News / Americas

Venezuela President, Opposition Leader in Rare Handshake

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (L) shakes hands with Opposition leader and Governor of Miranda state Henrique Capriles during a meeting with mayors and governors at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Jan. 8, 2014.
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (L) shakes hands with Opposition leader and Governor of Miranda state Henrique Capriles during a meeting with mayors and governors at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Jan. 8, 2014.
Reuters
After months of insults, Venezuela's president and opposition leader on Wednesday shook hands for the first time since their bitter election standoff last year - at a meeting about chronic violent crime prompted by the roadside murder of a popular beauty queen.
 
President Nicolas Maduro routinely calls Henrique Capriles a “fascist” and “murderer”, while the opposition leader has been lambasting his rival as “incompetent” and “illegitimate” since Maduro won April's disputed election by 1.5 percentage points.
 
Yet they put personal acrimony aside to greet each other briefly during an emergency meeting called by Maduro with state governors at the Miraflores presidential palace. Capriles is the governor of Miranda state, one of the most crime-ridden.
 
Their meeting is unlikely to change the political landscape, with both sides in the polarized South American OPEC nation still far apart and mutually suspicious.
 
Monday's murder of former Miss Venezuela and soap opera actress Monica Spear has rattled the country of 29 million even though Venezuelans have long suffered one of the world's worst crime rates.
 
“I'm in Miraflores. I'll go anywhere for the sake of Venezuelans' security. There's a national outcry to stop the violence,” Capriles said on Twitter.
 
Capriles, 41, has still not publicly recognized Maduro's presidency, though his allegations of fraud have run out of steam in the courts.
 
Maduro, 51, had previously said anyone who did not acknowledge his leadership would not be allowed into Miraflores. But he has been showing a more reconciliatory attitude to the opposition since opinion polls in December shored up his standing.
 
Some opposition activists have jumped on the shooting of Spear and her former husband - in front of their five-year-old daughter who survived - as evidence of the socialist government's failure to beat crime.
 
Maduro, who has started several major anti-crime initiatives since taking office, urged a fresh approach.
 
“This cannot be just another meeting,” said Maduro, whose predecessor Hugo Chavez also began a dozen or so anti-crime initiatives that failed to stop murders and kidnappings rising during his 14-year rule.
 
“Time and again, people have used this subject for political manipulation,” Maduro said. “It's a very small minority that doesn't realize this is a national problem, a serious problem that became endemic 40-50 years ago.”
 
Supporters of former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear take part in a demonstration against violence in Caracas, Jan. 8, 2014.Supporters of former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear take part in a demonstration against violence in Caracas, Jan. 8, 2014.
x
Supporters of former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear take part in a demonstration against violence in Caracas, Jan. 8, 2014.
Supporters of former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear take part in a demonstration against violence in Caracas, Jan. 8, 2014.
Hundreds of fellow showbiz artists and other mourners took to a Caracas square on Wednesday to grieve for 29-year-old Spear. They said prayers, released balloons and held up photos.
 
Spear lived in the United States but was vacationing in Venezuela when armed robbers ambushed her car.
 
Twitter and Instagram posts had shown her joy at being back in her homeland with her daughter, even though she originally moved to the United States citing insecurity.
 
Venezuela's official 2013 homicide rate was 39 per 100,000 inhabitants, but non-government organizations put the figure at twice that for a total of nearly 25,000 deaths.
 
“The government is directly responsible for Monica Spear's death,” fumed another opposition leader, Maria Corina Machado.
 
She said Maduro and Chavez before him had abandoned serious crime policies in favor of oppressing political opponents.
 
“For 15 years, they have been destroying the judicial system and the police bodies,” she said.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

New $9.15B Airport for Mexico City to Quadruple Passenger Capacity

New international airport will eventually handle 120 million passengers a year, President Enrique Pena Nieto said in his annual state-of-the-nation address
More

Venezuelan Socialist Party Swaps God for Chavez in New Prayer

Delegate Maria Estrella Uribe recites 'prayer' on Monday at PSUV party Congress to implore beloved late leader for protection from evils of capitalism
More

Tropical Storms Bear Down on Mexico From Both Coasts

Two separate storms risk a double hit on country a year after pair of storms converged to cause major flooding that killed over 100 people
More

Mixed Signals on Second Migrant Wave at US Border

Number of Central Americans apprehended at the border peaked in June, but reports from migrants indicate more might be on the way
More

Cuba Enacts New Rules to Restrict Imports

New rules increase duties on items such as televisions, limit the number of personal items air travelers can bring to Cuba and increase duties on mailed packages
More

Nicaragua Rescuers Save 20 Miners; Search Continues

Wall of mud, rocks trap miners at El Comal site in Bonanza, 420 kilometers northeast of Managua
More