Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 3rd 2016 Contents A17
• Twitter: @GuardianTT • Web: guardian.co.tt
CARACAS---The opposition turned in peti-
tions to Venezuelan electoral authorities
yesterday that it said carried signatures of
1.8 million voters seeking President Nicolas
Maduro s removal in a nationwide referen-
An opposition statement said leaders decid-
ed to deliver the petitions in 80 sealed boxes
early yesterday without notifying news media
to avoid potential clashes with Maduro s sup-
porters. It said it collected more than nine
times the required 200,000 signatures in
under a week.
Maduro s approval rating has plummeted
amid triple-digit inflation, widespread food
shortages and near-daily power blackouts.
Recent polls suggest two-thirds of Venezuelans
want him out.
But ousting him is no easy task.
If the National Electoral Council verifies
the signatures in the coming days, it would
trigger a second petition drive during which
20 per cent of the electorate, almost four
million people, would have to sign before a
referendum could be scheduled on removing
Maduro before his term ends in 2019.
If a vote were held, the president would
be removed only if the number of anti-
Maduro votes exceeded the 7.6 million votes
he received in the 2013 election. In December s
parliamentary elections, opposition candidates
mustered only 7.7 million even though they
won control of the legislature by a landslide.
The move comes as Maduro digs in against
what he calls opposition attempts to destabilise
Venezuela. At a rally Sunday at the presidential
palace to commemorate International Labour
Day, he urged government supporters to
defend his socialist administration.
"If the oligarchy were to do something
against me and take this palace by one means
or another, I order you, men and women of
the working class, to declare yourselves in
rebellion and undertake an indefinite strike,"
Meanwhile, with oil prices low, the Opec
member nation is starved for dollars with
which to import food and other basic sup-
Yesterday, authorities backed by armed
members of the National Guard inspected
several facilities belonging to Empresas Polar,
the country s largest private company that
last week shut down the last of its four beer
factories for what it said was a lack of imported
Maduro has vowed to occupy idled factories
but has so far stopped short of taking over
Polar, which produced 75 per cent of the beer
consumed in Venezuela.
The deteriorating economic situation is
increasingly drawing international attention.
The Vatican yesterday confirmed that Pope
Francis last month sent a letter to Maduro
expressing concern. Although the Vatican
spokesman, the Reverend Federico Lombardi,
would not disclose the contents of the letter,
the pope has in the past offered to serve as
a mediator between Venezuela s political fac-
SAN JUAN---A spiraling Puerto
Rico debt crisis reached a new
milestone as the island missed
nearly US$370 million on a bond
payment yesterday and officials
warned of worse to come if the US
Congress doesn t help it dig out
from a mountain of debt.
The default was the largest in a
series of missed payments by the
struggling US territory since last
year and Governor Alejandro Garcia
Padilla warned it was unlikely to be
Puerto Rico has payments
totalling nearly US$2 billion coming
due on July 1, including about
US$700 million in general obligation
bonds that are supposed to be guar-
anteed under the island s consti-
In an ominous warning directed
at Congress and creditors that
include US hedge funds, Garcia said
the outlook for the next payment
"We don t anticipate having the
money," he told a news conference
in the capital, San Juan.
The remedy, Garcia warned, is
either a restructuring arrangement
with creditors or legislation from
US lawmakers left for recess last
week while a bill that would restore
Puerto Rico s legal authority to
restructure as states are able to do
and set up a fiscal control board
was stalled in committee.
Garcia, who inherited the crisis
when he took office in January 2013,
blamed lobbying by "vulture" hedge
funds and what he called "racist"
attitudes toward Puerto Rico.
"Our worst enemy at the moment
is politics," he said.
White House spokesman Josh
Earnest said yesterday s default
should be another red flag for
Republicans in Congress. "This sit-
uation requires an urgent response
and Republicans in Congress have
been dragging their feet for too
long," Earnest said.
The White House has put forward
a plan that would allow Puerto
Rico s government to restructure
its debt and impose new oversight
on finances, among other measures.
Earnest said the oversight measures
distinguish the proposal from a
bailout---a charge Republicans have
lodged against the plan. But, Earnest
warned, continued delay in Con-
gress "only makes a bailout more
Following yesterday s default, US
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew
released a letter to House Speaker
Paul Ryan in which he urged him
to work quickly to resolve the "few
outstanding issues" on the legis-
lation to help Puerto Rico. "Going
forward, Puerto Rico s US$70 billion
of debt is unsustainable by any
measure. It simply cannot afford
to pay its debt," Lew said.
Garcia has been warning since
last year that the island s overall
public debt of more than US$70
billion is unpayable. On Sunday, he
announced the suspension of a pay-
ment on debt issued by the island s
Government Development Bank, a
day before a scheduled US$422 mil-
lion was due on the GDB s US$3.8
billion in debt.
Puerto Rico managed to reach a
restructuring deal with island credit
unions that shaved off about US$30
million from the total due yesterday,
and paid US$22 million in interest.
But that still left it short nearly
US$370 million, and in default.
Garcia said he had no choice but
to suspend the debt payment to
avoid cutting essential public serv-
ices such as schools and medical
The default was expected to
trigger investor lawsuits, though
Treasury Secretary Juan Zaragoza
and Justice Secretary Cesar Miran-
da told The Associated Press before
the news conference that none had
been filed so far. It did not cause
upheaval in US financial markets,
likely because the island s eco-
nomic troubles have been known
for years. (AP)
KINGSTON--- Jamaican police
said yesterday they are trying
to determine the motive in the
weekend slayings of two
American missionaries in the
north coast area where they
lived and worked.
A team of officers is
interviewing residents of St
Mary parish in northern
Jamaica where the bodies of
Randy Hentzel, 48, and Harold
Nichols, 53, were found in
bushes along a rural road where
they were travelling on
There were no suspects two
days after the first slain
missionary was found.
Jamaica's police force, which
has long struggled to solve the
great majority of the island's
homicides, has given only the
broadest outline of the case and
won't say what condition the
bodies were in.
"I can tell you we're working
assiduously to bring resolution
to this matter. But the motive is
still very unclear," said assistant
police commissioner Ealan
Powell, who leads the force's
criminal investigation branch.
Randy Hentzel was from
Donnellson, Iowa, and had five
children with his wife, Sara.
Harold Nichols hailed from
Randolph, New York, and is
survived by his wife, Teri. (AP)
Venezuela opposition delivers
petitions to remove president
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro
speaks during a May Day march in
Maduro ordered a 30
per cent increase in
the minimum wage,
the latest move by
grapple with high
Puerto Rico skips bond payments, says Congress must help
Jamaica police seek motive in killing of 2 US missionaries
Links Archive May 2nd 2016 May 4th 2016 Navigation Previous Page Next Page