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Venezuela should release jailed opponents: UN rights chief

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called on Venezuela to release jailed dissidents Friday and said the crisis-wracked country faced a “serious” humanitarian situation.

Her comments came at the end of a three-day visit to the country on the invitation of embattled President Nicolas Maduro, who has faced allegations of cracking down on political opponents amid rampant hyperinflation and shortages of basic goods.

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“I call on the authorities to release all those who are detained or deprived of their liberty for exercising their civil rights in a peaceful manner,” said Bachelet, referring to the hundreds of Maduro government opponents who are currently incarcerated.

The UN rights chief met relatives of these detainees, many of whom are accused of “conspiracy” to overthrow the government. She also spoke with relatives of people who died during the anti-Maduro protests of 2017.

Rights groups had pushed Bachelet to raise the issue of 715 people they say have been jailed for political reasons, a claim Maduro’s government rejects.

Maduro, meanwhile, said he would respect the recommendations made by Bachelet, a former Chilean president.

“I told her that she can count on me, as president, to take her suggestions, her recommendations and her proposals seriously,” Maduro said, adding that people accused of human rights abuses would be prosecuted.

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Bachelet also said she had appointed delegates to remain in the country with the mandate “to provide assistance and technical advice, but also, very importantly, to continue to monitor the human rights situation across Venezuela.”

The high commissioner’s visit came amid the country’s ongoing economic and political crisis that the UN says has caused some four million Venezuelans to flee since 2015 amid collapsing government services and shortages of food.

Bachelet has previously criticized the government’s response to the crisis and called for Caracas to respect “everyone’s fundamental right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.”

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Yet it was the Maduro government who invited her to Venezuela, saying the visit would be an opportunity to show its adherence to human rights and the “negative repercussions” of sanctions that prevent it from selling its oil to the United States.

– ‘Skeptical’ –

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Bachelet has also been critical of US sanctions against Maduro imposed by President Donald Trump, raising concerns that restrictions on trade with Venezuela could have negative repercussions for the general population in a country where 96 percent of the budget is based on oil.

During her visit, Bachelet also met with opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized as Venezuela’s interim president by some 50 countries, including the United States.

She called for dialogue between the government and Guaido’s opposition and spoke in support of Norway’s efforts to broker talks.

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Delegates from both sides met there for the first time in May, but progress has since stalled.

“I understand that some are skeptical that these sorts of negotiations will bear fruit, but the serious situation in the country demands that the leaders try,” Bachelet said.


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‘Dirty’ Jared Kushner should be targeted if GOP makes impeachment trial about Bidens: strategist

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President Donald Trump has signaled that he wants Senate Republicans to turn his impeachment trial around on Democrats by actually making it a trial of the Biden family.

The president on Thursday signaled that he wants former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, to testify at his impeachment trial in an effort to make the trial less about his own misconduct and more about purported misconduct by the Democrats.

However, Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg on Thursday proposed a plan to counter this kind of misdirection: Going after Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, whose shady dealings with world leaders have so far escaped significant scrutiny.

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Democrats crippled their own impeachment effort with a rushed timeline: columnist

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House Democrats made a conscious decision to keep impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump as short and efficient as possible. On one hand, they had sensible reasons for wanting to do so — they were concerned that a protracted impeachment battle that drags into the 2020 election would lose engagement with the American people and draw criticism for attempting to interfere with the election.

But Thursday, NBC News analyst Kurt Bardella argued that Democrats may also have caused problems for themselves by making the impeachment process too short and setting arbitrary deadlines.

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Trump’s former mistress is taking on Fox News for accusing her of extortion

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According to a lawsuit filed against Fox News by a former Playboy model who says she had an affair with Donald Trump before he was president, network host Tucker Carlson falsely accused her of extortion by claiming she “approached Donald Trump and threatened to ruin his career and humiliate his family if he doesn’t give them money," The New York Times reports.

"Now that sounds like a classic case of extortion," Carlson said during his show on Dec. 10, 2018. "Yet for whatever reason, Trump caves to it, and he directs Michael Cohen to pay the ransom. Now, more than two years later, Trump is a felon for doing this. It doesn't seem to make any sense."

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