Thursday March 21, 2019
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Fundamentalists eclipsing democracy in Bangladesh

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Kolkata: Expressing concern over the atrocious rise of fundamentalist power in Bangladesh eminent Ajoy Roy, the father of slain secularist writer-blogger Avijit Roy, on Tuesday urged the youth to thwart the threat and uphold democracy.

Participating in a discussion on “Intolerance and Democracy” at Calcutta University, Ajoy Roy said Bangladesh was going through tough times where fundamentalists were running the show and wiping out the secular fabric and democracy in the country.

“Fundamentalists have now eclipsed free thinking and are now devouring the society. If we don’t stand up now, then I have to say, Bangladesh’s democracy is in real danger.”

“There is no alternative unless stopped, they will wipe out secularism, they will wipe out democracy,” he said.

Expressing deep anguish and grief over the killing of his son and other bloggers, Roy urged the youth to stand up against communal forces and take up arms if the need be.

“Our only hope now is the youth. But then, only writing or words will not suffice. We need to build a movement, we need to hit the streets. The onus is now on the youth to carry forward the legacy of our freedom fighters and save our country.”

“If the need be, they (youth) should be ready to take up arms against these elements.”

“When fundamentalists are charging towards you with swords, how do you counter them? You need to talk to them in a language which they understand,” he exhorted.

Besides Avijit Roy, three other bloggers — Oyasiqur Rahman Babu, Ananta Bijoy Das and Niladri Chatterjee Niloy — were hacked to death by Islamist militants.

All four bloggers were involved with the ‘Ganajagaran Mancha’, a movement demanding maximum penalty for those who committed war crimes during the 1971 Bangladesh freedom struggle and a ban on religion-based politics.

On the occasion, historians Sumit Sarkar and Tanika Sarkar expressed grave concern over the growing influence of Hindutva outfits, including the RSS and the VHP, and asserted intolerance was steadily rising since the advent of the Narendra Modi government.

“As writers or historians, we don’t know which of our work will enrage the Hindutva outfits and we will have to face their wrath.

“It would not be far-fetched to say that had Bhagat Singh been alive today and if he had written his last book ‘Why I am an Atheist’ now, maybe he would have met the same fate as Govind Pansare,” said Tanika Sarkar.

Referring to the murders of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi, Tanika Sarkar congratulated all those who had returned their awards in protests against the growing intolerance.(IANS)

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To Diffuse The Situation Venezuela, U.N.Rights Chief Calls For Talks

The three member nations of the Lima Group that have not supported Guaido are Guyana, Saint Lucia and Mexico.

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United Nations
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Dec. 5, 2018 VOA

U.N. rights chief Michelle Bachelet has called for talks to defuse the situation in Venezuela, saying that it “may rapidly spiral out of control with catastrophic consequences.”

Bachelet also called for an independent investigation into reports that Venezuelan security forces had killed 20 people and detained more than 350 in protests this week.

United States President Donald Trump bluntly warned Maduro Thursday that “all options are on the table” if there is not a peaceful transition to democracy in the South American country.

Severing diplomatic ties

On Wednesday, Venezuela’s disputed president Nicolas Maduro said he was ending diplomatic relations with the United States in response to Trump’s announcement that the U.S. was officially recognizing National Assembly President Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim leader, as Guaido declared himself interim president during a day of mass demonstrations.

venezuela
Anti-government protesters hold their hands up during the symbolic swearing-in of Juan Guaido, head of the opposition-run congress who declared himself interim president of Venezuela until elections can be called, during a rally demanding President Nicolas step down. VOA

Maduro ordered U.S. diplomats to leave within 72 hours. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, however, said Maduro no longer has the authority to issue orders.

Thursday, 16 of the 34 nations in the Organization of American States (OAS) recognized Guaido, the opposition head of the National Assembly, as the interim president of Venezuela at an emergency session.

Pompeo urged members to oppose the “illegitimate” Maduro and pledged to make $20 million available for humanitarian assistance to Venezuela.

“All OAS member states must align themselves with democracy and respect for the rule of law,” the top U.S. diplomat said.

Meanwhile, the State Department ordered non-emergency personnel to leave Venezuela, but is not closing its embassy in Caracas.

The department said it was ordering the evacuating for security reasons, and that U.S. citizens should “strongly consider” leaving the country.

Venezuela

More sanctions possible

White House officials emphasized that Trump is not ruling out any response, such as a naval blockade or other military action, if Maduro unleashes violence against protesters or takes action against Guaido.

The most immediate action by Washington likely would be enhanced sanctions against members of Maduro’s government.

“In our sanctions, we’ve barely scratched the surface on what actions the United States can take,” said a senior administration official.

Several nations have joined the U.S. in recognizing Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president, including Canada and 11 of the 14 members of the newly formed Lima Group of Latin nations, among them Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Peru.

French President Emmanuel Macron called Venezuela’s elections “illegitimate” in a Tweet on Thursday, and saluted the bravery of Venezuelans demanding freedom.

 

Antonio Guterres
Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of United Nations addresses the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 24, 2019. VOAead: 

 

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Thursday the situation in Venezuela could descend into “disaster” if the country’s main political rivals fail to reach an agreement.

Speaking Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Guterres said the U.N. hopes “dialogue can be possible, and that we avoid an escalation that would lead to the kind of conflict that would be a disaster” for the people of Venezuela and the region.

Warnings from Russia, China

But officials in Russia, one of Venezuela’s biggest allies, reacted with anger Thursday at the United States and other Western nations for backing Guaido, accusing them of interfering in its internal affairs. Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned the United States against any military intervention, saying such a move would have “catastrophic” consequences.

China urged the United States to stay out of the crisis. Beijing and Moscow have extensive economic interests, having loaned Caracas billions of dollars.

Bolivia, Cuba, Iran and Syria also have issued statements throwing their support behind Maduro.

Also Read: Assam’s Citizen Register Raises Concern of U.N. Human Rights Expert

The three member nations of the Lima Group that have not supported Guaido are Guyana, Saint Lucia and Mexico.

“From a constitutional, humanitarian, and democratic perspective — and according to international law — there was no option left for the United States and the international community but to recognize Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela,” Moises Rendon, associate director and associate fellow of the CSIS Americas Program, told VOA.

Venezuela and its state-owned oil company, PDVSA, are estimated to owe $7 billion on a combined trade debt of about $60 billion. The country’s oil-based economy, which is wracked by hyperinflation, has collapsed. (VOA)