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Putin’s opponent jailed for third time this year

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On Friday, a Moscow court sentenced Alexei Navalny to jail for 20 days. The charge was that Navalny called for an unsanctioned protest, despite getting permission from the city to hold the rally. He is opposing Putin in next year’s election. This is not the first time he has been jailed nor is he the only one facing charges. Reuters reported that Navalny “has been jailed twice already this year after organising rallies and protests against government corruption.” and his campaign chief, Leonid Volkov, is facing similar charges

Alexei Navalny isn’t just a political opponent to Vladimir Putin. He also runs the Anti-Corruption Foundation which “investigates, exposes and fights corruption among high-ranking government officials.” It is important that we take self-appointed mission statements with a grain of salt. However, I find myself giving the benefit of the doubt to the Kremlin’s opposition over the Kremlin itself. The upward trend of political opponents being poisoned, exiled, jailed, or killed in the last several years is apparent to anyone who looks.

Navalny’s platform is reminiscent of the democratic socialists of Western Europe and America. It is built, in large part, on redistributing wealth. He campaigns on the idea that the corporations connected to the Kremlin are the cause of economic pain for the Russian people. In many ways, it reminds me of Bernie Sanders’ political perspective. But rather than the people being able to decide whether the candidate is good for them, the Kremlin uses the iron fist to decide that Putin is people’s choice. Here are some examples.

Perspectives

 

Alexei Navalny: Russia’s vociferous opposition leader – BBC News

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-16057045Mr Navalny was arrested and imprisoned for 15 days following the first protest on 5 December, but emerged to speak at the biggest of the post-election rallies in Moscow on 24 December, attended by as many as 120,000 people.

Russia jails top opposition leader; Putin denounced as dictator | Reuters

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-navalny/russia-jails-top-opposition-leader-putin-denounced-as-dictator-idUSBRE96G0WO20130718In a last message from court, Navalny, 37, referred to Putin as a “toad” who abused Russia’s vast oil revenues to stay in power, and urged his supporters to press on with his campaign.

“Okay, don’t miss me. More important – don’t be idle. The toad will not get off the oil pipeline on its own,” he wrote on Twitter.

Russia’s opposition: who is left to take on Vladimir Putin? | World news | The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/01/russias-opposition-who-is-left-to-take-on-vladimir-putinAmong the “non-systemic” opposition, there are few politicians who have much of a national profile, with the restrictions of state television meaning it is hard to gain a real platform. Harassment, threats and fatigue have led many into either jail or exile. Now that Nemtsov has been silenced, here are a list of the main opposition figureheads.

More of Kremlin’s Opponents Are Ending Up Dead

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/21/world/europe/moscow-kremlin-silence-critics-poison.htmlPutin, has made no secret of his ambition to restore his country to what he sees as its rightful place among the world’s leading nations. He has invested considerable money and energy into building an image of a strong and morally superior Russia, in sharp contrast with what he portrays as weak, decadent and disorderly Western democracies. Political murders, particularly those accomplished with poisons, are nothing new in Russia, going back five centuries.

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Final Thoughts

Dennis Prager gives a great comparison of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes. In a totalitarian regime, the people have no say in how they live their lives. In an authoritarian regime, the people can live their lives largely unimpeded, provided they don’t oppose the leader.

Putin’s Russia is an authoritarian regime. As long as the people live their lives and don’t speak out, the government will leave them alone. As soon as someone questions Putin’s leadership, the iron fist of government shows its full strength

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Foreign Affairs

As Venezuela implodes, Trump administration recognizes Juan Guaidó as President

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As Venezuela implodes Trump administration recognizes Juan Guaid as President

The destruction of Venezuela by socialism and corruption is practically complete, but hope is on the horizon. A new President has been recognized by the United States, making Nicolas Maduro’s presidency nearly finished.

Juan Guaidó has been serving as the President of the National Assembly of Venezuela since earlier this month and assumed the role of interim President earlier today. The United States joins Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, and Puerto Rico in recognizing his claim as legitimate.

People have filled the streets of Caracas in an amazing display of solidarity against Maduro, who held an “inauguration” on January 11 despite clear indicators the May 2018 elections were rigged. Now, the streets of Caracas are full.

President Trump confirmed the move following multiple news outlets quoting White House officials.

Ironically, Guaidó’s rallying cry happens to be “Sí, se puede!”, Spanish for “Yes we can.”

My Take

This is the only viable move given the circumstances. As I posted on Facebook:

It may not be possible for Guaidó to turn around the failing nation without a lot of outside assistance, but one thing is certain: Maduro had zero chance of making anything better for his starving people.


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Four Republicans Senators ask the President to transfer ISIS prisoners in Syria

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Four Republicans Senators ask the President to transfer ISIS prisoners in Syria

As the United States military prepares for a full withdrawal from Syria, some are concerned that Islamic State fighters currently being held by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) will be released or others be allowed to rejoin ISIS. Four Republican stalwarts in the Senate are calling on President Trump transfer the worst of these prisoners to Guantanamo Bay.

Senators Tom Cotton, John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio all signed the letter to the President requesting this action.

The President announced the move to pull out of Syria on Twitter last month following a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This prompted the resignation of former Secretary of Defense James Mattis and drew condemnation from people on the left and right who felt the President was abandoning our allies in the war against ISIS.

Turkey has long wanted the United States out of Syria so they could deal with the Kurdish forces that they consider to be terrorists.

My Take

This is a smart move to do before the withdrawal, but this letter was also a not-so-subtle reminder to the President that pulling out of Syria quickly will have repercussions. Both National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have tempered the President’s remarks by saying the United States will pull out just as soon as ISIS is fully defeated.

One thing is certain: if these terrorists and militants are not moved to Guantanamo Bay, many if not all of them will eventually return to the Islamic State to continue their mission against the the rest of the world.


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Venezuela’s invigorated opposition take streets in key test

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Venezuelas invigorated opposition take streets in key test

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela’s re-invigorated opposition faces a crucial test Wednesday as it seeks to fill streets nationwide with protesters in an appeal to the military and the poor to shift loyalties that until recently looked solidly behind President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government.

The protests have been called to coincide with a historic date for Venezuelans — the anniversary of the 1958 coup that overthrew military dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez. Government supporters are also expected to march in downtown Caracas in a rival show of strength.

The competing demonstrations will come after a whirlwind week that saw an uprising by a tiny military unit, fires set during protests in poor neighborhoods and the brief detention by security forces of the newly installed head of the opposition-controlled congress.

For much of the past two years, following a deadly crackdown on protests in 2017 and the failure of negotiations ahead of last May’s boycotted presidential election, the coalition of opposition parties has been badly divided by strategy and ego battles as millions of desperate Venezuelans fled the country’s hyperinflation and widespread food shortages. But buoyed by unprecedented international criticism of Maduro, anti-government forces have put aside their differences and are projecting a united front.

Their leader this time, taking the reins from a long list of better-known predecessors who have been exiled, outlawed or jailed, is Juan Guaido, the new president of the National Assembly who was dragged from an SUV just over a week ago by intelligence agents but quickly released amid an international outcry.

In the run-up to Wednesday’s actions, the defiant 35-year-old lawmaker has crisscrossed Caracas attending outdoor assemblies known as “Open Cabildos” — for the revolutionary citizen councils held against Spanish colonial rule — pumping up crowds by arguing that Maduro must go for democracy to be restored.

Speaking on Monday from the roof of a college building, Guaido proclaimed with fist raised: “We are tired of this disaster. We know this isn’t a fight of a single day but one that requires lots of resistance.”

An enthusiastic crowd of students answered with shouts of “Freedom!” and “Get out, Maduro!”

Driving the crisis has been Maduro’s decision to plow ahead in the face of international condemnation and take the presidential oath Jan. 10 for a second term widely considered illegitimate after his main opponents were banned from running against him.

Guaido has been targeting his message to Venezuela’s military, the traditional arbiter of political disputes.

Maduro, who lacks the military pedigree of his mentor and predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, has sought to shore up support from the armed forces by doling out key posts to top generals, including heading the PDVSA oil monopoly that is the source of virtually all of Venezuela’s export earnings. He has also been playing commander in chief, appearing last week at a military command meeting wearing camouflage fatigues and receiving the blessing of the defense minister, Gen. Vladimir Padrino Lopez.

But beyond the public displays of loyalty from the top brass, a number of cracks have started to appear.

On Monday, Venezuelans awoke to news that a few dozen national guardsmen had taken captive a loyalist officer and seized a stockpile of assault rifles in a pre-dawn raid. The government quickly quelled the uprising, but residents in a nearby slum took to the streets to show their support for the mutineers by burning cars and throwing stones at security forces, who fired back with tear gas.

Distubrances continued into Tuesday, with small pockets of unrest in a few working-class neighborhoods where the government has traditionally enjoyed strong support. More violence was reported Tuesday night.

“People are tired of so much misery,” said Carmen Marcano, holding up her shirt to show seven buckshot wounds suffered during the clashes in the Cotiza slum next to where the rebellious guardsmen were captured.

Retired Maj. Gen. Cliver Alcala, a one-time aide to Chavez and now in exile, said the opposition’s newfound momentum has reverberated with the military’s lower ranks, many of whom are suffering the same hardships as regular Venezuelan families.

“I am absolutely certain that right now, especially younger troops are asking themselves whether Maduro is their commander in chief or a usurper,” Alcala said. “As we say in the barracks, hunger is the only thing that can devour fear of the government.”

The government has accused the opposition of inciting violence with the aim of provoking a bloodbath. Top socialist leaders have threatened to unleash on demonstrators menacing motorcycle gangs of pro-government die-hards known as “colectivos.”

“I demand the full rigor of the law against the fascists,” Maduro said Tuesday night while blaming “terrorists” allegedly linked to Guaido’s Popular Will party for a fire at a cultural center named for a pro-government lawmaker murdered in 2014.

He also accused U.S. Vice President Mike Pence of trying to foment unrest after Pence released a video pledging support, in Spanish, for the planned demonstrations.

Though intimidation has worked for the government in the past, it may not this time, said Dimitris Pantoulas, a Caracas-based political analyst. Discontent now appears to be more widespread and the ranks of security forces and government-allied groups have been thinned by the mass exodus of mostly young Venezuelans, he said.

“The government is resorting to its old tricks, but the people no longer believe them,” Pantoulas said.

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Associated Press writer Fabiola Sanchez contributed to this report.

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Joshua Goodman on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APjoshgoodman


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