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Maduro: US Seeks to Destroy Venezuela’s Food Aid Program

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Thursday accused the United States of seeking to destroy a food aid program

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Maduro, US, Venezuela's Food Aid Program
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during his visit to a packing center of the CLAP (Local Committees of Supply and Production) program, a Venezuelan government handout of basic food supplies, in Caracas, Venezuela, April 17, 2019. VOA

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Thursday accused the United States of seeking to destroy a food aid program that the government of the crisis-stricken OPEC nation says feeds 6 million families.

Washington is preparing sanctions and criminal charges against Venezuelan officials and others suspected of using the food program to launder money for the Maduro government, sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday.

The measures against the program, known in Venezuela by its Spanish acronym CLAP, are expected to be enacted within the next 90 days, according to the sources, who asked not to be identified.

“(The U.S.) is preparing sanctions to destroy the CLAP system,” Maduro said in televised broadcast, accompanied by the military high command.

Maduro, US, Venezuela's Food Aid Program
The contents of a CLAP box, a Venezuelan government handout of basic food supplies, is pictured at Viviana Colmenares’ house in the slum of Petare in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 23, 2018. VOA

“Do what you want to do, Venezuela will continue with the Local Supply and Production Committees,” he said, referencing the full name of the CLAP program.

The State Department did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Subsidized food

The program sells at subsidized prices boxes of food that include products such as rice, pasta, oil and powdered milk.

Some of the products are imported from countries such as Turkey, Mexico, Colombia and Brazil.

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Maduro launched the plan in 2016 in response to chronic food shortages and spiraling prices, as Venezuela struggled under hyperinflation and a severe economic contraction. Critics call the program a form of social control that is used to pressure its recipients to support the ruling Socialist Party.

Crisis deepening

Venezuela’s political crisis has deepened since opposition leader Juan Guaido invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency in January, arguing that socialist Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate.

The United States as well as most European and Latin American countries have recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader.

But Maduro retains control of state functions and the support of the military’s top brass, as well the support of allies such as Russia, Cuba and China. He says the country’s economic problems are the result of an “economic war” led by his political adversaries with the help of Washington. (VOA)

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Tech Giant Apple Expands its Retail Presence in US

There are over 1,800 third-party Apple authorized service providers across the US

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Apple, Campus, China
A customer is entering the Apple store in Fairfax, Virginia. VOA

Expanding its repair services across the US, Apple has partnered consumer electronics retailer Best Buy with the company’s nearly 1,000 stores that would provide expert service and repairs for Apple products.

“We’re always looking at how we can reliably expand our network of trained technicians and we’re excited to partner with every Best Buy store so it’s even easier for our customers to find an authorized repair location near them,” said Tara Bunch, Vice President of AppleCare, said in a blog post on Wednesday.

According to the iPhone-maker, Best Buy has nearly 7,600 newly Apple-certified technicians who are always ready to make same-day iPhone repairs or to service other Apple products.

Apple, women
The Apple logo is shown outside the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, California. VOA

The company asserts that every repair at an authorized service provider was not only performed by trained experts but also backed by Apple.

There are over 1,800 third-party Apple authorized service providers across the US.

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“This is three times as many locations as three years ago, meaning eight out of 10 Apple customers would be within 20 minutes of an authorized service provider,” the post added. (IANS)