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

Anti-Terror Drills Highlight China’s Push Into Central Asia

China, Russia, several central Asian countries wrap up massive anti terrorism military drills in Inner Mongolia More

Erdogan’s First Step: Secure More Power in New Role in Turkey

Erdogan was sworn in as Turkey's first popularly elected president on Thursday; he picked former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu as PM More

Pakistan Army Fails to Break Political Deadlock

PM Sharif claims he didn't ask army to defuse crisis; military rejects claim More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assaulti
X
Daniel Schearf
August 29, 2014 9:30 PM
After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Shortage-weary Venezuelans Scoff at Fingerprinting Plan for Food Sales

Proposal sparks backlash ranging from violent street protests to social media campaigns ridiculing the idea
More

Rescuers Contact 20 Miners Trapped in Nicaragua Gold Mine

Two miners have been rescued, others are believed to be alive
More

Brazil Enters Recession in Pre-election Blow to Rousseff

Experts say left-leaning policies have dented consumer and business confidence and caused heavy losses for financial investors
More

Peru Drug Bust Seizes Record 6.5 Tons of Cocaine

Police arrest 7 Peruvians, 2 Mexicans suspected of trying to smuggle load to Europe as coal
More

New Brazil Poll Shows Silva Beating Rousseff in Runoff

Outcome seemed unimaginable just a few weeks ago; would put an end to 12 years of Workers' Party rule
More

Argentina Desires Deal Grouping All Holdout Investors Together

A deal is now not seen likely before next year's October presidential election, in which Fernandez cannot run
More