Thursday, February 13, 2014

Global protest watch February 13 , 2014 ........Venezuelan anti-government protests turn violent ....... Police use force to disperse coup trials protest in Turkish capital ....... The Tanks Are Rolling In Post-Devaluation Kazakhstan ........ Ukraine sees stances harden on both sides as the February 17 , 2014 deadlines to comply with the Government's amnesty law , as well as the protesters demand to release jailed protesters , loom .........

Venezuela Accuses AFP Of "Manipulating" News Coverage; Shuts Down Colombian TV Station

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Having described Venezuela as "absolutely calm" today - when it was anything but; the fact that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has the stones to accuse Agence France Press of "manipulating" news coverage is stunning.
Furthermore, Maduro has taken a TV station off-air that competed with Telesur (the state-owned TV station). Of course, we should not worry as Maduro has explained the violence is all protesters' fault and that he will propose his "peace plan" tomorrow.

Via Bloomberg,
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro asked his information minister in a national address to take unspecified actions against AFP France Press. Maduro accused AFP of “manipulating” news coverage

Decision to take Colombian TV station NTN24 off the air in Venezuela was made by the government, Maduro says

“The NTN24 station tried to compete with Telesur and yesterday created confusion about the possibility of a coup. Off the air”: Maduro

I denounce AFP for manipulating information, and I’ve asked the information minister to speak clearly with their correspondents”: Maduro (Telesur is TV network owned by Venezuelan government)

And here is Maduro presenting his perspective of the troublemakers from his Twitter account:
View image on Twitter
RT @tmaniglia: Peaceful opposition creating "a small" fire in the center of Caracas

Despite "Absolute Calm" Claim, Venezuela Appears Just A Little Out Of Control

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President Maduro and his ministers have stated (fully supported by Argentina):
However, between armed groups reportedly firing shots (see clip below) into the Students Assembly and the disappearance of the protest leader, the protests appear to be anything but "calm."

Stunning collage of clips from the last two days...

and some additional images...

View image on Twitter
Plaza de la republica en estos momentos

Venezuelan anti-government protests turn violent

February 12, 2014 6:15PM ET
Opposition groups have held protests to complain about rampant crime, corruption and economic hardships
Nicolas Maduro


Demonstrators confront riot police during an opposition demonstration against the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on Wednesday.
Venezuelan security forces fired rubber bullets into the air Wednesday to break up a crowd of activists following the largest protests against President Nicolas Maduro's government since he was re-elected almost a year ago.
Five people were killed during standoffs including a police officer, two student demonstrators and a member of militant community groups known as "colectivos," according to local media. Twenty-five people have been injured during the protests.
The fatalities came at the end of rival demonstrations to support and denounce Maduro's government.
Under the banner "The Exit," meaning Maduro's departure, hard line opposition groups have been holding protests around the country for the past two weeks, to complain about rampant crime, corruption and economic hardships.
"All of these problems — shortages, inflation, insecurity, the lack of opportunities — have a single culprit: the government," Leopoldo Lopez, a Harvard University-trained former mayor, told a crowd of about 10,000 people gathered at Plaza Venezuela in Caracas.
Pro-government supporters have countered with marches of their own to express support for Maduro, who has accused opponents of trying to violently oust him from power just two months after his party's candidates prevailed by a landslide in mayoral elections.
Maduro, a 51-year-old former bus driver and union activist who has pinned his presidency onmaintaining the legacy of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, says right-wing "fascists" are seeking to destabilize his government and topple him.
"A Nazi-fascist current has emerged again in Venezuela, they want to lead our nation to violence and chaos," Maduro told pro-government demonstrators clad in the red colors of the ruling Socialist Party at their rally.
The marches were held as part of Wednesday's "Youth Day" commemoration that celebrates the participation of students in a 19th century independence battle against colonial authorities.
"We are the young revolutionaries, hand-in-hand with the Venezuelan government," shouted one Maduro supporter at the pro-government rally in Caracas.
About 20 demonstrators have been arrested since Popular Will and another hard line opposition group began calling for street protests to force Maduro's exit from power two weeks ago.
Opposition activists said armed pro-government supporters belonging to "colectivos" attacked and shot at people protesting in the western Andean city of Merida on Tuesday, injuring five.
"They were attacked by the colectivos while exercising their right to peaceful protest," said Tamara Suju, who is tracking the violence for Popular Will.
Maduro blamed the Merida incident on opposition provocateurs posing as Socialist Party sympathizers.
"They cannot take us back to the scenes of 2002," Maduro said in a reference to massive street protests that culminated in a brief, military-led coup against Chavez.
Some student protesters in the state of Merida have thrown rocks and blocked roads. Policemen have been injured during student-led protests in another western state, Tachira.
On Tuesday, roughly 500 people marched through Caracas to protest a newsprint shortage that has forced dozens of newspapers to close. Newspaper unions are demanding that the Maduro government import newsprint to secure their survival.
“We are here because freedom of expression is fundamental for victims of human rights abuses, because without newspapers we cannot tell out stories,” Iris Medina, of the human rights NGO Cofavic, told the Caracas daily El Universal.
The current protests in Venezuela have been much smaller than the 2002 wave. Many in the opposition favor a more moderate approach.
"While there are plenty of reasons to protest, there does not seem to be an agenda for the current wave. #LaSalida (The Exit) is not a strategy, it's a hashtag!" complained the anti-government blog Caracas Chronicles.
"The street protests, along with the public bickering they are engendering, are creating a false sense that our actions can undo the regime, while at the same time casting doubt on the opposition's unity."


At least three people have been shot dead during anti-government protests in Venezuela.
Both sides are blaming each other for the killings while social media reports allege government backed armed groups were responsible.
The protesters are angry with President Nicolas Maduro’s failure to control inflation, crime and a lack of opportunities for the country’s young.
The marches took place on Venezuela’s National Youth Day.
One protester explained why he was there: “Venezuela is waking up, we’ve had enough of so much insecurity and repression on the part of the state’s public authorities and we are tired and showing it.”
It is the worst bout of unrest seen on the streets of the country’s capital Caracas since the turmoil which followed Maduro’s election last year.
The government has accused opposition hardliners of trying to mount a coup similar to the one a decade ago that briefly ousted the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.


11 Photos From Venezuela's Anti-Government Protests

on February 12 2014 5:03 PM
  • Venezuela Protests_1
    Protesters hold up a mock coffin as they take part in a demonstration in Caracas on Feb. 12, 2014. Reuters/Jorge Silva
  • Venezuela Protests_3
    A demonstrator jumps on shield wall formed by riot police during a protest against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas on Feb. 12, 2014. Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
  • Venezuela_Nicolas Maduro
    Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro attends an event to celebrate Youth Day in La Victoria February 12, 2014.Reuters/Miraflores Palace/Handout via Reuters
  • Venezuela Protests_2
    Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez is seen during a protest against President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas on Feb. 12, 2014. Reuters/Jorge Silva
  • ven11
    Protesters set police vehicles and other cars and SUVs ablaze in Caracas today.
  • ventwit
    Protestors take to Plaza Venezuela to demonstrate against Venezuelan President Maduro Twitter
  • ven1
    Opposition supporters demonstrate against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas Reuters
  • ven2
    Opposition supporters demonstrate against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas Reuters
  • ven3
    Opposition supporters hold a mock coffin during a demonstration against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas Reuters
  • ven4
    Opposition supporters demonstrate against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas Reuters
  • ven5
    Opposition supporters demonstrate against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas Reuters
  • ven6
    Opposition supporters demonstrate against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas Reuters
  • ven9
    Opposition supporters hold a mock coffin during a demonstration against Venezuela's President Maduro's government in Caracas Reuters
  • ven8
    Opposition supporters demonstrate against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas Reuters
  • ven7
    Opposition supporters demonstrate against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas Reuters
  • ven10
    An opposition supporter holds up a placard during a demonstration against Venezuela's President Maduro's government in Caracas Reuters
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Thousands of Venezuelans have taken to the streets of Caracas on Tuesday to protest the policies of President Nicolas Maduro on “Youth Day,” a celebration of students’ role in a 19th-century battle against colonialists. Protestors say they are unhappy with Maduro’s continuation of his predecessor and mentor Hugo Chavez’s policies and are calling for his removal. Some 20 people have been arrested since the demonstrations began.
Though the protests in Caracas have been largely peaceful, there have been some reports of protestors throwing rocks and other items, Reuters notes. Outside of Caracas, some of the protests have turned more explicitly violent. Men belonging to militant community groups called “colectivos” opened fire into a group of protesters on Tuesday night, leaving at least five wounded.
A Reuters report cited a Reuters cameraman and photographer as saying that they both heard shots and saw one protester fall to the ground, who was later carried away dead.

Images for venezuela protests February 12 , 2014


Erdoğan's dismissal of questions not enough to refute graft claims

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Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy (L) address the media in Ankara on Feb. 11. (Photo: Today's Zaman, Ali Ünal)
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had to deal with the questions about the serious allegations of corruption and embezzlement for the first time in front of the public by a journalist and he responded them briefly in an admonishing tone.
Zaman daily reporter Ahmet Dönmez asked Erdoğan three questions during his joint press conference with the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in Ankara on Tuesday evening. The questions related to the PM receiving bribes to allow the construction of villas in İzmir's Urla district by changing zoning restrictions in a first-degree environmentally protected zone; creating a pool of funds raised by businessmen to purchase a media group for the government's interests, in return for granting huge public tenders to the favor of these businessmen; and Erdoğan's intervention in a TV station broadcasting to censor the speech of an opposition leader.
Appearing tense and stunned by the questions, Erdoğan took a swipe at the reporter, who received a hero's welcome on social media for his questions at a time when practicing the basic components of journalism -- asking questions -- poses a tremendous risk for journalists in Turkey.
Erdoğan got on his soapbox without bothering to hide his anger and instead of responding to these questions directly, he defended himself by saying that these assertions were not claimed by everyone but only by a particular media group, while accusing the reporter of “being a voice of his bosses.” Erdoğan, however, refused to acknowledge that the questions were all based on the voice recordings and documents compiled in the investigation files by the state's prosecutors in one and a half years of surveillance through court orders.
Erdoğan rejected accusations that he had any role in the construction of the villas on public land in Urla and said there is an ongoing trial concerning the issue. He strongly denied any wrongdoing while claiming that he has no link to the case as the villas had been constructed 35 years ago.

Land belongs to my friend

"That land belongs to one of my good friends and it is not on public property. First and foremost, I want you to know this fact. I have only gone there along with my family on brief vacations lasting three to five days each year over the past five years," Erdoğan said, dismissing the accusations that he called for a change in the status of the area from a first-degree environmentally protected zone to a third-degree environmentally protected zone to allow the construction of the villas.
Despite Erdoğan's dismissal of the claims, however, the voice recordings wiretapped on a court order in a corruption investigation clearly show Erdoğan's family members' involvement, even as far as the construction plans of the villas.
According to phone conversations in the investigation files, which were leaked to the media after the government's move to stifle the probe processes by removing prosecutors in charge of the investigations, businessman Mustafa Latif Topbaş wanted to build eight villas near the village of Zeytineli in Urla, but was denied the permit as the area was a first-degree environmentally protected zone. The businessman asked the prime minister's help to change the zone to a third-degree protected zone so that he could get the permits he needed. Erdoğan confirmed on the phone that he would help the businessman. The prosecutors, by analysing some other recorded conversations, have found out that the PM may have received two villas in return for the favor.

Bribing professors

In another phone conversation, General Director of the Protection of Natural Heritage Agency Osman İyimaya is heard suggesting to Topbaş that he appeal to an administrative court to reduce the degree of the protected zone. He advises asking university professors to prepare a report on the protected area. Recordings further reveal that İyimaya and five university professors were paid TL 130,000 to prepare a misleading report about the area, where the villas were erected on protected land.
Details of other phone conversations between the prime minister and Topbaş, as well as between Topbaş and the prime minister's daughter Sümeyye, have made their way to the media. The conversations reveal that Erdoğan, talking with Topbaş, asks the businessman about the construction of the villas. In the conversation, which took place on Aug. 15, 2013, Erdoğan asked Topbaş to finish the villas soon. In the conversation between Sümeyye and Topbaş, the former tells the latter that she and her mother have taken a look at the construction plans of the villas and like two of them, but want to make some changes to the plans. Topbaş then told Sümeyye that he might visit the Erdoğan family at their residence later in the day to discuss their suggested changes, noting that such details should not be talked about on the phone. Erdoğan's daughter suggested sending the details of the changes she wants through email but Topbaş rejects this too, pointing out the possibility that these emails can be intercepted.

Sümeyye defines bidet requirements

There are interesting details in the phone conversations between Sümeyye and Topbaş, such as when they were talking about digging the pool in front of the villas with a portable curtain for privacy, so that the pool will not be seen from the second floors of the villas. They also talk about installing two bathrooms and bidets in the restrooms of the bedrooms. In a later wiretap, the PM told Topbaş that there is no need for bidet and that a normal Turkish bathroom will be enough. These talks were evaluated by the prosecutors of the case as proof that Erdoğan did actually possess villas in the compound.
However, there are also more severe claims in the tapes concerning the villa construction scheme. The claims allege that Topbaş took advantage of almost every bureaucrat who could help him bypass legal hurdles to build the villas. In one of the conversations, Topbaş complains about then-İzmir Governor Mustafa Cahit Kıraç, who he said wanted to destroy the villas because they were being built on a high-priority protected zone. When Topbaş asks Erdoğan to call the İzmir governor to stop him from trying to block the construction of villas, Erdoğan grunted. Four months after the conversation, Kıraç was appointed governor of Diyarbakır.

Treasury land

At the press conference, the prime minister also rejected claims that one of the parcels of land on which these villas were built in fact belongs to the Treasury. However, the Zaman daily published a document on Tuesday that indicates that the province council of İzmir decided unanimously on Sept. 15, 2010, that three people: Hamdi Boyacı, Hayri Boyacı and Kadir Boyacı, should be fined TL 70,166 under Construction Law No. 3194 and Law No. 5302 for building on a plot of land owned by the Treasury.
İzmir Province General Assembly President Serdar Değirmenci said notifications concerning the demolition of the unlicensed buildings had been dispatched to the General Directorate of Real Estate (MEGM), also asking them to inform the public, particularly the people of İzmir, about the ruling.

Businessman Topbaş claims no misdeed in Urla villas

Businessman Mustafa Latif Topbaş sent a written statement to the press on Wednesday to reject claims of wrongdoing in the construction of villas on his land near the village of Zeytineli in İzmir's Urla district, as well as a warehouse on another plot in which historical artifacts were discovered during excavation.
There had never been historical artifacts in Zeytineli, Topbaş said. According to the statement, Topbaş bought the piece of land 34 years ago with seven of his friends. They started constructing over 20 summerhouses, each with a maximum size of 80 square meters, for themselves and their workers, along with a mosque and barns that same year. Some 15 years ago, their land, like that of the villagers in neighboring areas, was declared a first-degree environmentally protected area, which they contested with the local administration.
Topbaş said he has a 35-year-long friendship with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and has hosted him and his family three times in the Zeytineli villas. He further rejected claims that the prime minister owns villas in the compound and clarified that discussions with Erdoğan's daughter, which had been wiretapped, regarded changes in plans during the restoration of the buildings there.

Removing a news ticker

Erdoğan, in his answer to Dönmez's question, acknowledged calling an executive of a mainstream news station while on an official visit to Morocco in June to order the removal of news ticker about Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli's comments on the Gezi Park protests. He absolved himself of any wrongdoing, however, claiming that Bahçeli was hurling insults at him.
In an audio recording uploaded to YouTube last week, Erdoğan can be heard giving instructions by phone to Fatih Saraç, the vice president of the Ciner Media Group, to which the Habertürk news channel belongs, to remove a news ticker in which Bahçeli called on President Abdullah Gül to intervene and decrease the tension during the Gezi Park protests that rocked the country early last summer.
The audio recordings, posted on social media platforms by Twitter user “Haramzadeler,” have met with serious criticism from several political parties as well as the public. They amply demonstrate how far the prime minister goes in his efforts to control the media.
“This is very surprising. There is no need for such things [to be displayed on television],” Erdoğan told Saraç on June 4, 2013 in a phone call while on his official visit to Morocco. Saraç responded to Erdoğan, who was apparently vexed by the MHP leader's comment that the president should intervene and thereby sideline the prime minister, “I will deal with it immediately, sir.”
Other recordings also uploaded by Haramzadeler, include conversations between Erdoğan and Saraç discussing the manipulation of opinion poll results to the detriment of the MHP; the dismissal of three reporters and a page designer for letting a news critical of the government's public health policies appear in print; and not running stories about a botched airstrike in 2011 that killed 34 civilian smugglers in Uludere, near Turkey's Iraqi border.

Funds collected to buy Turkuvaz Media Group

In answer to the third question posed by Dönmez, which concerned the claims of obligating some businessmen to contribute millions of dollars to create a pool of capital -- in return for colossal public tenders -- to be used to acquire the Turkuvaz Media Group, which includes the Sabah daily and the ATV channel among many others, Erdoğan said that there was no such fund. He said a company (Zirve Holding) stepped up for the purchase of the media group and later the founder of Zirve transferred his shares to his uncle's company (Kalyon İnşaat). The prime minister said the members of the consortium winning the tender for the construction of the third airport (Cengiz, Kolin and Limak) sold some of their shares to enter the media business through Zirve. Erdoğan didn't elaborate further.

However, Erdoğan's defense doesn't tally with the tapes and the documents in the investigation files, details of which were read by the leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, from a summary of the investigation involving former Cabinet ministers allegedly involved in the graft scandal. The summary indicated that a total of $630 million had been collected from eight businesspeople on Erdoğan's instructions in order to buy the Sabah Media Group, which Kılıçdaroğlu referred to as “plunder.”
The summary noted that Binali Yıldırım, the former minister of transportation, maritime affairs and communications, collected the money over a period of two months. Businessmen Mehmet Cengiz, Celal Koloğlu, Nihat Özdemir and İbrahim Çeçen each contributed $100 million to the $630 million pool. After reading the report, the CHP leader said that the total value of public tenders that have so far been granted to these same businessmen who had apparently been instructed to contribute to the pool is as much as $87.832 billion.

Özdemir: I gave $100 million for Turkuvaz Media purchase

Özdemir  confirmed that he did, in fact, provide this sum. In a telephone interview with Fox TV journalist İsmail Küçükkaya on Wednesday, Özdemir said he lent this money to Zirve Holding and that he didn't have any share in Turkuvaz, the holdings of which include the Sabah daily and the ATV television channel. Özdemir argued that he actually got shares of the construction company of the new owners of Turkuvaz in return for the loan. He did not, however, provide the name of the construction company.
In the wiretapped recordings, Nihat Özdemir can allegedly be heard complaining to businessman Mehmet Cengiz about how badly he felt after he was asked to put money to the pool. “When I came to home, I wasn't able to look anyone in the face, [even] my wife. I took my clothes off and went directly to bed. I woke up in the morning. Look, I have had enough of this. Yesterday was torture for me.

Spanish PM Rajoy: Everyone is equal before the law

At the same meeting journalists also directed questions to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy about the recent corruption scandal in Spain involving Princess Cristina. Rajoy said the case is currently the responsibility of the magistrates and that the princess, like every other citizen, has to defend her innocence and disprove the allegations made against her. Rajoy underlined that nobody has a privilege of being treated differently from others before the law. Dönmez also asked Rajoy about his assessment of a police raid in December of last year of Rajoy's party headquarters as part of a corruption investigation. “Justice is for everyone, be it a political party or any individual. This is a prerequisite of the supremacy of law,” Rajoy said.

Meanwhile In Turkey...

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The Turkish Lira may have halted its record collapse against "reserve" currencies - for now - but the reality is that nothing has changed for the better in Turkey, and in fact things continue to get worse.
First, we learned earlier that as a result of a surging trade deficit, the Turkish current account gap for 2013 soared to $65 billion, higher than the $58.8 billion predicted by the government, and the second highest on record. And for those wondering, the increase in imports was not due to some economic recovery but was "to frontrun tax increases and restrictions on the use of credit cards that came into effect this year." It led even Goldman to conclude that "today's print does not confirm the tentative signs of improvement we saw last month."
Which ties in to the second development out of the country, namely the ongoing political crisis. A smattering of headlines from today:
  • Turkey Police Break Up Protest Seeking Jailed Officers’ Release
  • Turkey’s Gul Cites ‘Problematic Issues’ in Internet Law
  • Turkish Prosecutors Question More Businessmen in Graft Probe
  • Prosecutors interrogated three more prominent businessmen implicated in corruption probe including those involved in 3rd airport construction in Istanbul, according to Hurriyet newspaper website.
And just so readers get a sense of the reality on the ground, here is a photo courtesy of Zeynep Tufekci showing how the government is treating not only protesters but its reporters:
View image on Twitter
Meanwhile, images from Ankara. Reporter knocked by water cannon. This, btw, is a sign of govt weakness, not strength.