Posts Tagged ‘human rights abuses’

U.S. Chief Complaints With The Philippines Remain: Extrajudicial Killings, Impunity, Rule of Law, Human Rights Abuses

April 21, 2018
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Photo: Journalists and photograpphers have documented thousands of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines during the Duterte administration. AP/Bullit Marquez, File photo
State Department report: EJKs still ‘chief’ human rights concern in Philippines

Ian Nicolas Cigaral (philstar.com) – April 21, 2018 – 11:21am

MANILA, Philippines — The alleged cases of summary execution in President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody drug war remains a major human rights concern in the Philippines, amid rising impunity following a dramatic surge in police killings, the US State Department said in its global rights report for 2017.

“Extrajudicial killings have been the chief human rights concern in the country for many years and, after a sharp rise with the onset of the antidrug campaign in 2016, they continued in 2017,” read the report released Friday (Washington time).

Duterte, who is notorious for his defiance of international pressure and rejection of criticisms on his rights record, easily won the race to Malacañang on a brutal law and order platform.

Human rights monitors say most of the fatalities in the government’s anti-narcotic drive are extrajudicial killings committed by cops taking a frontline role in the lethal campaign and unknown assailants.

But the force had vehemently denied executing suspected drug traffickers in cold blood, saying deaths in police shootings were done in self-defense.

Amid the mounting death toll, critics say Duterte is waging a “war on poor,” making him liable for crimes against humanity for giving cops the “license to kill.”

Citing the 900 drug-related deaths reported by media from January to September last year, the State Department said concerns about police impunity “increased significantly.”

The US government also expressed doubt over the accuracy and legitimacy of Duterte’s list of alleged drug personalities.

“Police claimed to have begun investigations of all reports of extrajudicial killings,” the report read in part.

“Some civil society organizations accused police of planting evidence, tampering with crime scenes, unlawfully disposing of the bodies of drug suspects, and other actions to cover up extrajudicial killings,” it added.

Aside from the drug war, the report likewise flagged other “most significant” human rights issues in the country, including life threatening prison conditions, warrantless arrests, the state’s “disregard” for due process, violence against the free press and rights activists, and forced labor, among others.

Duterte-Trump

The report’s release comes at a time of improving Manila-Washington ties, as US President Donald Trump cozies up to Duterte, whom the American leader said was doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”

In a departure from previous policy of past American leaders to call out human rights violators, Trump had also reportedly said that “Filipinos don’t have drug problem [because] they just kill them.”

Asked how the State Department report is consistent with the human rights policies of Trump—who has been criticized for his apparent affinity for leaders accused of being authoritarian like Duterte—senior State Department official Michael Kozak maintained that the report is “factual.”

“Now, does that mean that the President should never speak to these people? We’re trying to keep the report as the factual baseline for what we’re going to do in policy terms or sanctions as the secretary was mentioning. So we can learn a lot from this, and we can use it to formulate a policy,” Kozak, who helped oversee the report, said in a press conference.

“But usually part of your policy is engaging with the people whose behavior you’re trying to change at some level. And I don’t think those two things are in distinction,” he added.

“The fact is, these other governments and their populations do read the report… And when the President speaks to their leader, often he’s talking about these issues, so it’s – it’s complementary, it’s not a – two things that are in conflict.”

DRUG WARHUMAN RIGHTSRODRIGO DUTERTEUS STATE DEPARTMENT

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/04/21/1808082/state-department-report-ejks-still-chief-human-rights-concern-philippines#088lxvjd7z7D8Etu.99

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 (Includes FT Op-Ed)

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Philippines: Facebook blocks pro-Duterte websites suspected of spreading fake news

April 14, 2018
Facebook blocks pro-Duterte websites suspected of spreading fake news
Ian Nicolas Cigaral (philstar.com) – April 14, 2018 – 5:08pm

MANILA, Philippines — Facebook has started blocking some pro-Duterte websites that are suspected of peddling fake news, as the world’s largest social network intensifies fact-checking efforts to weed out misleading content and false information.

According to Facebook, users are prevented from sharing content from the websites for not following the social network’s “community standards” and for being “unsafe.”

Facebook has been battling widespread alarm amid issues on the company’s efforts to protect users’ data, as well as accusations that the platform was used as a tool to influence elections and imperil democracies through the spread of false and divisive news.

The proliferation of fake news in the Philippines has prompted lawmakers to hold congressional probes into the matter.

Bloomberg last year reported that the social media giant’s “political team” allegedly trained the camp of President Rodrigo Duterte on how to maximize the platform for campaign.

Among the first and the notable fake new propagated during Duterte’s campaign was the supposed badge of support given by Pope Francis to the firebrand leader, whose almost two decade mayoral stint in Davao City was marred by alleged human rights abuses.

But Malacañang had maintained that it would have been “foolhardy” for any political candidate not to tap Facebook as a campaign tool.

Despite conducting public hearings in aid of legislation on fake news, Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media had said Congress “cannot legislate thought control.”

Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Operations Office Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, who runs a pro-Duterte Facebook page with more than five million followers, is being accused of spreading fake news. — with a report from Janvic Mateo

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/04/14/1805919/facebook-blocks-pro-duterte-websites-suspected-spreading-fake-news#T1RoqrD3fcTLekee.99

Philippine lawyers Blast President for Constantly Threatening Martial Law — “What is with the insatiable appetite for martial law powers?” — “Martial law has a chilling effect…”

January 24, 2018
 / 06:57 PM January 24, 2018

Martial law in Mindanao is nothing but a tactic being used by President Rodrigo Duterte to scare his administration’s detractors, according to the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL).

In a 38-page memorandum filed with the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday, the NUPL said that the Duterte administration had only been taking advantage of the declaration’s “partly psychological” effect on the populace.

“Clearly, another extension – this time for a much longer period – would result in an increase in human rights abuses. But why the uncontrollable desire for the extension? What is with the insatiable appetite for martial law powers?” the group stressed.

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“Martial law is the President’s ultimate scare tactic,” the NUPL said. “Martial law has a chilling effect and as Respondent AFP Chief admitted during the oral arguments, the declaration is ‘partly psychological’ as it pictures and embeds in the minds of the populace that a ‘strong authority is in charge’.”

Gen. Rey Guerrero, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), had recommended to Congress the extension of martial law for its “psychological impact” on law enforcement in the region.

READ: Drilon: Martial law for ‘psychological impact’ invalid basis for extension

According to the NUPL, the impact the AFP wants to sustain unequivocally frustrates and circumvents the constitutional safeguards against human rights abuses an the unbridled exercise of presidential powers.

“These safeguards were borne out of the lessons and experience as a nation and a people under the Marcos dictatorship,” the NUPL said.

“Historical and contemporary experiences indubitably prove that the monster of martial law has targeted and will target civilians who have no participation at all in any armed uprising or struggle,” the group said.

The petitioners said the inclusion of alleged “coddlers,” “supporters,” and “financiers” in quelling the reported rebellion would open the floodgates to further attacks against anyone.

“The vagueness and ambiguity of said pronouncement sends a chilling effect that violates the people’s right to exercise vital freedoms and liberties,” the NUPL said.

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Moreover, the NUPL asserted that martial law was not intended for armed groups but for those opposing the government.

The petitioners noted how Duterte showed a lack of tolerance against those who openly criticized him such as the Church, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Commission of Human Rights, the media and the courts.

“It is this factual context and concrete situation that the constitutional and bounden duty, not only of the whole Court as an institution but also for each and every individual honorable member of this Court, to exercise judicial review to check on abuse of power, protect and defend freedoms and liberties, and breathe life, guidance and inspiration to its role as a supposed last bastion of democracy instead of allowing it to be an empty shibboleth to the delight and pleasure of fleeting tyrants of any time,” the NUPL said. /atm

Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/963307/nupl-martial-law-is-dutertes-ultimate-scare-tactic#ixzz556ISEGhc
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Related: Junta, Martial Law

 (with links to related reports)

Related: South China Sea

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Related: War on Drugs and Human Rights

Image result for Nora Acielo, still clutching the school bag, philippines, photos

In this Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016 photo, people and a policeman looking at the body of a woman, later identified by her husband as that of Nora Acielo, still clutching the school bag of her child, are reflected in a pool of water after she was shot by still unidentified men while walking with her two children to school at a poor neighborhood in Manila, Philippines, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. Police said the killing of Acielo was the 13th recorded drug-related case in the past 24 hours in President Rodrigo Duterte’s unrelenting war on drugs. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez
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Philippines: Human Rights Watch director Phelim Kline also said the numbers of fatalities in the drug war launched by President Rodrigo Duterte when he assumed office on June 30, 2016, are “appalling but predictable” since he (Duterte) vowed to “forget the laws on human rights.”

Tillerson, in Myanmar, calls for credible probe of atrocities

November 16, 2017

Reuters

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United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi during a joint press conference in Naypyidaw on Nov 15, 2017. Photo: AFP

NAYPYITAW (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on Wednesday for a credible investigation into reports of human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims committed by Myanmar’s security forces after a meeting with its civilian and military leaders.

More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since late August, driven out by a military counter-insurgency clearance operation in Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

A top U.N. official has described the military’s actions as a textbook case of “ethnic cleansing”.

“We’re deeply concerned by credible reports of widespread atrocities committed by Myanmar’s security forces and by vigilantes who were unrestrained by the security forces during the recent violence in Rakhine State,” Tillerson told a joint news conference with Aung San Suu Kyi, the head of a civilian administration that is less than two years old and shares power with the military.

Tillerson had earlier held separate talks with Myanmar’s military chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, whose forces have been accused of atrocities.

A senior U.N. official on Sunday leveled allegations of mass rape, killings and torture against the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, after a tour of refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazar region of neighboring Bangladesh.

Tillerson called for the Myanmar government to lead a credible and impartial investigation and said those who committed abuses should be held responsible.

“The recent serious allegations of abuses in Rakhine state demand a credible and impartial investigation and those who commit human rights abuses or violations must be held accountable,” he said.

“In all my meetings, I have called on the Myanmar civilian government to lead a full and effective independent investigation and for the military to facilitate full access and cooperation.”

He also said it was the duty of the military to help the government to meet commitments to ensure the safety and security of all people in Rakhine state.

A posting on Min Aung Hlaing’s Facebook page said Myanmar’s military supremo had explained to Tillerson the “true situation in Rakhine”, the reasons why Muslims fled, how the military was working with the government to deliver aid and the progress made for a repatriation process to be agreed with Bangladesh.

The military launched its clearance operation after an army base and 30 police posts were attacked on Aug. 25 by Rohingya militants, killing about a dozen members of the security forces.

CONSEQUENCES

Tillerson condemned the militant attacks, but said any response by the security forces needed to avoid to the “maximum extent possible harming innocent civilians”.

Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attend a press conference at Naypyitaw, Myanmar November 15, 2015. REUTERS/Aye Win Myint

An internal investigation by the military into the allegations of atrocities that was released this week was branded a “whitewash” by human rights groups.

Back in Washington, U.S. senators are pressing for economic sanctions and travel restrictions targeting the Myanmar military and its business interests.

Tillerson said he would advise against any broad-based sanctions against Myanmar, as the United States wanted to see it succeed.

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Min Aung Hlaing defends military campaign in Rakhine

But he said if there was credible and reliable information on abuses by individuals they could be targeted by sanctions.

 

Tillerson said the United States would work with partners so that those responsible for any atrocities would face consequences, “using all available mechanisms, including those available under U.S. law”.

Myanmar is undergoing a transition to democracy after decades of rule by the military, but the generals retain extensive powers over security and a veto over reform of a constitution that has barred Suu Kyi from the presidency.

“Myanmar’s response to this crisis is critical to determining the success of its transition to a more democratic society,” Tillerson said.

”It’s a responsibility of the government and its security forces to protect and respect the human rights of all persons within its borders and to hold accountable those who fail to do so.”

He said the United States would provide an additional $47 million in humanitarian assistance for refugees bringing the total to $87 million since the crisis erupted in August.

“The humanitarian scale of this crisis is staggering,” Tillerson said.

But he said he was encouraged by talks between Myanmar and Bangladesh to agree on a refugee repatriation process.

During the news conference, Suu Kyi was asked to explain why she had not spoken out more strongly over the plight of the Rohingya, as the Nobel peace prize winner’s perceived failure to speak up has damaged her international reputation as a stateswoman.

“What I say is not supposed to be exciting,” Suu Kyi said, adding that she had aimed to keep the public informed without setting different ethnic, religious communities against each other.

“It’s important to bring peace and stability to this country and that can only be done on the basis of rule of law and everybody should understand that the role of theirs is to protect peace and stability, not to punish people.”

Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Robert Birsel

See also:

https://www.todayonline.com/world/asia/tillerson-myanmar-calls-probe-atrocities-against-rohingya

and

It’s Time To Talk About Min Aung Hlaing

http://www.arakanmedia.com/opinions/its-time-to-talk-about-min-aung-hlaing.html

Related:

Donald Trump’s Asia trip shows that he is being played

November 14, 2017

By Will Gore
The Independent

The Chinese have rolled out the red carpet and thus avoided both tricky questions of the sort usually asked by Western leaders and any sort of confrontation over trade

Such is the paradoxical nature of Donald Trump’s Presidency that it should perhaps have come as no surprise that the man who swept to power on the promise of putting “America First” should undertake a lengthier tour of Asia than any of his three most recent predecessors.

Perhaps he decided that it is more pleasant to be feted as a foreign dignitary than hated as a divisive head of state. Certainly he enjoyed many warm words of welcome from those he visited during his trip – and he repaid the compliments by the bucketload. Yet it remains unclear whether Trump actually achieved a great deal during his 11 days away.

At the outset, he was said to have three objectives, according to General HR McMaster, the US National Security Adviser. First was the promotion of democratic freedom and openness; second was to press for ‘fair’ trade to boost America’s prosperity; third was to deal with North Korea.

In relation to the first aim, it might have been thought that the President would raise concerns over human rights abuses by China, or the large-scale killing of drug pushers in the Philippines, or the lack of media freedom in Vietnam. When it came to it, though, he evidently felt it was a little impertinent to be so rude. He is, after all, always wary of causing offence.

As for the second, he has regularly railed against Chinese trade policies, which he argues amount to an assault on America’s economy. Yet when he was actually in Beijing, he simply told President Xi what a “special man” he was (Xi, not Trump, though he probably feels the same about himself).

 Image result for Protesters burn Donald Trump effigy in the Philippines, photos
Protesters burn Donald Trump effigy in the Philippines

When it came to North Korea, Trump’s attempts to rally a co-ordinated regional response were undermined by his inability to resist a childish Twitter spat with Kim Jong-un.

Of course, Trump can point to a few macho statements – mostly made about China when he wasn’t in the country – which might convince his fans at home that he’s still fighting the good fight on behalf of US workers. But the evidence that he has come anywhere near achieving something concrete in the last week and a half is slim to say the least.

What’s more, he also gave a good impression of furthering his cosy relationship with Vladimir Putin, infuriating America’s intelligence community by explaining that he’d – yet again – asked the Russian President whether he had interfered in the US election and had been reassured by his answer in the negative. Not only that, complained Trump, but poor old Vlad felt insulted by the constant impugning of his reputation by suggestions to the contrary.

As ever with Trump, it is hard to know whether his apparent missteps are intentional – an extension simply of his dismissal of the US establishment and the way things have been done by his predecessors – or whether he is acting on the hoof, pulling punches when flattered and throwing them when riled.

Increasingly however it feels as if Trump – the great entertainer-President – is being played. The Chinese roll out the red carpet and thus avoid both tricky questions of the sort usually asked by Western leaders and any sort of confrontation over trade. Putin, meanwhile, appeals to Trump’s own inflated notion of ego by complaining that claims of Russian meddling in America’s democratic process amount to a personal slight. Trump responds by defending his fellow strongman leader and attacking the conclusions of his own intelligence agencies.

In the South Korean leg of his tour, Trump gloried in being introduced to the National Assembly as the “leader of the world”. But the truth is almost the diametric opposite: Trump is being led, quite often in ways that appear at odds with American national interests, which is a remarkable state of affairs.

The counter-argument deployed by the President is that America’s foreign policy in many arenas has been a failure over many years and his approach will, at some stage, pay dividends. Yet, such an argument pre-supposes that different policies in the past – towards Chinese trade for instance, or Russian diplomacy, or the Middle East – would have had alternative outcomes. It also relies on Trump’s bluster turning into something demonstrable. That is a dangerous game indeed.

But maybe that is the central problem – that to Trump, the Presidency is simply a game, in which beating losers and vying for personal glory are the key aspects. Worse still, while Trump thinks it’s a game for single players, Russia, China and others understand that it’s all about teams. And in the last few days they have benefitted from a series of Trump own goals. 

Much more of this and America will find that it is very far from being first in the modern world order.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/donald-trump-asia-china-north-korea-putin-being-played-a8052261.html

Philippine President Duterte Makes Hero of Late Dictator Ferdinand Marcos — Post Office Follows Lead With Commemorative Stamp

October 28, 2017
 
The commemorative stamps, which bore the portrait and signature of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, were issued last September 11, 2017—the day of the ex-leader’s 100th birthday anniversary. Image of the stamp lifted from Philpost website

MANILA, Philippines — In case you haven’t heard about it, the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos has been honored with a national stamp by the Philippine Postal Corp. to commemorate the dictator whose regime was marred by human rights abuses and corruption.

The commemorative stamps, which bore the portrait and signature of Marcos, were issued last Sept. 11, 2017—the day of the ex-leader’s 100th birthday anniversary.

Sold for P12 each, the stamps, which were designed by Victorino Serevo, will be available until Sept. 10, 2018, Philpost said on its website.

According to assistant post master Luis Carlos, the release of the national stamps had no political implication, adding that the postal agency had also issued stamps in the past to commemorate the birth centenary of previous presidents.

“We are just following the guidelines. The presidents who have birth centenaries have stamps issued,” Carlos was quoted as saying in a report by Agence France-Presse.

Accused of committing massive human rights abuses and stealing billions of dollars from state coffers, Marcos was ousted by a bloodless “People Power Revolution” in 1986.

Despite the death of the strongman in exile in Hawaii in 1989, his family has been making a political comeback with his widow, Imelda, and their children getting elected to office.

Last year, President Rodrigo Duterte, an ally of the political clan, granted the longstanding wish of the Marcos family to bury the Marcos patriarch at the Libingan in a surprise ceremony.

READ: Marcos buried at Libingan in ‘surprise’ ceremony l Hero’s burial for Marcos: How did we get here?

He also declared September 11 a special non-working day in Ilocos Norte upon the family’s request.

READ: Duterte defends declaring Marcos’ birthday a holiday

See more:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdinand_Marcos

Many Filipinos say the Marcos government was know for human rights abuses including rule of law violations, murder, police abuse of the people and torture.

Catalan Commission to Investigate Claims of Abuse During Banned Referendum

October 2, 2017

MADRID — Catalonia will create a special commission to investigate claims of abuse by Spanish police during a banned referendum on independence on Sunday after more than 800 people were left injured, leader of region Carles Puigdemont said on Monday.

Thousands of Spanish police were shipped in to the region to prevent the vote on secession though scenes of violence due to heavy-handed tactics by armoured, baton-carrying riot units have received international condemnation.

The vote which the constitutional court banned and Madrid said was illegal, yet still attracted millions of defiant voters, was valid and binding, Puigdemont said during a conference.

The Catalan leader said he had had no contact with Spain’s central government and called on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to say whether he was in favour of mediation in talks over the region’s future, which should be overseen by the European Union.

(Reporting by Inmaculada Sanz; Writing by Paul Day; Editing by Sonya Dowsett)

Fighting Breaks Out at Turkish President’s Speech in New York

September 22, 2017

Violence broke out at a New York hotel Thursday afternoon when protesters disrupted a speech by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

In the middle of Mr. Erdogan’s speech, delivered in Turkish, a man — one of a handful of protesters — screamed in English: “You’re a terrorist. Get out of my country!” The ballroom at the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square instantly erupted, with many attendees chanting Mr. Erdogan’s name to drown out the protesters.

Videos showed the protesters — one of them wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a picture of Michael Israel, an American who was killed in a Turkish airstrike while volunteering with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or Y.P.G. — being punched and slapped by several attendees as security personnel removed them from the room. Security also removed at least one person who had assaulted the protesters.

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Anti-Erdogan demonstrators are punched as they are removed from a New York hotel, Thursday, September 21, 2017. From a VOA video

Meghan Bodette, who identified herself as one of six protesters (one of whom was filming), said their goal was “to call attention to the Turkish state’s war crimes and human rights abuses against the Kurdish people,” both in Turkey and in Syria.

“Erdogan should not be able to speak here unchallenged, and we challenged him because the American people need to know that a state that claims to be our ally is hindering the fight against ISIS in Syria and destroying civilian lives,” Ms. Bodette said in a Twitter message

Halil Demir, a Turkish-American who works for a humanitarian organization, said he had been standing near the back of the room when three protesters stood up in rapid succession: a young man, a young woman and a middle-aged man. The woman held a green banner, Mr. Demir said. Ms. Bodette identified it as the flag of the Women’s Protection Units, or Y.P.J., the female counterpart to the Y.P.G.

The young man was pulled out of the room, Mr. Demir said, and the woman left on her own after being told to do so. But Mr. Demir said he saw security guards push the middle-aged man, who fell to the ground. He did not know whether the guards were part of Mr. Erdogan’s detail, the United States Secret Service or the hotel’s security team.

“The third man screamed, and people were screaming at him,” he said. “It didn’t take long. Seconds, really.”

Mr. Demir said he later saw the man on the floor, handcuffed, outside the ballroom where Mr. Erdogan was speaking at the invitation of the Turkish American National Steering Committee.

Read the rest:

Related:

Members of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail clashed with protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington on May 16. Credit Voice of America, via Associated Press

Egypt Blocks Website of Leading Rights Group

September 5, 2017

CAIRO — A leading Egyptian rights group says authorities have blocked its website in a “new attack” on free speech.

The government in May began blocking hundreds of websites, including leading news sites, as part of a wider crackdown on dissent. It has also shut down the sites of VPN blockers, which allowed users to circumvent such measures.

The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms says its website has been blocked since Tuesday morning, but that it will continue publishing its reports on human rights abuses on other platforms, including its Facebook page.

It says the crackdown shows that the government “refuses any criticism,” but also that “its arguments are weak.”

Egypt has jailed thousands of people and curbed basic freedoms since the military overthrow of an elected Islamist president in 2013.

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Venezuelans Watch the Military for Signs of Fraying Loyalty

August 7, 2017

CARACAS, Venezuela — As Venezuela’s political crisis spins further out of control, many are looking to the military to see if its once-unflinching loyalty to the socialist revolution might be fraying.

On Sunday morning, Venezuelans awoke to news that a small group of armed men tried to take over a major military base in the central city of Valencia after a long-mutinous national guard captain appeared in a video calling for rebellion.

Military chiefs said the rebels were trying to steal weapons [AFP]Military chiefs said the rebels were trying to steal weapons [AFP]

The government said what it described as a “terrorist attack” led mostly by civilians dressed in fatigues and deserted officers, not active troops, was quickly put down and seven people were arrested. It wasn’t clear how much support existed for the so-called “Operation David,” but dozens of civilians startled by the sound of gunfire poured into the streets singing Venezuela’s national anthem to back the rebels.

Many people wonder whether the tension-filled incident could foreshadow a bigger uprising to come from a military with a long history of rebellion and whose troops — like many Venezuelans — are increasingly caught up in the nation’s economic and political crisis.

Analysts say that such a scenario is unlikely for now.

While signs of disgruntlement are growing as security forces come under a barrage of rocks and Molotov cocktails during almost-daily anti-Maduro protests, soldiers also fear persecution under an opposition government. In addition, they face risks that any plans for a secret uprising would be found out.

Image result for former army Gen. Hebert Garcia Plaza, photos

Former army Gen. Hebert Garcia Plaza

“They feel trapped,” said former army Gen. Hebert Garcia Plaza, a former Maduro minister. Since seeking exile in Washington in 2015 following accusations of corruption by Maduro, he has emerged as a sought-after filter of information for journalists, the opposition and, increasingly he says, distraught soldiers.

“There’s lots of unease, but they can’t provoke a political change without a clear horizon of what comes after Maduro,” Garcia Plaza said.

Venezuela’s military accumulated unmatched power and privilege in the past two decades of socialist rule, and Maduro has been increasingly relying on the armed forces as his own grip on power weakens. Last week, with the support of top generals, he plowed forward with a plan to seat an all-powerful assembly mandated with rewriting the constitution. Political opponents and dozens of foreign governments consider it an illegitimate power grab that will strip Venezuela of its last vestiges of democracy.

The opposition is urging the military to switch loyalties and pressure Maduro to cede to its demands, including freeing hundreds of political prisoners and setting a timetable for presidential elections. But many in the military, especially higher-ranking officers, have already hitched their fate to the revolution.

Following a 2002 coup, then-President Hugo Chavez, himself a former tank commander, carried out a deep purge of the military and promoted loyal officers to top positions in the government.

Maduro has expanded the military’s political power even further, giving them control of key sectors of the economy, such as food importation. He also rewarded soldiers with pay raises and bonuses that are the envy of civilians struggling amid triple-digit inflation and widespread shortages.

Even before the ballots were counted in the July 30 election for the constitutional assembly, Defense Minister Gen. Vladimir Padrino Lopez went in front of the cameras accompanied by the top military brass to celebrate the results as a defeat for imperialism.

Despite the outward loyalty, some cracks began to appear even before Sunday’s attack. At least 106 members of the armed forces, some of them junior officers, have been jailed for alleged crimes such as rebellion and treason since protests began in April, according to the lists provided by an army official on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. There also have been a few high-profile defections from lower-ranked soldiers that have become social media sensations.

One is Giomar Flores, a low-ranking naval intelligence officer who in June released a video calling for the armed forces to uphold the constitution. Before fleeing to Colombia, where the video was recorded, he was assigned to policing food lines in Falcon state, a job that in theory afforded access to hard-to-find staples but which ended up turning him against the institution he loved.

“I decided my future was worth more than a bag of food,” the 25-year-old Flores said in an interview with The Associated Press from Bogota.

He said the top military command was corrupted by the government and divisions within the institution more apparent than ever.

“The armed forces today are like a snake, whose head is the top command that sadly is subordinated to the regime,” Flores said. “If you cut off the head, you’ll find us the troops.”

But a full-grown rebellion such as the one led by then-Lt. Col. Chavez in 1992 faces enormous obstacles, not the least of which is a dedicated counterespionage effort by Maduro.

“It’s very hard to create critical mass without being found out,” said Ivan Briscoe, head Latin American analyst for the International Crisis Group. “In an era of instant digital communications, authorities can be alerted to the risk of destabilization very quickly.”

Far from resolving Venezuela’s problems, a coup would trigger a full-blown international crisis and likely split the military, leading to even higher levels of violence approaching a civil war, Briscoe said. Opposition leaders, wary of awakening ghosts in a region that has turned its back on a century of military takeovers, are instead calling for behind-the-scenes pressure and restraint on using force against protesters.

A failure of the socialist system also could expose many senior officers to prosecution for human rights abuses and corruption. Several have already been targeted by U.S. sanctions, including the head of the army and national guard.

The opposition has gone to great lengths to say it will avoid a witch hunt if it gains power. But many in the military are unconvinced that any promises from the traditionally fragmented opposition can be taken seriously, given the huge challenges it would face governing, Garcia Plaza said.

“Many would rather trust the devil they know then the one they don’t,” he said.

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Associated Press writer Jorge Rueda reported this story in Caracas and AP writer Joshua Goodman reported from Bogota, Colombia.