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Venezuela charges five officials with embezzling China funds

By Brian Ellsworth CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela has arrested five officials and charged them with embezzling $84 million from a China-financed development fund administered by state-run development bank Bandes, President Nicolas Maduro said on Monday. Maduro did not say whether the case was linked to charges by U.S. authorities earlier this year that employees of a New York broker-dealer had created an elaborate kickback scheme to ensure it won Bandes' bond-trading business.

Petrocaribe summit launches special economic zone

Caribbean-Venezuelan oil alliance Petrocaribe has announced plans for a special economic zone, following a summit in Nicaragua with heads of state and representatives from 19 countries. Venezuela president Nicolas Maduro on Saturday cheered the summit's accords, which he said will build "a powerful economic zone." The group proposed to expedite the process with five immediate actions, including signing an agreement with Venezuelan airline Conviasa to facilitate air communication via Caracas.

Chavez relatives rise in power, keeping myth alive

Relatives of Hugo Chavez have taken powerful posts since he died three months ago, helping keep the late Venezuelan leader's mythical image alive, but analysts see little chance of another Chavez taking power. His son-in-law and former science minister, Jorge Arreaza, was appointed vice president by President Nicolas Maduro after Chavez's death. His oldest daughter, Rosa Virginia Chavez, is heading one of the firebrand leftist's popular social programs, the "Miracle Mission," which offers free eye surgery to the poor.

Venezuela captures 9 Colombian paramilitaries

Caracas, Jun 10 (EFE).- The Venezuelan government announced Monday the capture of nine Colombian paramilitaries who entered the country to carry out "a mission in Caracas" that may have entailed an attack on President Nicolas Maduro. "Undoubtedly, all this can be part of a plan that is being orchestrated from there (neighboring Colombia) to attack the life of our president and against the stability of the Bolivarian government," the interior minister, Gen. Miguel Rodriguez Torres, told reporters.

Media buyouts point to new tactics in Venezuela

Back-to-back buyouts of major media properties in Venezuela over the past month appear to have ushered in a new phase in the leftist government's long struggle to bring to heel an independent press, analysts say. Instead of the all-out confrontation that characterized relations with the media under the late Hugo Chavez, his successors have opted for a behind-the-scenes approach to managing press coverage, they say.

Venezuela court formally charges US filmmaker

Venezuela has formally lodged criminal charges against an American filmmaker claiming to be working on a documentary, but whom Caracas accused of fomenting post-election unrest in the country. A court in Caracas said in a statement late Saturday that Timothy Tracy had formally received charges including criminal conspiracy, making false statements and using a false document. Tracy was detained Wednesday at an airport near Caracas as he tried to leave the country, according to Venezuelan officials, who also released pictures of him.

US denies filmmaker held in Venezuela is spy

The United States denied Friday that a US filmmaker arrested in Venezuela was a spy tasked with sowing civil unrest throughout the country, as claimed by Caracas. The alleged agent, Timothy Tracy, was detained Wednesday at an airport near Caracas as he tried to leave the country, according to Venezuelan officials, who also released pictures of the American. "We are aware of the arrest of a US citizen in Caracas... Because of privacy considerations, we're unable to comment on the specific case further at this time," said State Department deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell.

US denies man arrested in Venezuala is spy

The United States denied Friday that a US national arrested in Venezula was a spy tasked with sowing civil unrest throughout the country, as claimed by Caracas. The alleged agent, Timothy Hallet Tracy, was detained Wednesday at an airport near Caracas as he tried to leave the country, according to Venezuelan officials, who also released pictures of the American.

Media war gives Venezuelans dueling views of reality

There may be two sides to every story, but in Venezuela you're not likely to find them in the same television newscast. Divided into warring camps like the rest of the country, the media gives the public split views of the political crisis that has gripped Venezuela since the death of leftist leader Hugo Chavez on March 5, after 14 years in power. "We have chosen two battle fronts: elections and the media, where two visions of the country are confronted," said Maryclen Stelling, a sociologist and member of the Global Media Observatory.

Troop loyalty a challenge for Venezuela's Maduro

Venezuelan troops will parade past Nicolas Maduro after he is sworn into office Friday, but keeping their loyalty will be tricky for a leader lacking the charisma and savvy of his predecessor. Since Hugo Chavez's March 5 death, Maduro has staged frequent public events with top military leaders, showing off "civic-military unity" of the leftist regime he inherited from "el comandante." "We have a Chavista armed forces, which is to say patriotic, Bolivarian, revolutionary, anti-imperialist," Maduro said Tuesday. But cracks also have appeared on the facade of unity.
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