- Chavez protÃÂ©gÃÂ© invokes curse on those who vote against him
- U.S. delays missile test to avoid stoking North Korea tensions
- Egyptian police fire tear gas to disperse Cairo protest
Posted: 06 Apr 2013 06:39 PM PDT
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan acting President Nicolas Maduro said on Saturday a centuries-old curse would fall on the heads of those who do not vote for him in next week's election to pick a successor to late leader Hugo Chavez.
Maduro's invocation of the "curse of Macarapana" was the latest twist in an increasingly surreal fight between him and opposition leader Henrique Capriles for control of the South American OPEC nation of 29 million people.
"If anyone among the people votes against Nicolas Maduro, he is voting against himself, and the curse of Macarapana is falling on him," said Maduro, referring to the 16th century Battle of Macarapana when Spanish colonial fighters massacred local Indian forces.
Wearing a local indigenous hat at a rally in Amazonas state, a largely jungle territory on the borders of Brazil and Colombia, Maduro compared Capriles and the opposition coalition to the enslaving Spanish occupiers.
"If the bourgeoisie win, they are going to privatize health and education, they are going to take land from the Indians, the curse of Macarapana would come on you," he added.
CAPRILES SAYS ONLY CURSE IS GOVERNMENT
Calling himself the "son" of Chavez, Maduro has more than a 10-point lead in most polls, although Capriles supporters are predicting a late pro-opposition surge as sympathy wears off from the former president's death a month ago.
Capriles, 40, a state governor, says Venezuela needs a fresh start after 14 years of Chavez's hardline socialism, and is vowing to install a Brazilian-style administration of free-market economics with strong social policies.
He ridiculed Maduro's latest speech.
"Now in their desperation, they're threatening a curse on the people. The people are with God, so nothing like that will happen," he told a rally in the western state of Tachira.
"He (Maduro) lied and threatened the people, saying that if they trust in progress, a curse will fall on them. I tell you here, all Venezuelans, the real curse is that little group that we are going to get rid of on April 14."
The opposition leader also continued to mock Maduro's twice-told story of having seen the spirit of Chavez in a bird that flew over his head and sang to him last week.
While to some outsiders, talk of spirits and curses may seem absurd in an election campaign, Venezuela's mix of Catholic and animist beliefs, especially in the south-central plains and jungles, is fertile ground for such references.
In his daily campaign rallies, Maduro has been referring constantly to Chavez and playing a video where the former president endorses his protÃ©gÃ© last year as his successor.
Puncturing Capriles' public admiration of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Maduro has also been playing a video of the former Brazilian president endorsing him too.
At his rallies, Capriles mocks Maduro as a poor imitation of Chavez. He says Maduro's track record during the president's sickness from cancer and after his death has wrought disaster on Venezuelans in terms of a currency devaluation and price rises.
Maduro, 50, was a bus driver and union leader who rose to become Chavez's foreign minister and then vice president.
Venezuela's vote will decide not only the future of "Chavismo" socialism but control of the world's biggest oil reserves and economic aid to a handful of left-leaning nations in Latin America and the Caribbean from Cuba to Ecuador.
(Editing by Peter Cooney)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 06 Apr 2013 06:32 PM PDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has decided to delay a long-planned missile test scheduled for next week out of California "to avoid any misperception or miscalculation," given tensions with North Korea, a senior U.S. defence official said on Saturday.
The unusual precaution by the United States follows a barrage of hostile rhetoric from North Korea - including the threat of open war - that has created jitters in South Korea's financial markets.
It also came after reports in the South that Pyongyang, under its 30-year-old leader, Kim Jong-un, had moved two medium-range missiles to a location on its east coast.
The White House said on Friday it would "not be surprised" if the North staged another missile test. At the same time, officials have said there are no signs Pyongyang is gearing up for war, such as large-scale troop movements.
The U.S. decision will delay a test of the Minuteman III intercontinental missile, which had been scheduled for next week out of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
"This is the logical, prudent and responsible course of action to take," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The U.S. official said the test had been unconnected to "anything related to North Korea" and added that another test launch could be expected next month. The United States remained fully prepared to respond to any North Korean threat, the official said.
Analysts are looking anxiously ahead to April 15, the birthday of Kim Il-sung, North Korea's founder and the grandfather of its current leader, Kim Jong-un. The anniversary is a time of mass celebrations, nationalist fervour and occasional demonstrations of military prowess.
EMBASSIES STAYING PUT
North Korean authorities have told diplomatic missions they could not guarantee their safety from next Wednesday - after declaring that conflict was inevitable amid joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises due to last until the end of the month.
Still, staff at embassies in North Korea appeared to be remaining in place on Saturday despite the appeal.
Most countries saw the appeal to the missions as little more than strident rhetoric after weeks of threats by North Korea to launch a nuclear strike on the United States and declarations of war against the South.
But Russia said it was "seriously studying" the request.
A South Korean government official expressed bewilderment.
"It's hard to define what is its real intention," said the official, who asked not to be identified. "But it (North Korea) might have intensified these threats to strengthen the regime internally or to respond to the international community."
The United States is walking a difficult line, seeking to assure allies it will defend them in a crisis while trying to avoid further escalating tensions.
Initially, Washington used the drills with South Korea as an opportunity to demonstrate that commitment, including flying two B-2 stealth bombers over the Korean peninsula in March. The Pentagon also announced new or expanded missile defence systems in Alaska and Guam.
But the officials have told Reuters the United States will likely be less public about the drills in April, perhaps giving North Korea space to wind down its rhetoric. The latest decision to delay the U.S. missile test was also described as a prudent step.
"This test ... has been delayed to avoid any misperception or miscalculation in light of recent tensions on the Korean peninsula," the official said.
Shares in South Korea slid on Friday, but analysts said much of the decline was linked to the Bank of Japan's monetary easing policies and one analyst said further major falls were unlikely.
Most Korea watchers believe Kim is a rational actor who understands his military is no match for Seoul and its U.S. ally and that straying too far from historic North Korean practices could jeopardize his own political survival.
(Additional reporting by Jane Chung in Seoul,; Editing by Peter Cooney)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 06 Apr 2013 02:51 PM PDT
CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian police fired tear gas to prevent opponents of President Mohamed Mursi storming a court and the prosecutor-general's office in central Cairo on Saturday, witnesses said.
Eight people were injured in Cairo during another protest in al-Fayoum south of the capital, the state news agency MENA said.
Some 500 people marched for much of the day through central Cairo, chanting "The people want to topple the regime" on the fifth anniversary of the founding of the opposition April 6 youth movement.
When some protesters hurled fireworks and rockets at the court, which also houses the prosecutor's office, and tried to break down the main gate, police fired tear gas from upstairs windows, witnesses said.
Egypt has been in political turmoil since the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, with Mursi and his Islamist allies pitted against various secular opposition groups.
The prosecutor-general angered activists a week ago by questioning a popular TV satirist who is accused of having insulted Mursi. The government denies opposition claims that the case is evidence of a crackdown on dissent.
"We are Muslims but we want a civilian state," said Saffeya Mustapha, a female protester on the Cairo march.
Seven protesters were taken to hospital, MENA said, citing the Health Ministry.
Separately, opponents and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mursi's Islamist allies, attacked each other with stones and fireworks in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, MENA said. It did not report any injuries.
(Reporting by Maggie Fick, Ahmed Tolba and Reuters Television; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
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