UNITED NATIONS/CARACAS (Reuters) – The United States on Saturday called on the world to “pick a side” on Venezuela and urged countries to financially disconnect from Nicolas Maduro’s government, while European powers signaled they were set to follow Washington in recognizing Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s rightful leader.
In heated back-and-forth exchanges at a United Nations Security Council meeting, the opposing camp led by Venezuela and Russia, which has invested heavily in Venezuela’s oil industry, accused Washington of attempting a coup, and lambasted Europeans’ demand that elections be called within eight days.
Guaido, who took the helm of the National Assembly on Jan. 5, proclaimed himself interim president on Wednesday. The United States, Canada and a string of Latin American countries recognized the young leader in quick succession. But Maduro, who has led the oil-rich nation since 2013 and has the support of the armed forces, has refused to stand down.
Speaking at the U.N. meeting called by the United States, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Maduro’s “socialist experiment” had caused the economy to collapse and reduced ordinary Venezuelans to rooting through dumpsters for food.
“Now it is time for every other nation to pick a side. … Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you’re in league with Maduro and his mayhem,” Pompeo told the council. “We call on all members of the Security Council to support Venezuela’s democratic transition and interim President Guaido’s role.”
Pompeo also called on the international community to disconnect their financial systems from Maduro’s regime. Washington has signaled it was ready to step up economic measures to try to drive Maduro from power, but on Saturday Pompeo declined to elaborate on any such plans.
By overcoming opposition to holding the U.N. meeting on Saturday, Washington successfully put the global spotlight on Venezuela as a Security Council problem. However, any council action to address the crisis would be blocked by veto-powers Russia and China, diplomats said.
Britain, Germany, France and Spain all said on Saturday they would recognize Guaido if Maduro failed to call fresh elections in eight days, an ultimatum Russia said was “absurd” and the Venezuelan foreign minister called “childlike.”
“Europe is giving us eight days? Where do you get that you have the power to establish a deadline or an ultimatum to a sovereign people?” Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told the Security Council.
Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido speaks during a rally with members of the Venezuela’s National Assembly regarding an amnesty law project for members of the military, in Caracas, Venezuela, January 26, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Russia also said military intervention in Venezuela should be avoided at any cost, while Caracas reiterated that its offer of dialogue with President Donald Trump’s government was still on the table despite his administration’s two-year campaign against Maduro.
Venezuela has sunk into turmoil under Maduro with food shortages and daily protests amid an economic and political crisis that has sparked mass emigration and inflation that is seen rising to 10 million percent this year.
Maduro cruised to re-election last May amid low turnout and allegations of vote buying by the government. The domestic opposition, the United States and right-leaning Latin American governments declined to recognize the result of the ballot.
Venezuelan opposition sympathizers had been urging Guaido to assume the presidency since Maduro was inaugurated for a second term on Jan. 10. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets in Caracas earlier this week, calling on Maduro to step down.
Guaido’s declaration of himself as the interim president takes Venezuela into uncharted territory, with the possibility of the opposition now running a parallel government recognized abroad as legitimate but without control over state functions.
On Saturday, Guaido celebrated the support of European countries and asked them to send humanitarian aid to help relieve the economic crisis. “We woke up today with nothing less than the full support of the European community,” Guaido said at a small political event in a square in the capital Caracas.
“Several European countries have been in touch with us and are going to support the entry of humanitarian aid. … We continue adding countries to this great effort,” he said.
The Maduro government has previously rejected such aid, denying there is a humanitarian crisis in the country and blaming economic problems on sanctions.
Slideshow (4 Images)
After Washington’s declaration of support for Guaido, Maduro cut off diplomatic relations with the United States on Wednesday and gave U.S. diplomats 72 hours to leave the country.
Although some diplomats left on Friday, Guaido said the U.S. embassy was still working and that embassy officials had been to visit him.
Additional reporting by Paul Day in Madrid and Mayela Armas in Caracas; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Mary Milliken and Jonathan Oatis
Google has launched its new Pixel Buds wireless earphones.
The Pixel Buds come in a simple, round form factor with a stabilizer arc that tucks into the ear – ensuring that it fits comfortably and does not fall out when you are exercising.
They use a hybrid design that allows you to listen to high-quality sound without losing track of what is happening around you.
The Pixel Buds achieve this by “gently sealing” the ear to isolate louder outside sounds, ensuring that you remain safe while on the go.
These earbuds also use Adaptive Sound technology which dynamically adjusts the volume of your audio as you move into louder or softer environments – ensuring you won’t need to adjust the volume depending on where you are.
Each Pixel Bud has two microphones embedded within it which will focus on your voice while minimising environmental sounds – a feature which Google said “extends to the most challenging environments.”
Google also said that the Pixel Buds use long-range Bluetooth connectivity to allow users to stay connected to their device as far as three rooms away when indoors, or the distance of a football field if you are outside.
They can pair with devices that use Bluetooth 4.0 or later, including laptops, tablets, and devices that use either iOS or Android 6.0 or later.
Google’s Pixel Buds will be available in 2020 in the US in four colours – Clearly White, Oh So Orange, Quite Mint, and Almost Black – and will cost $179.
No South African pricing or availability information was available at the time of publishing.
The proposed Grade 9 certificate, with the associated three – academic, technical vocational and technical – streams, will not solve problems of young people dropping out and not being able to access the labour market. But it will create additional resource pressures on the system, first to produce an exam and certificate, and second by duplicating what the TVET colleges are already struggling to do.
Many critics assume a Grade 9 Certificate will push the most marginal learners out of the system even earlier than they are exiting at the moment. As Janet Jobson and Kristal Duncan point out, the official government position is that the General Education Certificate will help learners to identify education and training options that would best suit their inclinations. They also argue that a national Grade 9 assessment will provide valuable information about how much young people have actually learnt. National assessment at the end of Grade 9 could offer an earlier opportunity to hold learners, teachers, schools, and the system accountable.
What has been less well covered in the public debate is the critical relationship between the proposed new certificate and the roll-out of what the National Department of Basic Education now refers to…
Briton Chris Froome’s bid for a fifth Tour de France title will conclude with a mountain time trial at La Planche des Belles Filles before the traditional final sprint stage in Paris on 19 July.
Riders will tackle 29 mountains on the brutal 3,470km (2,156-mile) 21-stage route, which starts in Nice on 27 June.
“It will be physically challenging throughout,” said race director Christian Prudhomme.
The tour starts a week early with the Tokyo Olympics starting on 24 July.
The route, which features five summit finishes – one of them being the time trial at La Planche des Belles Filles – is likely to favour the climbers.
“Even the so called flat stages will be very tough for the pure sprinters,” Prudhomme added.
“There are traps everywhere along the route.”
A route for the climbers
The 2020 Tour boasts one of the most challenging opening weeks in recent editions of the race.
Two stages start and finish in Nice, the second of which involves almost 3,700 metres of climbing over the Col de la Colmiane, Col de Turini and Col d’Eze.
The race then heads south west through the Massif Central, with summit finishes on Orcieres-Merlette on stage five and Mont Aigoual.
Colombian champion Egan Bernal and his Ineos team-mates Chris Froome will expect to challenge, as will France’s Thibaut Pinot.
A thigh injury saw Pinot, 29, withdraw on a dramatic stage 19 to Tignes on the 2019 Tour while in fifth place.
The Groupama-FDJ team leader had hoped to become the first French winner of the Yellow Jersey for 34 years.
Froome was unable to compete after a high-speed crash before stage four of the Criterium du Dauphine in June.
The 34-year-old is only just about to return to cycling after suffering a catalogue of injuries which included a fractured right femur, a fractured elbow and fractured ribs.
Julian Alaphilippe, who led the 2019 edition of the Tour for 14 stages before finishing fifth overall will also be buoyed by the omission of both Alpe d’Huez and Mont Ventoux next summer and by a route containing only two stages in the Pyrenees.
The race against the clock on the 36km (22-mile) stage 20 to La Planche des Belles Filles, with the final 8km (five miles) all uphill, could prove decisive though.
Stage six of the 2019 Tour finished on the mountain with Dylan Teuns taking the stage victory as Alaphilippe lost the yellow jersey, temporarily, to Italy’s Giulio Ciccone, while 2018 Tour winner Geraint Thomas put in an impressive late attack.
Froome won stage seven on the mountain 2012, while playing the role of a super-domestique as Bradley Wiggins became the first Briton to win the Tour.