Venezuela President Chávez Dies After 13 Years in Power
Venezuela President Hugo Chávez died today after a two-year battle against cancer, Vice President Nicolás Maduro said. The 58-year-old leader and commander had not been seen in public since December 10, when he flew to Cuba for treatment. After 13 years in power, he leaves a controversial legacy as his brand of socialism gave a voice to the nation’s poorest, but his charismatic style undermined institutions that normally keep the executive power in check. His opponents also say he “squandered” Venezuela’s resources, presiding most notably over the steepest increase in oil revenue in the country’s history. His death creates a power vacuum in the deeply divided nation, which could find itself even more weakened by the fact that so much rested on his personality. While the Constitution states new elections must take place within 30 days during which the vice president must lead, Chávez left only two months after his reelection, and was never sworn in for his new term. Military leaders, who expressed today their loyalty to Chávez’s camp, vowed to ensure the transition would happen peacefully. A new election would pit Maduro, who said today Chávez’s “historic enemies” had given him cancer, and opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski, and give Maduro the advantage as Chávez’s political heir. “At this challenging time of President Hugo Chavez’s passing, the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government,” said U.S. President Barack Obama in a written statement.
North Korea Threatens to Scrap 1953 Armistice
North Korea threatened today to end an armistice signed in 1953 that ended the three-year Korean war after the U.S. and China, which has been thus far Pyongyang closest ally, reached an agreement for expanded sanctions at the United Nations (U.N.) in response to a third nuclear test carried out on February 12. The deal would forbid the sale of yachts, racing cars, and other luxury items, which the country’s ruling elite love. “We will completely nullify the Korean armistice,” the Korean People’s Army Supreme Command spokesman told state news agency KCNA. The country also threatened to shut down a military “hotline” with Washington. The parties aimed for a vote on the new sanctions on Thursday, according to Chinese Ambassador to the U.N. Li Baodong.
Brennan Confirmation to CIA Advances on Document Release
The confirmation of John Brennan as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) advanced today as the Senate Intelligence Committee voted 12-3 to back him. The approval came after Senate Intelligence Chairwoman, Democratic Senator from California Dianne Feinstein, said the White House would provide the committee with all legal opinions on the targeted killings of U.S. citizens abroad. Those memos direct the use of weapons, most notably drones, to end the life of Americans deemed terrorists without other form of trial. “I have reached an agreement with the White House to provide the committee access to all O.L.C. opinions related to the targeted killing of Americans in a way that allows members to fulfill their oversight responsibilities,” Feinstein said today, referring to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. Legal documents on the targeted killings of non-Americans, which Feinstein has requested, will not be released.
Syria Bombs Rebel-Held City of Raqqa
A day after rebels claim to have taken over the strategic city of Raqqa, which is located on the Euphrates river, halfway between the borders with Turkey and Iraq, the government carried out air raids, targeting buildings held by its opponents. A statue of President Bashar al-Assad, which was torn down yesterday, was painted with a graffiti that said “Tomorrow will be better.” ”This is the beginning, and other Syrian cities will soon fall, one by one, God willing,” Mustafa Othman, a Raqqa-based activist, told The Guardian. Assad’s regime is resisting fiercely to regain a city that was once one of its most loyal. In 2011, Assad prayed in Raqqa’s al-Nour mosque for Eid, a Muslim holiday. Should the rebels maintain their control, this would consolidate their advance in the region and in towns along the river.