision was an independent, opposition friendly TV network, but that changed last year when, under legal pressure, the owners sold it to three businessmen with close ties to President Maduro's government. The editorial stance of the channel changed almost immediately with the channel refusing to carry speeches by Maduro's opponent Henrique Capriles as he sought to contest the narrow election results (Maduro won by 1%).

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Venezuela Orders Landlords to Sell, Adds Fingerprint Scanners at Grocery Stores (Video)

Apr 4, 2014 8:35 AM PT

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has introduced two new schemes designed to prevent chronic shortages of homes and basic goods including food.

On Monday President Maduro issued a decree ordering landlords to sell apartments to any tenant who has rented for more than 20 years. The landlords have 60 days to comply or face a fine equivalent to $40,000. Also, the mandated sales must be submitted to the government for approval to insure the price is fair.

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Bolton: 'Anyone Who Thinks Edward Snowden Is a Hero Is Unfit to Serve'

Mar 31, 2014 10:10 PM PT

The most under-reported remark at the Republican Jewish Coalition spring leadership meeting in Las Vegas last weekend was that of Ambassador John Bolton, who took a thinly-veiled shot at Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY): "Anyone who thinks Edward Snowden is a hero," Bolton said, "is unfit to serve." Not just as commander-in-chief: unfit to serve, period. 

Bolton also called Snowden a "21st Century equivalent of Benedict Arnold." (The analogy does not quite work: Arnold had at least won important military victories for the U.S. before defecting.)

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Venezuela Promises to Pay Airlines What They Are Owed

Mar 31, 2014 4:29 PM PT

In the wake of mounting flight cancellations and international criticism, Venezuela has agreed to pay airlines the $3.8 billion dollars it currently owes. The Venezuelan Airline Association announced the change last Friday after several weeks of tough talk by the Maduro administration.

Two weeks ago President Maduro claimed the demand for payment by the airlines was part of an "economic war" against his regime. He promised "severe measures" for any air carrier that dared to cut flights to the country. A few days later Air Canada announced it was suspending all flights to Venezuela, citing security concerns. Maduro's government denounced the decision and appeared to be continuing its tough line with air carriers.

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Opposition Leader Leopoldo Lopez' Letter from Military Prison

Mar 26, 2014 10:43 AM PT

Leopoldo Lopez is a Venezuelan opposition leader who turned himself in to authorities last month after he was charged with committing murder and terrorism. Lopez has spent more than a month in a military prison as President Maduro worked to crush the remaining opposition.

Wednesday a letter from Lopez describing the situation in Venezuela was published in the NY Times:

For 15 years, the definition of “intolerable” in this country has declined by degrees until, to our dismay, we found ourselves with one of the highest murder rates in the Western Hemisphere, a 57 percent inflation rate and a scarcity of basic goods unprecedented outside of wartime.

Our crippled economy is matched by an equally oppressive political climate. Since student protests began on Feb. 4, more than 1,500 protesters have been detained and more than 50 have reported that they were tortured while in police custody. Over 30 people, including security forces and civilians, have died in the demonstrations. What started as a peaceful march against crime on a university campus has exposed the depth of this government’s criminalization of dissent.

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Israel closer to recovering body of downed pilot... after 52-year search

Mar 26, 2014 7:17 AM PT

An Israeli Air Force training flight crashed in the Sea of Galilee in 1962, killing both instructor 1st Lt. Yakir Naveh and his student, cadet Oded Koton.  Koton's body was recovered within a year, but they're still searching for Lt. Naveh's remains.  

And they are still searching!  Israel Hayom reports on progress in the 52-year mission:

Every year, the Israeli Air Force and the Israeli Navy launch new searches of the Sea of Galilee in an attempt to find Naveh's body and bring the tragedy to a close. A few years ago, Navy teams working with fish farmers from Kibbutz Ein Gev found parts of the plane on the floor of the lake at a depth of 35 meters (115 feet.) Five years ago, Naveh's gun and watch were discovered and identified by his family.

On Monday a few parts of the cockpit were recovered, but the pilot's body is still missing. According to some assessments, Naveh's remains are covered on the floor of the lake, and divers are excavating the area around where the latest plane fragments were discovered.

Naveh's 79-year-old brother accompanies the teams on all their excursions. One team member said "Every year we get closer to the goal of finding [his] body."

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U.S. Should Release Pollard Anyway--Not for Bogus Negotiations

Mar 25, 2014 6:45 AM PT

Reports are circulating that President Barack Obama might pardon Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, who has spent nearly three decades in prison, as a way of enticing Israel to continue its participation in peace talks with the Palestinian Authority that have gone nowhere. This is a manifestly bad idea for everyone involved.

Pollard should never have received a life sentence, especially after pleading guilty. His sentence far exceeds that given to spies who have worked for enemies, yet he spied for an ally. He was likely the victim of antisemitism. He is in ailing health. All of that suggests he should be released anyway, on independent grounds of justice.

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