Guaido, Pompeo Meet In Colombia Over Venezuela Crisis

Venezuelan opposition leader and self-declared acting president Juan Guaido delivers a speech during the Venezuela Oil Industry Forum in Caracas on February 15, 2019.  Juan BARRETO / AFP


Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has traveled to Colombia to meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an opposition lawmaker said Sunday.

Guaido’s move comes amid an overture by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for direct negotiations with the United States on an end to crippling US sanctions.

Opposition lawmaker Stalin Gonzalez told AFP that Guaido, who is recognized by the United States and more than 50 other countries as Venezuela’s acting president, will meet in Bogota with Pompeo.

The US secretary of state is scheduled to arrive in the Colombian capital on Monday at the start of a Latin American tour.

Guaido has been barred from leaving Venezuela since proclaiming himself acting president a year ago after the National Assembly declared President Nicolas Maduro a “usurper.”

He defied the travel ban once before, in February 2016, when he secretly traveled to Colombia and then visited several other countries to marshal regional support for his challenge to Maduro.

The United States has been Guaido’s leading international supporter but the opposition bid to force Maduro’s ouster has stalled.

Guaido has headed the National Assembly for the past year but faced a challenge early this month from Maduro supporters over his re-election.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Maduro said he was comfortably in control and ready for direct negotiations with the United States.

“If there’s respect between governments, no matter how big the United States is, and if there’s a dialogue, an exchange of truthful information, then be sure we can create a new type of relationship,” Maduro told the Post.

The socialist leader said he was ready to hold talks with the US to negotiate an end to sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump intended to throttle the South American country’s oil industry and force Maduro from power.

Maduro indicated that, if Trump were to lift sanctions, US oil companies could benefit immensely from Venezuela’s oil.

“A relationship of respect and dialogue brings a win-win situation. A confrontational relationship brings a lose-lose situation. That’s the formula,” Maduro said.



Colombian President Tightens Anti-Drug Laws

File photo of the President of Colombia Ivan Duque Marquez.


Colombia’s newly-elected president Ivan Duque signed a decree Monday cracking down on drug consumption following an “alarming increase” in domestic abuse of substances.

The decree will allow police to confiscate even minimum doses of marijuana, decriminalized in the South American country since 1994.

“We are signing a decree that gives tools to the police to remove drugs from the streets of our cities, and of course, to destroy any dose,” said Duque as he signed the decree at the presidential palace.

Under the decree, even legal amounts of drugs can now be confiscated during police pat-downs in public areas, and the drugs will only be returned if the user can prove an addiction.

The law in Colombia, the world’s largest producer of cocaine, allows the possession of up to a gram of cocaine for personal use, and up to 20 grams of marijuana.

However, buying and selling of drugs is illegal.

Civil liberty groups hit out at the decree as “inefficient and costly” and said it did not differentiate between “problematic consumption and occasional or recreational consumption.”

“It does not contribute to the solution of the drug problem and, on the contrary, it promoted discrimination and stigmatization of the people who use it,” rights group DeJusticia said.

Although the majority of cocaine produced in Colombia is smuggled to the United States and Europe, authorities have reported increasing domestic consumption of the drug.

The president justified the decree saying there had been “an alarming increase in consumption” of drugs in Colombia, though he gave no figures.

Duque, a conservative who was inaugurated on August 7, campaigned strongly on upholding traditional family values and cracking down on drug trafficking and consumption.


Neymar Praises Coach Scolari For Hiring A Psycologist

Brazil forward Neymarscolari_y_neymar_ has praised coach Felipe Scolari’s decision to hire a psychologist to help the team keep their emotions in check during the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Faced with great pressure to win the competition for a record sixth time in front of their own fans this summer, some Brazilian players have been reduced to tears during the national anthem before games.

Some of them also appeared emotional after the World Cup host’s tense penalty shootout victory over Chile in the last-16 tie in Belo Horizonte.

These reactions led to Brazil’s technical director and 1970 World Cup-winner, Carlos Alberto Parreira, criticise the team for allowing their feelings to take over, and Scolari, swiftly reacted by hiring psychologist Regina Brandao to work with the players, a move praised by Neymar who has a lot on his shoulder as Brazil’s golden boy.

The Barcelona forward admits that the Selecao players are enjoying the alternative mental approach on offer in camp as they cope with the pressure of expectation as the host nation

“I had never done anything like it before and I am quite enjoying it,” the Barcelona star said.

“It is not only us in football, who are surrounded by emotions every day and need psychologists. I think it could do every person good, to make one more relaxed.

“We have a very good relationship with Regina Brandao. She is a great person. I am learning a lot and I hope to continue doing it.”

Brazil will be hoping to progress to the semi-finals of the World Cup when they play Colombia in their quarter-final clash in Fortaleza on Friday.