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Phuket Gazette World News: Venezeula’s Hugo Chavez loses battle with cancer

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Phuket Gazette World News: Venezeula’s Hugo Chavez loses battle with cancer | The Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Obituary: Hugo Chavez – socialist showman who transformed Venezuela
Reuters/ Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: At two defining moments of his rule, Venezuela’s theatrical leader Hugo Chavez took a small silver crucifix from his pocket and held it above his head.

Both marked a quasi-religious “return” for the socialist ex-soldier whom supporters loved with messianic fervour – first from a 2002 coup that saw him jailed on a tiny Caribbean island, and then from cancer surgery in Cuba in June 2011.

As he held aloft the crucifix from a balcony of his Miraflores Palace after returning from surgery, the maverick president of South America’s biggest oil exporter said he was putting his fate in the hands of God and the Virgin Mary.

“Today, the revolution is more alive than ever. I feel it, I live it, I touch it … If Christ is with us, who can be against us? If the people are with us, who can be against us?” he said, working his supporters into a frenzy.

“But no one should think my presence here means the battle is won. No,” he cautioned, turning the screams of joy at his homecoming to tears at the fragile state of his health.

Chavez died in hospital yesterday, finally succumbing to the cancer after four operations in Cuba. His death ended 14 years of charismatic, volatile rule that turned him into a major world figure.

Ever the showman, Chavez would jump from theology to jokes, and from Marxist rhetoric to baseball metaphors in building an almost cult-like devotion among followers.

Throughout his presidency, he projected himself in religious, nationalistic and radical terms as Venezuela’s saviour, and it largely worked. While his foes reviled him and portrayed him as a boorish dictator, Chavez was hailed by supporters as a champion of the poor and he won four presidential elections.

He took over from his mentor Fidel as the leader of South America’s left-wing bloc and its loudest critic of the United States, winning friends and enemies alike with a cutting and dramatic frankness that no one could match.

When the cancer first struck, Chavez could have stepped aside to fight it.

Instead, he stretched his physical limits by staying at the front of his government while running a successful but hobbled campaign to win a new six-year term at an October 7 election.

Rural roots
Born the second of six sons of teachers in the cattle-ranching plains of Barinas state and raised by his grandmother Rosa Ines in a mud-floor shack, the young Chavez first aspired to be a painter or pitcher in the U.S. Major Leagues.

Attracted by the chance to play baseball, he joined the army at 16 and was eventually promoted to lieutenant-colonel.

Though mixing with left-wing rebels and plotting within the military from long before, Chavez burst onto the national stage when he led a 1992 coup attempt against then leader Carlos Andres Perez.

The coup failed and Chavez surrendered, but he cut a dashing figure dressed in green fatigues and a red beret for a famous speech live on TV before being carted off to jail.

His comment that the coup had failed “por ahora” (“for now”) electrified many Venezuelans, especially the poor, who admired Chavez for standing up to a government they felt was increasingly corrupt and cold to their needs.

The hint of more to come, plus the unashamed acceptance of responsibility by Chavez, made him a hero in some sectors.

“I thank you for your loyalty, your valour, your exuberance, and I, before the country and before you all, assume responsibility for this Bolivarian militant movement,” he said, instructing his fellow rebels to lay down their arms.

Pardoned in 1994 by Venezuela’s next president, Rafael Caldera, Chavez left jail and began a grassroots political campaign, eventually defeating a former Miss Universe to win a presidential election four years later.

By doing so, the former paratrooper ended the grip of Venezuela’s traditional parties and launched his self-proclaimed “Bolivarian Revolution” – named for Venezuela’s 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar.

Chavez changed the nation’s name to the “Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela” and appeared in front of huge paintings of Bolivar, sending a subliminal message to Venezuelans that he was the modern reincarnation of their historical idol.

Slum hero
In the early days of his rule, Chavez enjoyed runaway popularity levels of 80 percent or more, especially in the sprawling slums of the capital Caracas.

His first big test surfaced three years in when he faced huge street protests and a build-up of withering criticism from political foes, business and labour leaders, Catholic bishops and even dissident soldiers.

But when military officers briefly pushed him out in their own coup in 2002, Chavez proved himself to be a survivor and bounced back to power after two days incommunicado and under arrest, some of it at an island military base.

In what he frequently refers to as his darkest moment – matched only by the cancer diagnosis he said Fidel, his friend and ally, broke to him in 2011 at a private Havana hospital – Chavez thought he was going to be assassinated.

In an incredible 72 hours for Venezuela, a counter-coup by loyalist troops and demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of outraged “Chavista” supporters forced Pedro Carmona, who had briefly seized power, to resign and restored Chavez to the presidency.

That led to his first “crucifix moment”.

The stocky, wiry-haired Chavez – whose favourite attire remained the paratrooper’s red beret and dark green uniform or a bright red shirt – became Latin America’s most colourful and controversial leader.

He soon became a household name from Middle America to the Middle East.

Allies say Chavez was misunderstood abroad, the victim of an unstinting U.S.-led propaganda campaign.

“They’ve called me a Mussolini or Fidel or said I sleep with a book by Hitler for a pillow,” Chavez once said. “But the people know the truth. They know who I really am.”

He combined traditional left-wing tenets of equality and wealth distribution with a fervent nationalism inspired by Bolivar.

His critics regularly accused him and his government of being corrupt and inept, and of steering the country towards a Cuban-style authoritarian regime. Certainly, a clutch of opponents ended up in exile or jail, normally on graft charges they said were trumped up.

Business detractors said his socialist reforms, including the expropriation of rural estates and the nationalization of much of the economy, including multi-billion dollar oil projects, destroyed jobs and scared off investors.

A decade of high oil prices allowed Chavez to spend huge amounts on social programs that became the linchpin of his support among poor voters.

They included his famous slum “missions” that provided free healthcare and education, plus subsidized food, clothes and even electronics, and are likely to be his biggest legacy.

All of his political opponents have vowed to continue them, in some form or other.

Chavez defended his “revolution” as a long-overdue crusade to close the yawning gap between rich and poor in Venezuela, which combines huge oil and mineral wealth with grinding poverty, widespread unemployment and rampant crime.

His praise for communist Cuba and Fidel Castro, combined with his courting of other anti-U.S. states like Iran, irritated Washington, which has long been the mai

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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World

Johnson tells MPs that there is ‘no better outcome’ than his Brexit plan

The Thaiger

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Johnson tells MPs that there is ‘no better outcome’ than his Brexit plan | The Thaiger

British PM Boris Johnson is warning British MPs there was “no better outcome” to the tortuous Brexit process than his divorce deal, as he scrambles to get MPs behind the agreement ahead of today’s knife-edge vote in parliament (Saturday UK time).

Johnson is urging lawmakers to back the “fantastic” terms he struck with EU leaders and let Britain leave the bloc on October 31.

“There’s no better outcome than the one I’m advocating tomorrow.”

“I want colleagues on all sides of the House to think about a world tomorrow night in which we’ve got this thing done,” he added in a separate interview with ITV.

“I think the nation will heave a great sigh of relief.”

Johnson pulled off a major coup in agreeing a new divorce deal at a Brussels summit on Thursday, only a fortnight before Britain is scheduled to leave the EU. But the deal’s fortunes, and Britain’s immediate fate, rest in the hands of a few undecided MPs, who will vote in the first Saturday session of the Commons since the 1982 Falklands War.

Political pundits suggest the vote could be exceptionally tight. Johnson has no majority among MPs, every opposition party has come out against the deal and even his parliamentary ally, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), says it cannot support the terms.

Johnson requires the support of 319 other MPs to guarantee victory – and claims he is confident of getting the numbers, as he spent the day meeting and calling MPs.

He must convince diehard eurosceptics in his own Conservative ranks, former colleagues he expelled from the party for seeking to block a “no deal” departure, and main opposition Labour MPs from Brexit-backing constituencies to have any chance.

Labour is ordering its MPs to vote against the deal but threatening no punishment if they vote in favour. Several MPs spent yesterday wrestling with their consciences as the more than three years of turmoil since the June 2016 EU membership referendum came to a head.

Johnson is expected to deliver a speech to parliament from 0830 GMT on Saturday, kicking off a day of debate that could last well into the evening.

The turning of the screws

If the Commons rejects the deal, Johnson will be forced by law to ask the EU to delay Brexit, for what would be the third time. He has said he would rather be “dead in a ditch”.

French President Emmanuel Macron piled the pressure on MPs, saying he did not want a new delay now a deal was struck.

“The October 31 date should be respected. I don’t think that new deadlines should be given,” he said at the EU summit in Brussels.

“We need to end these negotiations and get on negotiating the future relationship.”

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel added: “There is no choice between Brexit or no Brexit: it’s a choice between deal or no deal.”

Johnson took office in July vowing to keep to the October 31 Brexit deadline, deal or no deal.

He pledged to renegotiate the most contentious elements of a divorce text agreed by his predecessor Theresa May with Brussels last year, which MPs rejected three times.

The compromise deal that was finally struck on Thursday has a new arrangement for keeping open the border between British Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

The DUP has said it cannot support the plans, as efforts to avoid checks on the Irish land border would lead to new trade barriers between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.

Meanwhile…

Former Conservative prime minister John Major (1990-1997) and his Labour successor Tony Blair (1997-2007) pleaded with MPs to back a second referendum, ahead of a major rally by the “People’s Vote” campaign outside parliament on Saturday (UK time).

“Whatever is the outcome, no deal or bad deal, it should not pass without the final say resting with the people,” said Blair.

Major said Brexit was a “thoroughly bad idea” that risked breaking up the UK.

The Pound steadied around $1.29 yesterday as dealers took a breather at the end of a dizzying week.

ETX Capital analyst Michael Baker said the market was “really gambling” on the vote and had “not priced in fully all scenarios – so expect big moves”.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse | PHOTO: Associated Press

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Economy

Local investor sentiment dampened by Brexit woes and slump in Chinese economy

The Thaiger

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Local investor sentiment dampened by Brexit woes and slump in Chinese economy | The Thaiger

The British pound fell today as investors fret over PM Boris Johnson’s chances of pushing his Brexit deal through the British parliament, while Asian markets were mostly down after data showed China’s economy expanded at its slowest pace in nearly three decades.

The pound rallied almost to US$1.30 yesterday following news that negotiators had hammered out an agreement that would avoid Britain leaving the EU without a divorce deal – a move many warn would be economically catastrophic. But the brief celebrations were soon tempered by the realisation that the British PM faces an uphill task in getting the deal past lawmakers, with opposition MPs and even some in his own Conservative party saying they won’t pass it.

Most importantly, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up Johnson’s government, said it was “unable to support these proposals”.

Forex traders sold sterling, pushing it back down below $1.29, and it extended losses in Asia. Focus is now on a crucial vote in London on the deal scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday).

“Much will depend on the PM’s ability to get some if not all DUP and (Scottish National Party) MPs onside, in addition to also getting the backing from the 21 ex-Conservative MPs he expelled from the party last month,” said National Australia Bank’s Rodrigo Catril.

“Rejection of the deal might well see more political brinkmanship around a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, but the most likely scenario would be yet another extension of the 31 October Brexit date.”

Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA, said whichever way the vote goes, “traders should prepare themselves for some severe volatility on Monday morning, with multiple big-figure moves a strong possibility”.

China growth slows again

Asian equity markets, meanwhile, were mostly lower after China said its economy expanded 6% in the third quarter, the slowest pace in 27 years, as leaders struggle to address weak domestic demand and the long-running US trade war.

The reading was a drop from the previous three months but in line with an AFP forecast and the government’s 6-6.5% target for the year.

While the National Bureau of Statistics said the economy “maintained overall stability”, it added that it “is under mounting downward pressure” from weakness at home and abroad.

Shanghai ended down 1.3% with Stephen Innes at AxiTrader saying traders were concerned the figures were not weak enough to prompt the Chinese central bank to embark on a big stimulus drive.

“With the People’s Bank of China, who arguably have plenty of policy ammunition to right the ship, probably unwilling to turn on the monetary taps, investors are taking risk off the table,” he said in a note.

Hong Kong was off 0.5% amid concern over the possibility of more violent protests over the weekend, while Sydney closed down 0.5 percent and Singapore eased 0.4%.

Seoul shed 0.8% and Wellington lost 0.7%, with Taipei and Manila also lower. But Tokyo closed 0.2 higher at a 10-month high, while Mumbai and Jakarta also edged up.

Hopes for the China-US trade talks were given a lift after Beijing’s commerce ministry said negotiators have “accelerated efforts” to hammer out details of last Friday’s mini-deal and were holding talks on moving on to the next phase of a wider agreement.

Donald Trump said Wednesday he hopes to sign the deal with President Xi Jinping at the APEC summit in Chile next month.

And the Turkish lira jumped more than 1% after Ankara said it would pause military operations in northern Syria for five days and US Vice President Mike Pence said Washington would not impose any fresh sanctions.

Key markets today…

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2857 from $1.2891 at 2050 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 86.48 pence from 86.31 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1122 from $1.1127

Dollar/yen: UP at 108.63 yen from 108.62 yen

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.4% at 7,152.55

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.2% at 22,492.68 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.5% at 26,719.58 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 1.3% at 2,938.14 (close)

West Texas Intermediate: UP four cents at $53.97 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 22 cents at $59.69 per barrel

New York – Dow: UP 0.1% at 27,025.88 (close)

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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Philippines

Powerful 6.4 earthquake kills five in the Philippines

May Taylor

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Powerful 6.4 earthquake kills five in the Philippines | The Thaiger

PHOTO: AFP

A strong 6.4 magnitude earthquake has struck the southern Philippines, killing five, including one child, destroying property and disrupting power supply. The death toll is expected to rise.

The powerful quake was felt across the Mindanao region, even causing a 3-storey shopping mall to burst into flames. Residents were evacuated and a child was killed when a house collapsed in the town of Datu Paglas.

AFP reports that the quake was 14 kilometres deep and followed by two aftershocks. The Philippines is part of the “Ring of Fire”, a zone of constant seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific.

Several injuries have been reported as a result of falling debris. The shopping mall that caught fire was evacuated when the quake struck, but it’s not yet known if there were still people inside as the fire took hold.

The mall was still on fire three hours later as nearly 100 firemen battled to put it out.

Residents on the coast in Davao fled to higher ground fearing a tsunami, even though a government seismologist reassured people there was no tsunami risk as the quake had occurred inland.

It’s understood that prisoners in the municipal jail in the town of Bansalan were also let out, but placed in handcuffs and held outside for the duration of the evacuation.

SOURCE: AFP

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