War of the Orchids – Political power struggles within Venezuela & US interests

On January the 10th, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was sworn in as President of Venezuela for a second time despite claims the 2018 election was illegitimate.

One day later on the 11th, The Venezuela National Assembly declared the election to be invalid and proclaimed their leader Juan Guaidó as President.

Whilst Maduro still claims power Guaidó is still contesting it.

Outside Venezuela, a number of countries have announced support for Guaidó. According to Reuters, Paraguay has cut political ties with Venezuela after Manduri was sworn in for a second term, Peru has withdrawn the country’s diplomats in objection, Brazil has issued support for Guaidó. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the United States has labeled Maduro’s claim as “illegitimate” and have voiced official support for protestors.

“On behalf of President Donald Trump and all the American people, let me express the unwavering support of the United States as you, the people of Venezuela, raise your voices in a call for freedom.”

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence

United States interests in Venezuela:

Early into the Trump’s presidency, Maduro and his party blamed the United States and Trump for the issues plaguing Venezuela. Therefore the United States and Donald Trump have personal bones to pick with Maduro.

In 2018 (January – October), the United States imported between 13,000 and 21,000 barrels of oil and petroleum. Whilst this is down from previous years as the United States has focused on producing their own oil (reaching 11 million barrels per day last year), the United States still consumes almost 20 million barrels per day meaning they still have a significant interest in Venezuela and it’s stability.

Concerns surrounding refugees and migration has also become an overwhelming issue for the Trump administration. With Trump cracking down on migration, refugees, and asylum seekers hoping to escape their homelands and cross the border; Increased or continued instability within Venezuela will force more to leave in the future. According to the UN Refugee Agency and the UN Migration Agency, the total number of Venezuelan migrants and asylum seekers has now reached 3 million. And whilst the majority have been hosted by neighbouring countries, thousands still make the long journey up to the United States border each year.

Now Maduro has ordered the departure of US diplomats from the country in consequence for the country’s support of his opposition, however, according to the Washington Post, it may be the military that determines whether or Maduro retains control of the country. Whilst the Venezuelan armed forces have publically declared support for Maduro, some suspect internal/private uncertainty due to small actions such as noticeable restraint shown towards both Guaidó and the civilian protests.

‘My life matters more than a piece of paper.’

On any given day many students may try to avoid going to class. But on April the 20th this year bunking will correspond with a youth movement aiming to draw attention to gun law reforms.

On the anniversary of the Columbine school shooting in 1999, a number of both teachers and students plan to boycott the classrooms hoping to send a clear message to Congress.

Social media such as Twitter has helped to develop and coordinate the movement by connecting like-minded individuals and draw national and international attention.

On Change.org a petition started has had over 56,000 signatures (as of this piece being written) calling for legal change from Congress to prevent further school shooting deaths.

“There has been too much complacency on the part of politicians when it comes to gun violence. The time to act is now!” –  Lane Murdock (petition starter)

In regard to the movement itself, the origin is unclear. A separate school walkout is planned for the 14th of March in honour of the students lost in the Parkland shooting supported by Women’s March on Twitter.

Taking matters into their own hands as well, government inactiveness and fear has driven a number of parents to invest in bulletproof backpacks for their children. American company Bullet Blocker reported a 30% sales increase since the Wednesday shooting.

When put to the test, the backpack managed to stop pellets and rounds from handguns but still was not able to stop full metal jacket bullets from the AR-15 used last week.

 

Uk forewarns aid cuts

The United Kingdom has announced they will begin to cut foreign aid to developing countries failing to invest in their own citizens.

The country who now provides £13 billion each year overseas is calling for governments to take more responsibility and step up. Failing to do so would influence the UK’s economic support.

This new approach was developed after fears that foreign aid provides no incentive for countries to invest their own money and resources into things such as healthcare.

However, some have raised concerns of suddenly stripping aid from countries who really need it, and believe that even with taking self-supporting steps, there still a significant need for aid.

As reported by the BBC,  the UK government is legally required to spend 0.7% of their gross national income on overseas aid.

The announcement coincides with the United States decision to withhold 65 million dollars in aid to Palestine

The controversial case of Cyntoia Brown

The case of Cyntoia Brown, a 29-year-old serving life for murder has recently come under the spotlight again.

Brown was sentenced to life in prison after killing 43-year-old Johnny Allen in 2004 aged just 16. The teen endured a rocky childhood and after running away was forced into prostitution. When taken to Allen’s house to perform sexual acts, she was unnerved by the guns as well as his army training, and feared they would be used against her as demonstrated in the quote below provided by Fox17.

“He was a sharp shooter in the Army. I’m sitting here thinking if he does something, what am I going to do?” – Cyntonia 

Since then, attention has since refocused on her after a post from Rihanna. The post reignited support for her from celebrities such as Kim Kardashian-West and brought her case back under the spotlight.

People supporting Brown’s release look at her case through the terror and abuse she endured while being subjected to sex-trafficking. They also bring attention to the prenatal damage done to Brown through alcohol use. Her alcohol-related neuro-development disorder may have had an effect on her unstable behaviour. People also have questioned the decision to try her as an adult.

People opposed make mention of the fact she left his house with a couple of his guns, his truck and trousers that included a wallet. It also appeared that Allen had been found in a sleep-like position by authorities. This suggests he may have been asleep when he was shot and makes Brown’s claim it was done in self-defence murky, (as previously mentioned, Brown was made nervous by Allen’s gun collection and training and was scared he would pull a gun on her).

In 2011 a documentary was made about Cyntoia Brown and her case and is available on Youtube.