Maduro creates military unit to protect public service installations

Handout photo released by the Venezuelan Presidency's press office showing Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (L) during a meeting with military commanders in the framework of the planning of "Civic Military Exercises" to take place in the weekend, at Miraflores Presidential palace in Caracas, on March 15, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 16 March 2019
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Maduro creates military unit to protect public service installations

  • The socialist leader accused the opposition of concocting a plan “to accompany the blackout with general violence,” claiming it was neutralized

CARACAS: Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro created a military unit on Friday charged with protecting basic installations and services such as electricity and water just over a week after the country was hit with a massive blackout.
Maduro blamed that on a cyberattack directed by the United States but critics say the government was at fault for failing to maintain infrastructure.
Speaking on television and radio, Maduro said the “Command for the Defense of Basic Strategic Services” would be tasked with ensuring “security, operability and maintenance.”
Its officers would be responsible for guaranteeing both “physical and cybernetic” security of infrastructure and maintenance of equipment.
Maduro repeated his claim that the blackout, which lasted almost a week, was due to “successive attacks” against the country’s major hydroelectric facility at Guri in Bolivar state, “directed” by US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton.
The blackout hit on March 7 and paralyzed the entire country.
The government announced on Tuesday that power was back on in practically the whole country but western regions still reported cuts.
The socialist leader accused the opposition of concocting a plan “to accompany the blackout with general violence,” claiming it was neutralized.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido launched a challenge to Maduro’s leadership in January by declaring himself acting president.
He has since been recognized by more than 50 countries, led by the US.
He said the blackout was caused by burning vegetation that damaged equipment.
Maduro accused him of “sabotage,” although experts doubt that version of events.
Venezuela has been in recession for more than four years and is suffering from an economic crisis.
An estimated 2.7 million people have left the country as poverty soared leaving shortages of food and medicines.


Canada extends Iraq, Ukraine military training missions

Updated 7 min 40 sec ago
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Canada extends Iraq, Ukraine military training missions

  • Chrystia Freeland: "Ukraine can continue to count on Canada's unwavering support"
  • In Iraq, Canada will keep 250 special forces troops training Iraqi security forces

OTTAWA: Canada's defense and foreign ministers jointly announced Monday the extensions of military training missions in Iraq and Ukraine.
Both had been slated to wrap up at the end of March, but security concerns persist.
In Iraq, Canada will keep 250 special forces troops advising and training Iraqi security forces, plus several attack helicopters, as part of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State mission until the end of March 2021.
The number of troops deployed could ramp up to 850, if needed, and they will also help neighboring Jordan and Lebanon build their respective security capabilities, said officials.
Complementing those efforts, Canada last November assumed command of a new NATO mission. It has been contributing air power, medical support and help in training Iraqi forces since 2014.
"We have made significant and lasting progress, but we recognize that more work is needed. Now we must ensure that Daesh can never rebuild and threaten the safety of Iraq," Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan told a press conference, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
In Ukraine, some 200 Canadian troops will continue to provide arms, military engineering, logistics, military policing, and medical training until the end of March 2022.
Since 2015, Canada has so far trained nearly 11,000 Ukrainian soldiers.
Canada will also host a third Ukraine reform conference in Toronto on July 2-4.
"Ukraine can continue to count on Canada's unwavering support," Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said.
"It's very important to send a strong message to Ukraine, to the people of Ukraine, and to the international community that the invasion of Crimea and the annexation of Crimea are a grave breach of international law," she added.