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Officials keep talking about intervening in Venezuela, and it’s drawing an ominous comparison – Politics –




  • Trump has repeatedly expressed interest in taking military action in Venezuela.
  • Experts and officials from around the region have rebuffed such action, with some comparing it to the invasion of Iraq.
  • But others have held out military action, as part of a collective response, as an option of last resort.

President Donald Trump’s unexpected declaration in August 2017 that he was “not going to rule out a military option” in Venezuela earned swift rebuke both inside and outside the US.

But in the year since the US has kept pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government, punishing dozens of officials with sanctions but sparing others in a gambit to stoke tensions in Caracas.

Trump has reportedly pressed his advisers and Latin American leaders about military action, citing what he believed to be past successful US-led interventions, and officials from his administration met with, but ultimately rebuffed, Venezuelan officials looking for help to depose Maduro.

In recent weeks, voices outside the White House have invoked US military action an option to address a crisis that has only worsened.


Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro at an event in Caracas, February 7, 2018.

(Thomson Reuters)

In late August, a day after meeting with national-security adviser John Bolton, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio — a close Trump adviser on Latin American issues — said he believed Venezuela had become a destabilizing force.

“I believe that the armed forces of the United States are only used in the case of a threat to national security,” Rubio said, adding that he believed there was a “very strong” argument that “Venezuela and the Maduro regime have become a threat to the region and to the United States.”

The region has taken some action to isolate Maduro, but the idea of US intervention has been widely rejected.

Government repression and deepening misery in Venezuela warrant a push for political change, according to Shannon O’Neil, a senior fellow for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“But US military intervention is not the way to do it,” O’Neil argued this month. “Venezuela isn’t Grenada or Panama, the two Latin American countries invaded by the US during the closing days of the Cold War.”

A demonstrator is detained at protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, July 27,

A demonstrator is detained at protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, July 27, 2017.

(Thomson Reuters)

Such action would require a US commitment on the scale of the invasion of Iraq, a country half the size of Venezuela with slightly more people.

Any invasion requires preparations on a similar scale, meaning a 100,000-plus force,” O’Neil writes.

Polling indicates US troops wouldn’t be welcomed in Venezuela, O’Neil said, and political divides and deteriorated infrastructure mean any recovery effort would be a long one.

Retired US Navy Adm. James Stavridis, who led US Southern Command, said this month that the “Trump administration needs to avoid anything that smacks of unilateral US military action.”

The US should instead boost interagency coordination and encourage greater involvement by other countries, Stavridis said.

“All of the major countries of the hemisphere, particularly Venezuela’s immediate neighbors, need to coordinate and come to an agreement on an appropriate response today and if and how to escalate that response if necessary in the future,” James Bosworth, founder of political-risk-analysis firm Hxagon, told Business Insider.

“The US should definitely not act alone.”

‘Too late and too innocent’

Colombian police officers stand in front of people queueing to try to cross into Colombia from Venezuela through Simon Bolivar international bridge in Cucuta, Colombia, January 24,

Colombian police officers stand in front of people queueing to try to cross into Colombia from Venezuela through Simon Bolivar international bridge in Cucuta, Colombia, January 24, 2018.

(REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

While many argue against unilateral US action, military action in some form has been held out as an option.

During a visit this month to Cucuta — ground zero for Venezuelan migration into Colombia — Luis Almargo, head of the Organization of American States, accused Maduro of crimes against humanity and argued for keeping military action on the table.

“With respect to a military intervention to overthrow Nicolas Maduro’s regime, I don’t think any option should be ruled out,” Almargo said. “Diplomatic actions should be the first priority but we shouldn’t rule out any action.”

Almargo later acknowledged there was little appetite for intervention but stressed that the responsibility-to-protect doctrine obligated the international community to respond, citing the case of Rwanda as a failure do so.

Francisco Santos, Colombia’s ambassador to the US, echoed Almargo a few days later, stressing the need for a collective response. (Colombian President Ivan Duque, a hardliner on Venezuela, has said US intervention “is not the way.”)

“But we believe, and let me be very clear, that all the options should be considered,” Santos said, calling for more pressure on Maduro. “It is already too late and too innocent to think that this will be solved without a change of regime.”


‘Almost nobody wants a military intervention’

People walk past a graffiti that says play

People walk past a graffiti that says “Maduro, misery” in Caracas, August 18, 2018.

(REUTERS/Marco Bello)

Given Maduro’s abuses — including repressing peaceful protest and using access to food to control the public — Almargo was correct to say the responsibility-to-protect doctrine held out military action if other responses fail, Bosworth said.

But that doctrine calls for a “collectively coordinated effort” and is clear that non-military options to protect Venezuelans “are preferred and must be attempted first,” he added.

“Almost nobody wants a military intervention in Venezuela. It’s unfortunate that we’ve wasted the last few weeks arguing over whether intervention is ‘on the table’ … rather than discussing other non-military ways to pressure Maduro,” Bosworth said.

“Those non-military options are where we should be focused right now.”

A Colombian soldier guards the border with Venezuela in Cucuta, Colombia, February 9,

A Colombian soldier guards the border with Venezuela in Cucuta, Colombia, February 9, 2018.

(REUTERS/Javier Andres Rojas)

Others in the region have expressed a continued commitment to a peaceful solution.

In a statement issued after Almargo’s comments, 11 of 14 members of the Lima Group, formed in 2017 to address the situation in Venezuela, rejected military action and reiterated its commitment to a “peaceful and negotiated” resolution. (Colombia did not sign the statement, thought it said it agreed with its “purposes.”)

In Uruguay, where Almargo was foreign minister, the government and the opposition united to reject intervention.

“If there is a word that Uruguay detests,” said Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa, “it’s intervention.”

Brazil also distanced itself from Almargo.

“We don’t see [as] viable any other type of mechanism, like the use of military means or force, in order to solve the problem of Venezuela,” Brazil’s defense minister said this week.

President Donald Trump and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos speak during a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, May 18,

President Donald Trump and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos speak during a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, May 18, 2017.

(REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

Geoff Ramsey, assistant director of the Venezuela program at the Washington Office on Latin America, said discussing intervention was likely to change little in Caracas.

“I think those pushing this rhetoric know it’s an empty threat, but for some reason think it’s a useful pressure tactic,” Ramsey said on Twitter.

Venezuela’s government likely doesn’t buy into US threats, as Caracas “is not ignorant” of how unpopular such action would be at home, he added.

While resistance to action on the ground in Venezuela remains widespread, the Trump administration has promised more action to isolate Maduro’s government.

“You’ll see in the coming days a series of actions that continue to increase the pressure level against the Venezuelan leadership folks, who are working directly against the best interest of the Venezuelan people,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday.

Pompeo did not elaborate but said the US is “determined to ensure that the Venezuelan people get their say.”



Sordid tale of the bank ‘that would bribe God’




Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.
BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.
It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.
BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.
The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.
He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.
In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  
BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.
The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.
The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.
It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.
The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.
It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”
This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.
The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.
And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.
“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.
BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank.  The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.
“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.
A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.
“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.
CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.
This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.
For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.
In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.
Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain. 
The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.
Criminal culture
In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).
The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.
This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.
Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.
“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.
These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.
“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.
BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).
Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).
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Agricultural Development Corporation Chief Accountant Gerald Karuga on the Spot Over Fraud –




Gerald Karuga, the acting chief accountant at the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), is on the spot over fraud in land dealings.

ADC was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament Cap 346 to facilitate the land transfer programme from European settlers to locals after Kenya gained independence.

Karuga is under fire for allegedly aiding a former powerful permanent secretary in the KANU era Benjamin Kipkulei to deprive ADC beneficiaries of their land in Naivasha.

Kahawa Tungu understands that the aggrieved parties continue to protest the injustice and are now asking the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe Karuga.

A source who spoke to Weekly Citizen publication revealed that Managing Director Mohammed Dulle is also involved in the mess at ADC.

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Dulle is accused of sidelining a section of staffers in the parastatal.

The sources at ADC intimated that Karuga has been placed strategically at ADC to safeguard interests of many people who acquired the corporations’ land as “donations” from former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Despite working at ADC for many years Karuga has never been transferred, a trend that has raised eyebrows.

“Karuga has worked here for more than 30 years and unlike other senior officers in other parastatals who are transferred after promotion or moved to different ministries, for him, he has stuck here for all these years and we highly suspect that he is aiding people who were dished out with big chunks of land belonging to the corporation in different parts of the country,” said the source.

In the case of Karuga safeguarding Kipkulei’s interests, workers at the parastatals and the victims who claim to have lost their land in Naivasha revealed that during the Moi regime some senior officials used dubious means to register people as beneficiaries of land without their knowledge and later on colluded with rogue land officials at the Ministry of Lands to acquire title deeds in their names instead of those of the benefactors.

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“We have information that Karuga has benefitted much from Kipkulei through helping him and this can be proved by the fact that since the matter of the Naivasha land began, he has been seen changing and buying high-end vehicles that many people of his rank in government can’t afford to buy or maintain,” the source added.

“He is even building a big apartment for rent in Ruiru town.”

The wealthy officer is valued at over Sh1.5 billion in prime properties and real estate.

Last month, more than 100 squatters caused scenes in Naivasha after raiding a private firm owned by Kipkulei.

The squatters, who claimed to have lived on the land for more than 40 years, were protesting take over of the land by a private developer who had allegedly bought the land from the former PS.

They pulled down a three-kilometre fence that the private developed had erected.

The squatters claimed that the former PS had not informed them that he had sold the land and that the developer was spraying harmful chemicals on the grass affecting their livestock and homes built on a section of the land.

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Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Kisilu Mutua later issued a statement warning the squatters against encroaching on Kipkuleir’s land.

“They are illegally invading private land. We shall not allow the rule of the jungle to take root,” warned Mutua.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee recently demanded to know identities of 10 faceless people who grabbed 30,350 acres of land belonging to the parastatal, exposing the rot at the corporation.

ADC Chairman Nick Salat, who doubles up as the KANU party Secretary-General, denied knowledge of the individuals and has asked DCI to probe the matter.

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William Ruto eyes Raila Odinga Nyanza backyard




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