Thursday, April 24, 2014 

New Venezuela president Nicolas Maduro (on R.) appears to be no better than Hugo Chavez (on L.) and in some respects even worse as he brings in Cuba’s Military and Intelligence to try and put a stop to the street violence. Cuba’s Military and Intelligence is directly linked to Russia. A Russian spy ship docked in Havana in late February 2014, and neither Cuba nor Russia offered any mention or explanation of the mysterious visit that is reminiscent of the Cold War.

AFP reported that the Viktor Leonov CCB-175 boat, that measures 300 feet long and 47.5 feet wide, appeared in the section of Havana’s port usually used by cruise ships. The intelligence vessel bristles with electronic eavesdropping equipment and weaponry, including AK-630 rapid-fire cannons and surface-to-air missiles, nice.

As Venezuela passed the one-year anniversary of the death of strongman Hugo Chavez, his successor Nicolás Maduro continued his crackdown against protesters demanding an end to corruption, rampant crime, sky rocketing murders, and economic mismanagement. Since nationwide demonstrations began a month ago, clashes between Venezuelan security forces and protesters have resulted so far in at least 18 deaths and over 250 injuries. The Maduro government’s violent response to protests should not come as a complete surprise. Since assuming office in 2013, Maduro has repeatedly taken steps to undermine Venezuela’s fragile democratic institutions, expand his governing authority, and marginalize members of the country’s opposition. In an alarming development, Chavez’s successor has allowedCuba’s military and intelligence services to play an active role on the ground in Venezuela. The worry now is that Maduro will use even more oppressive tactics to maintain his hold on power U.S. lawmakers are now calling on the Obama administration to respond more assertively to the Maduro government’s escalating use of violence.

SLAIN BEAUTY QUEEN: The fear over violent crime crystallized this year around the murder of a beloved former beauty queen and soap opera star, Monica Spear. On holiday from the United States to show off her homeland to her five-year-old daughter, Spear exuded pride and happiness in photos posted to social media from various beauty spots.

That all came to an end when robbers blocked and ambushed her car on a highway after dark. They shot her and her ex-husband dead in front of the little girl. Overnight, Spear became a national symbol of the crime wave. As well as an outpouring of grief, her death prompted Maduro and his rival, opposition leader Henrique Capriles, to shake hands in a meeting about crime, the first time they had come face-to-face since a bitterly-disputed election last year.

Strewn with smashed headstones, empty whisky bottles and the odd spent bullet casing, Caracas’ 19th century Southern Cemetery is a sprawling symbol of the violent crime engulfing Venezuela.Grave diggers tell of attacks on mourners by gunmen from the surrounding slums, drug-fueled parties at tombs, and night-time desecration of graves to steal bones for rituals. Corpses of murder victims are brought in daily, mostly young men gunned down in gang fights.

“Violence is the modern fashion in Venezuela. Not just the killing, but they way they behave around the dead,” says Oscar Arias, 50, who has dug graves here for 33 years and recently buried his own nephew, who was shot in a nearby slum. Arias and the other 44 members of his grave diggers’ cooperative are never short of work. Both the official national rate of 39 deaths per 100,000 people in 2013 and a tally of double that from monitoring group the Venezuelan Violence Observatory (OVA) make Venezuela an international leader in homicides, vying with gang-plagued nations such as Honduras and El Salvador. A perpetually edgy city full of guns, Caracas’ murder rate is more than 100 per 100,000 residents, according to OVA. The government does not publish an official figure. By comparison, the United States’ current rate is about 4.7 deaths per 100,000.

    Bill Warner Private Investigator Sarasota Fl at www.wbipi.com