Catalonia last week swore in pro-secessionist Quim Torra as the restive region’s new leader. Torra assumed power during a ceremony in Barcelona after a 66-65 vote in the regional parliament earlier in the week. He succeeds Carles Puigdemont, who remains in Germany on self-exile after a failed attempt last year to gain independence from Spain. The Spanish government deposed the region’s leaders and continues to hold control of Catalonia. In a sign that tensions will likely continue between the region and the Spanish government, Torra made no reference to upholding the Spanish Constitution and pledged only to be faithful to Catalans in taking his oath of office. The new leader also selected some former secessionist lawmakers now in jail or in Belgium to serve in his new Cabinet. The Spanish government said it would study the “viability” of the proposed government. —O.O.
Foreign nations denounce Venezuelan election
International | Nicolas Maduro wins six more years as president
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 5/22/18, 02:05 pm
Venezuelan socialist leader Nicolas Maduro emerged from Sunday’s election as the winner of another six-year presidential term, but several foreign nations disputed the legitimacy of his victory.
Venezuela’s National Electoral Council reported that Maduro won nearly 68 percent of votes with about 93 percent of polling stations reporting. His nearest rival, Henri Falcon, finished more than 40 percentage points behind Maduro. Javier Bertucci, a TV evangelist, came in third with 11 percent of the vote.
According to Venezuela’s election board, 46.1 percent of registered voters turned out, down from 80 percent in the last presidential election. Maduro replaced Hugo Chavez in 2013 after Chavez died from cancer.
The 55-year-old Maduro hailed his win as a victory against imperialism and vowed to reinvigorate the country’s economy. He told celebrating supporters, “The revolution is here to stay.”
Falcon and Bertucci both criticized the electoral process, saying it lacked legitimacy.
Prior to the election, Maduro’s regime barred two prominent opposition candidates from running, placing Leopoldo López under house arrest for inciting violence and charging Henrique Capriles with corruption.
Reported irregularities included polling stations not opening in some opposition strongholds. And the low voter turnout was attributed to many opposition supporters boycotting the election: Ahead of the Sunday vote, opposition lawmaker Negal Morales said people want to vote, “but we don’t want to legitimize the Maduro regime and the misery that he has brought to the country. … To vote would be to take part in a farce.”
Falcon said his campaign also spotted red tents steps away from many polling stations, where voters scanned their government-issued “Fatherland Cards” in the hope of receiving a prize promised by Maduro. The poor mostly use the cards to collect benefits. Falcon called the move a “pressure mechanism, an element of political and social blackmail” that targeted the poor.
Venezuela is currently battling hyperinflation, and the country’s 30 million people face food and medicine shortages in a political environment that foreign nations increasingly describe as authoritarian.
Raul Gallegos, an analyst with U.K.-based Control Risks, told CNBC Maduro would hold on to power at all costs: “This is a ruthless government very much in line with the Castro regime and, in that sense, whether there’s massive participation or not, this is a regime that will have absolutely no shame in doing what is necessary to prevail.”
Following Maduro’s widely expected victory, several foreign leaders responded with restrictions on Venezuela. Canada and other countries in the Americas, including Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia, recalled their ambassadors and threatened to further shrink diplomatic relations with the country.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order to prevent the Maduro government from selling off public assets, saying “the money belongs to the Venezuelan people.” Trump in a statement called on the regime to “restore democracy … and end the repression and economic deprivation of the Venezuelan people.”
A majority of voters in Burundi agreed to a constitutional amendment that could extend the president’s rule until 2034, the country’s electoral commission said Monday. More than 73 percent of Burundi’s 4.7 million voters supported the amendment. President Pierre Nkurunziza assumed power in 2005 and sparked unrest in the country when he pursued and won an unconstitutional third term in 2015. The amendment could extend his rule for another 14 years after his tenure expires in 2020. Agathon Rwasa, leader of the Burundian opposition coalition, said the opposition rejects the vote’s outcome, citing threats against and arrests of perceived opponents. Hussein Radjabu, another opposition official living in exile, called on Burundians to use other means to remove Nkurunziza from power, fueling concerns of further violence. The country’s political unrest has killed more than 1,000 people and displaced more than 400,000 others. —O.O.
Brazilian authorities last week rescued 25 African migrants from the country’s northeast in an unprecedented illegal migration journey. Federal police officer Roberio Chaves said the 25 migrants from Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria paid smugglers about $1,180 to journey across the Atlantic Ocean to Brazil. Their catamaran watercraft drifted for weeks before fishermen towed them ashore in Maranhao state. State government officials said the migrants arrived dehydrated and in need of medical care. Authorities arrested two Brazilians who were also on board the watercraft.
Tens of thousands of migrants from Africa and the Middle East journey across the Mediterranean Sea each year to enter Europe, but journeys to Brazil remain rare. Chaves said at least one or two migrants have arrived in Maranhao as stowaways. This year, at least 26,000 migrants entered Europe via the Mediterranean crossing, with about 636 dying along the way. —O.O.
The Syrian government on Monday declared the capital city, Damascus, and other surrounding areas free from militants for the first time in seven years. Gen. Ali Mayhoub in a statement broadcast on Syrian TV said the army captured the last Islamic State (ISIS) strongholds in the Palestinian Yarmouk camp and the suburban city of Hajar al-Aswad after a monthslong campaign. The forces resumed their operations in the regions after evacuating some civilians. Syrian state-run Al-Ikhbariya TV showed a ceremonial police motorcade blaring sirens Tuesday as it passed through Hajar al-Aswad. The latest development marks the first time since the Syrian war began in 2011 that the entire capital and its suburbs are under full government control. —O.O.
Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.