Cuba denies Trump claim of troops in Venezuela

Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel with Nicolas Maduro. Donald Trump said the Venezuelan president is being ‘protected by a private army of Cuban soldiers.’ (Reuters)
Updated 20 February 2019

Cuba denies Trump claim of troops in Venezuela

  • US President Donald Trump says Cuba has troops in Venezuela defending socialist leader Nicolas Maduro
  • Trump has refused to rule out military intervention in Venezuela, despite repeated denials from his administration

HAVANA: Cuba rejected Tuesday the “despicable” accusation by US President Donald Trump that it has troops in Venezuela defending socialist leader Nicolas Maduro.
On Monday, Trump claimed that Maduro was being “protected by a private army of Cuban soldiers.”
“Let him show the evidence. Our government rejects this slander in the strongest and most categorical terms,” said Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.
He also claimed the US was “preparing a military intervention under a humanitarian pretext,” in a bid to oust Maduro.
The US has sent tons of aid to Colombia’s border with Venezuela in support of opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is challenging Maduro’s authority.
Venezuela is wracked by a humanitarian crisis marked by shortages of desperately needed food and medicines. But the military has barricaded the border crossing to prevent the aid from entering.
Guaido, the self-proclaimed acting president recognized by some 50 countries, says 300,000 Venezuelans could die without the aid.
Maduro, though, claims the aid is a smokescreen for an invasion.
Trump has refused to rule out military intervention in Venezuela, despite repeated denials from his administration.
Rodriguez said the US-backed “imperialist coup” has failed but Guaido insists the aid will be brought in on Saturday, and has pressed the military to side with him and let the shipments enter the country.
“They’ve fixed a deadline to bring in humanitarian aid by force, which is in itself a contradiction,” added Rodriguez.
“What are their aims, what could they be if not to generate an incident that puts civilian lives at risk, that would provoke violence or unpredictable circumstances?”


Pope Francis begins visit to Thailand as faithful jostle for selfies

Updated 20 November 2019

Pope Francis begins visit to Thailand as faithful jostle for selfies

  • Catholics are a tiny minority in mostly Buddhist Thailand, accounting for less than 2 percent of the population
  • Among those welcoming him was his cousin and childhood friend from Argentina, 77-year-old nun Sister Ana Rosa Sivori
BANGKOK: Pope Francis arrived in Thailand on Wednesday to meet with its small but devoted Catholic minority on a seven-day Asian trip that will include a family reunion in Bangkok and take his anti-nuclear message to Japan.
Waiting for a glimpse of the pontiff, excited Catholics thronged around the Vatican’s Bangkok embassy and St. Louis Hospital to take selfies.
“Once in a lifetime, I want to see him and be able receive prayer from him,” said 60-year-old Orawan Thongjamroon outside the Vatican embassy, where she had been waiting since early morning for the papal motorcade.
Catholics are a tiny minority in mostly Buddhist Thailand, accounting for less than 2 percent of the population.
The pope’s plane touched down outside Bangkok around midday and he descended to a red-carpet airport welcome from church leaders for a visit that coincides with the 350th anniversary of the first papal mission in Siam, the former name of Thailand.
Among those welcoming him was his cousin and childhood friend from Argentina, 77-year-old nun Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, who has worked in Thai schools for more than 50 years and will be the pope’s personal translator in Thailand.
The pair, whose grandfathers were brothers, beamed as they made their way over the tarmac through crowds of clergy, children and government officials to a waiting motorcade.
“Dear friends in Thailand and Japan, before we meet, let us pray together that these days may be rich in grace and joy,” read a message on the pontiff’s official Twitter account before he left the Vatican.
At Bangkok’s St. Louis Church, a Thai Catholic woman proudly showed photographs of her and Pope Francis from a visit she made to the Vatican with her husband.
“I never thought that I would have another chance to see him again,” said Nuchnaree Praresri, 49.
But when she was invited to be a cleaner at St. Louis Church for the papal visit, she seized the opportunity.
“This might not be an important role for others, but I’m very proud,” she said.
Catholicism first arrived in Thailand in the mid-1500s with Portuguese missionaries and traders, and Catholics have over the years built respected schools and hospitals.
Pope Francis begins his official program on Thursday when he is scheduled to meet King Maha Vajiralongkorn as well as the supreme Buddhist patriarch before offering mass at the National Stadium.
He will hold another mass at Bangkok’s Assumption Cathedral before leaving on Saturday for Japan, where he will visit the nuclear ground zeros of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.