PRESS RELEASE | U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Committee, today warned the Maduro regime in Venezuela that its upcoming snap election would be considered illegitimate if it failed to meet basic established standards, and called for free and fair election for the Venezuelan people.
“The Venezuelan government under President Maduro has taken a series of repressive and undemocratic actions that threatens its own people and has isolated it from the world. It has called a snap election to maintain its grip on power, using food rationing to influence votes during a period of severe food shortages and widespread malnutrition.
“We call on President Maduro and his government to delay the election at least six months to allow for a legitimate campaign and an electoral process that meets established international standards. In order to ensure minimum standards for free and fair elections, President Maduro must also release all political prisoners, including opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and American citizen Josh Holt; allow all candidates and political parties to participate in the election; reform Venezuela’s discredited election commission; halt the despicable practice of tying food rations to votes; allow accredited international election monitors access to all phases of the election process; and fully reinstate the democratically-elected National Assembly. Quite simply, President Maduro should have the courage and decency to allow the Venezuelan people the same fair and open process afforded Hugo Chavez when he first won at the ballot box.
“The United States can also do more to help the people of Venezuela in moving their country back toward democracy and the rule of law. That is why we will be introducing bipartisan legislation in the coming days that represents a much-needed comprehensive approach to Venezuela’s political, economic, and humanitarian crisis.”
In February, Durbin and Menendez led a group of ten Democratic senators in introducing a resolution condemning repressive and undemocratic actions taken by the Venezuelan government, and calling for free and fair elections for its people.
In 2017, the senators introduced bipartisan legislation, the Venezuela Humanitarian Assistance and Defense of Democratic Governance Act, which directs the State Department to work through nongovernmental organizations to provide public health commodities, basic food commodities, and related technical assistance to Venezuela.
In 2014, Menendez introduced the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act, which became law.
South Africa votes to seize land without compensation
New South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called for it in his response to the State of the Nation Address. Now, South Africa is one step closer to taking the land of White farmers without compensation. By a vote of 241 to 83, the Parliament moved to amend the constitution to allow the process to move forward.
The proposal was brought forward by Julius Malema, a leader of the radical Marxist Economic Freedom Fighters. It was supported by President Cyril Ramaphosa and his African Nation Congress (ANC) party. They point to historic injustice to justify the move. Although the percentage of arable land owned by non-Whites in South Africa has grown since the end of Apartheid, Whites still own more than two-thirds of the arable land. Malema put it bluntly, “the time for reconciliation is over.”
Amending the constitution will take some time, but could be completed before the end of the year. If the proposal does pass, it will almost certainly be disastrous for South Africa. Based on Zimbabwe’s “fast track” land reforms as well as nearly every other instance Marxism-inspired property theft, there is every reason to expect agricultural output will plummet. Famine will follow. Additionally, the racial motivations behind the program will likely inspire even greater ethnic tensions and violence.
South African President calls for uncompensated land redistribution
Cyril Ramaphosa recently became president of South Africa after his predecessor was removed from office for corruption. In one of his first public addresses as president, Ramaphosa laid out his vision for South Africa in his response to the State of the Nation Address (SONA). He mentioned many initiatives for helping the poor of South Africa, and preventing violence against women and children.
While most of his response to the State of the Nation focused on social justice and consensus-building, one proposal was very worrying. Ramaphosa called for the “expropriation of land without compensation” to help with the redistribution of land to “Black South Africans.” He stressed that while this was one proposal that was being considered, it would be implemented in a way that would “promote agricultural production.” This would just be one element in a much larger economic development program.
The president went on to say that they would “not make the mistakes that other have made.” This was clearly a reference to Zimbabwe, which famously “redistributed” the land of white farmers with disastrous results. The former president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, “fast tracked” land reform starting in 2000. Nearly all the commercial farms were shut down. As a result, agricultural production dropped off dramatically. Famine and economic collapse quickly followed.
It is unclear how Ramaphosa will avoid the same fate as Zimbabwe. His claim that he would not allow “smash and grab interventions” which were the hallmark of the Zimbabwe program. But even without the violence, the Zimbabwean scheme would have been economically devastating. Not only does uncompensated expropriation have short-term consequences for those who have had their property stolen, government-sanctioned theft invariably slows foreign investment and domestic economic development. Who would invest in a property knowing it might be taken away at any moment?
You can watch the full speech below.
Putin celebrates Epiphany with the traditional icy plunge
Today is the Russian Orthodox celebration of Epiphany. Epiphany is a different holiday in the East compared with Western branches of Christianity. In the West, Epiphany is celebrated on January 12, and marks when the wise men (or magi) met Jesus. For the Orthodox Church, Epiphany marks the baptism of Jesus and is celebrated on the 19th.
In that spirit, Russians head to lakes and streams to reenact that critical moment in the life of Jesus. The subzero temperatures deter few of the faithful, who plunge into the blessed waters for a ritualistic cleansing. Among those who took part this year was none other than Russian President Vladimir Putin. You can watch him take part below.
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