Friday - Feb 22, 2019

US refuses to withdraw diplomats from Venezuela after Maduro breaks ties


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“We call on the Venezuelan military and security forces to continue protecting the welfare and well-being of all Venezuelan citizens, as well as US and other foreign citizens in Venezuela”

by the El Reportero’s wire services

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has refused to pull diplomats from Caracas, arguing the government that severed diplomatic ties with the US is not legitimate and threatening ‘appropriate actions’ if anyone is endangered.

“We call on the Venezuelan military and security forces to continue protecting the welfare and well-being of all Venezuelan citizens, as well as US and other foreign citizens in Venezuela,” Pompeo said in a statement on Wednesday evening, adding the US “will take appropriate action to hold accountable anyone who endangers the safety and security of our mission and its personnel.”

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro declared all US diplomats persona non grata on Wednesday, after Washington recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s president. Guaidó, however, said he wanted the US diplomats to stay, setting the stage for a potential diplomatic incident.

As the US does not recognize Maduro’s “regime,” his order for US diplomats to leave is not legitimate, Pompeo argued, adding that Washington will conduct diplomatic relations with Caracas solely through Guaidó’s government.

After the Trump administration recognized Guaidó’s government, a number of US allies followed suit, including most of the OAS countries and Canada. EU leaders also endorsed the rebel government.
Cuba and Bolivia have expressed support for Maduro, while Mexico has said it would continue to recognize Maduro’s legitimacy “for now.” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the US “handpicking” of a government in Caracas perfectly illustrates the true Western sentiments toward international law, sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs of states.

Prison’s former security chief recalls El Chapo’s perks and bribes
He provided El Chapo with shoes, a phone and secret visits with his wife

A former security chief at the Jalisco prison from which Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán escaped in 2001 testified yesterday that he and other prison officials took bribes from the former drug lord in exchange for providing him with a range of perks.
On his first day on the witness stand at the New York trial of the former Sinaloa Cartel chief, Dámaso López told jurors that among the privileges afforded to Guzmán while he was locked up in the Puente Grande maximum-security prison were new shoes, a mobile telephone and secret visits with his wife, brother and brother-in-law.

López, who joined the Sinaloa Cartel after resigning from his prison job, said that in exchange he received at least US $10,000, a house valued at 1.5 million pesos and assistance to pay medical expenses for one of his sons.

The witness told jurors that he quit his security job in September 2000 because the federal government was conducting an investigation into corruption at the prison.

However, López said that before he left he had a final meeting with Guzmán, who asked him to speak with the new security chief so that his perks would be preserved.

Known by the nickname “El Licenciado” (The Graduate), López later became a fixer and ultimately a leader in the Sinaloa Cartel. He is believed to have been chosen by Guzmán to be his successor.
However, “El Licenciado” was arrested in Mexico City in May 2017 and extradited last year to the United States, where he pleaded guilty to importing cocaine into the U.S and was sentenced to life in prison.

While López admitted to receiving bribes from Guzmán, he denied that he had anything to do with his escape from the prison in a laundry cart in 2001.

The sole accomplice to the escape was a guard known as “El Chito” who worked in the prison’s laundry section, he said, adding that Guzmán was later upset that other guards were falsely accused of aiding his breakout.

The 52-year-old witness also told the court about several executions that Guzmán allegedly ordered during his years at the helm of the cartel.

López is one of many cartel witnesses who have appeared over the past two months at Guzmán’s trial on charges of trafficking, conspiracy, money laundering and weapons offenses.

The former kingpin’s lawyers have attempted to portray the witnesses as unreliable “degenerates” who are speaking in the hope that their own prison sentences will be reduced.

If convicted, Guzmán faces probable life imprisonment.

Source: Reforma (sp).