Talk to us, Venezuela’s Capriles urges Chavez

CARACAS, (Reuters) – Venezuela’s opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, called yesterday for a proof of life from ailing President Hugo Chavez, who has not been seen publicly since cancer surgery in Cuba five weeks ago.

Chavez’s signature appeared in the government’s official gazette yesterday in a decree naming his new foreign minister – though the document wrongly placed him in Caracas.

“If the president of the republic can sign decrees, I call on him to show himself, to talk to Venezuela,” Capriles said at his inauguration for a new term as Miranda state governor.

“He should tell us everything that’s happening in government because what we have in Venezuela is misgovernment.”

Officials say Chavez, 58, is improving despite his grave situation after a fourth operation on Dec. 11 for a cancer first detected in the pelvic area in mid-2011.

Many Venezuelans suspect, however, that he could be dying or unable to return to active rule after 14 years at the helm of the South American OPEC member of 29 million people.

Stirring the national guessing-game over Chavez’s condition, the appearance of his signature had Venezuelans wondering whether the president had signed the decree from his hospital room, or even if officials might have scanned an old one.

Allies insist Chavez remains in charge and is giving instructions from Cuba, though that infuriates the opposition who fume that Venezuela’s capital has become Havana.

Should Chavez step down or die, triggering an election, Capriles, 40, is likely to stand again for president after defeat in October last year. He would face a stiff fight against Chavez’s chosen successor, Vice President Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro, a 50-year-old Chavez protege who rose from bus driver to the nation’s No. 2, has taken on day-to-day leadership in Venezuela, while the president’s condition is unclear.

That has infuriated opposition leaders, who say Chavez’s non-appearance at the scheduled Jan. 10 inauguration of a new presidential te rm me ans he should be formally declared absent, leading to the appointment of a caretaker leader and a vote.

Fellow Latin American nations have generally accepted the Venezuelan government’s position, though Brazil this week pointedly called for quick elections if Chavez leaves power.

And a representative of Panama’s right-wing government lashed Venezuela at a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) on Wednesday, its envoy, Guillermo Cochez, quoting one opinion that “what we are seeing is a sick democracy.”

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Venezuela gov’t aims to sink Maduro recall, opposition protests

CARACAS, (Reuters) – Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government sought yesterday to scupper a push by the opposition to oust him this year via a referendum, while his opponents called for protests to demand the vote.

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No amnesty for war rapists: Colombia peace talks turn to women’s rights

BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Colombia’s government and FARC rebels have pledged to improve access to land for women and ensure perpetrators of sexual violence, including rape, will not be eligible for amnesty as part of ongoing peace talks to end five decades of civil war.

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Colombia declares end to Zika epidemic inside country

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombian health officials declared yesterday that the worst of a Zika outbreak in the Andean nation had passed just 10 months after its arrival, raising questions about how the virus is affecting parts of Latin America differently.

Damage to the MV Xin Fei Zhou

Ship hits wall of Panama Canal, renews design concerns

HOUSTON (Reuters) – A Chinese container ship hit a wall of the new lane of the Panama Canal, a Canal Authority official and a local ship agent said yesterday, the third such incident since the expanded waterway opened one month ago amid design concerns.

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Little enforcement of Jamaica Tobacco Control Act douses its relevance

(Jamaica Observer) It has existed on Jamaican law books for three years now, but the one-time much heralded Public Health Tobacco Control Regulations Act 2013, seems to have virtually gone up in smoke.

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Big battle set for key Clico beachfront property in T&T

(Trinidad Guardian) Battle for No Man’s Land. That is what is shaping up on all fronts—from Government to the Clico owners of the property—as the spotlight continues to increase on one of the last pristine pieces of beachfront in the English-speaking Caribbean.

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