Venezuela’s Maduro Wins Re-Election Amid Opposition Boycott

President extends predecessor’s radical leftist movement

Nicolás Maduro won a second term as president on Sunday. However, polls show Mr. Maduro is unpopular and that most Venezuelans blame him and his policies for an economic crisis.
Nicolás Maduro won a second term as president on Sunday. However, polls show Mr. Maduro is unpopular and that most Venezuelans blame him and his policies for an economic crisis. PHOTO: CARLOS GARCIA RAWLINS/REUTERS

CARACAS, Venezuela— Nicolás Maduro won re-election to a six-year term in a Venezuelan presidential election deemed illegitimate by the opposition and foreign governments, paving the way for heavier international sanctions amid widespread discontent over his management of an economy in free fall.

Even before the ballots were counted, opposition candidate Henri Falcón cried foul, saying the election was a sham and calling for a new vote this year.

“We do not recognize this electoral process as valid,” he said. “For us, there were no elections.”

The state electoral board, which is allied with the government, said Mr. Maduro had won 5.8 million votes, or 67% of the total, with nearly 93% of the vote counted, compared to 1.8 million, or 21%, for his main challenger, Mr. Falcón, a leftist former governor and ex-soldier. Mr. Falcón had broken with other opposition leaders who called for a boycott.

Those figures were a far cry from what pollsters had forecast. Most polls before the race gave the edge to Mr. Falcon.

Despite near empty polling stations for much of the day in parts of the country, the election board said turnout was 46%—a number that marked the weakest turnout in a presidential vote in nearly two decades.

“How they underestimated me, but here we are: triumphing,” Mr. Maduro told a crowd of supporters in Caracas. He called his victory “a knockout.”

Surrounded by supporters on a stage, Mr. Maduro celebrated what he called the biggest margin of victory a president had recorded here.

“You have confided in me and I’m going to respond to that infinite confidence, that loving confidence,” he said. “All Venezuela has triumphed. Legitimate elections, accompanied by the only one who can decide the future, the people.”

The victory means Chavismo—the radical leftist movement named for the president’s predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez—will begin a third decade of uninterrupted rule when Mr. Maduro is sworn in for a second term early next year. But it is a government struggling to survive: By the end of the year, the economy will have contracted by 50% since 2013, hyperinflation is expected to top 13,000% and the U.S. has imposed sanctions on much of the top leadership of the government for alleged crimes, including drug trafficking.

Opposition candidate Henri Falcón spoke Sunday night after polls showed less than half of Venezuela’s electorate voted.
Opposition candidate Henri Falcón spoke Sunday night after polls showed less than half of Venezuela’s electorate voted. PHOTO: MARCO BELLO/REUTERS

Millions of Venezuelans don’t have enough to eat, polls show.

“What we’re living is so hard,” said Yelitza Hernandez, a nurse with two young sons she has trouble feeding. Ms. Hernandez said she would vote, but didn’t want to say for whom.

Mr. Maduro’s victory will likely plunge Venezuela into deeper crisis. It will likely spur more Venezuelans to leave, deepening the cost of looking after refugees for neighbors like Colombia and Brazil. It also means Venezuela’s oil industry will continue to collapse, keeping vital oil off global markets at a time of rising international oil prices.

Phil Gunson, who tracks Venezuela for the International Crisis Group policy analysis organization, said Mr. Maduro faces anarchy.

“What he hasn’t done is anything to fix hyperinflation, food scarcity, the collapse of basic services, how to pay the foreign debt, what to do about all the creditors lining up,” Mr. Gunson said. “He has no plan to fix it and no credible team in place either that could, for example, renegotiate that debt.”

Mr. Falcón had hoped widespread gloom and the appeal of his far-reaching proposals, like adopting the dollar as a way to stop hyperinflation, would swamp voting booths with supporters and force the government to concede. Judging by the empty polling booths all day, that didn’t happen.

In a speech late Sunday, ahead of the election results, he railed against the abstention movement as a lost opportunity. But he also said there were myriad violations, including some 90,000 complaints by his team of electoral monitors who denounced so-called assisted votes, where Socialist Party workers accompanied voters and actually cast ballots for them.

Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a tweet calling the elections a “sham.” U.S. leaders had said in recent weeks that more sanctions against Venezuela’s leaders—about 60 of whom have been targeted—could be coming.

State Department spokswoman Heather Nauert said the elections weren’t legitimate, echoing what the European Union and the biggest countries in Latin America have said.

“The United States stands with democratic nations around the world in support of the Venezuelan people and their sovereign right to elect their representatives through free and fair elections,” she said in a Twitter message.

In recent weeks, polls had shown that Mr. Falcón would beat an unpopular president whose five years in office have been marked by the exodus of hundreds of thousands of people to other countries.

But Mr. Falcón’s campaign not only faced the electoral machinery of Venezuela’s Socialist government but also the boycott, which pollsters predicted would hurt him. In addition to facing Mr. Maduro, he had to contend with a second challenger, Javier Bertucci, a televangelist and businessman who siphoned votes from Mr. Falcón. In the end, Mr. Bertucci collected 925,000 votes, or 10.7%, the National Electoral Council said.

Opposition leaders, though, said Mr. Falcón never stood a chance against a government whose leaders have said publicly in speeches that they would never give up power.

Venezuela’s electoral council, stacked with government supporters, in 2016 blocked a recall referendum on Mr. Maduro, though the vote was permitted in the constitution, and two elections last year were marked by widespread fraud. Mr. Maduro’s allies also barred the most popular opposition leaders from running for president.

On Sunday, Mr. Falcón denounced the government for pressuring ordinary people by keeping track of who voted by scanning IDs called Fatherland Cards that are also used to track the state benefits voters receive.

It was one of seven violations of an 11-point agreement that Mr. Falcón had signed with Mr. Maduro in March to ensure as fair a vote as possible. His campaign said the government also failed to allow equal access to state media outlets, technical auditing of the voting machine, include independent international observers and keep pro-government campaigners away from voting centers.

“Today in Venezuela, this has become a virus,” Mr. Falcón said from the central city of Barquisimeto, where he voted and used to be mayor. He criticized the government for “political and social blackmail of a sector of the population whose dignity they’re trying to purchase.”

A former bus driver who received his formative political training in Communist Cuba, Mr. Maduro told voters that he wanted another chance to guide his country. “I will carry out an economic revolution that will shake the entire world,” Mr. Maduro had said at a Thursday rally.

He and his allies have contended the shortages and economic chaos have been the result of U.S. sanctions and local businesses that hoard, explanations rejected by independent economists who blame government policies.

Voting was more robust in the districts where the government has traditionally drawn support. Buses were used to move people to the polls, and teams of pro-government supporters went door-to-door herding residents to the ballot box and reminding them of the monthly food boxes they receive.

“Thanks to Maduro that we get our benefits; before we used to get nothing,” said Victor Vasquez, a 54-year-old truck driver in an east Caracas slum. He feared losing the food and frequent bonuses in the near-worthless bolivar currency if the Socialist leader were to be replaced.

Another government supporter, Humberto Vargas, 72, said Mr. Maduro was “guaranteeing peace” in the face of hostility by the opposition and governments that have opposed the president, such as the U.S. “The United States and the opposition have caused the hunger that many people are suffering,” he said.

Polls, though, show that Mr. Maduro is deeply unpopular and that most Venezuelans blame him and his policies, including price controls, a highly stringent currency exchange and expropriations, for having gutted the economy and decimated a once vigorous middle class.

Anger over what had happened to her country led Carmen Arrechedera, 56, a homemaker, to remain home like so many others.

“No one should have tried to legitimize Maduro but rather leave him alone” in the race, she said. “I don’t believe in the electoral system. It’s fraudulent, and there aren’t even international observers you can confide in. There’s an authoritarian regime in Venezuela that won’t permit itself to be removed from power.”

Write to Kejal Vyas at and Juan Forero at

Egypt’s Sisi Clamped Down on Political Opposition—Next Up Is the Economy

The military has amassed a growing business empire under the former general-turned-president, leading to renewed popular resentment

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi speaks during the inauguration of an agricultural project at a military base. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

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  • CAIRO—Three years ago, President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi’s government announced that a gleaming new capital city would rise in Egypt’s eastern desert by 2022, featuring tree-lined boulevards, new homes for five million people and the tallest building in Africa.

    The project is now well behind schedule, according to its military-controlled developer. The only finished structure is a military-owned hotel in a cream-colored compound. Project spokesman Khaled El Husseiny said just one of three phases is under construction. “We did not plan for anything other than the first phase, I have to be honest,” he said.

    President Sisi won re-election in March with 97% of the vote, facing only a token challenger after every credible opposition candidate was jailed or removed from the race. Within the Arab world, Mr. Sisi’s continued rule is an example of the resurgent regimes that increasingly claim victory over the forces unleashed by the 2011 Arab Spring.

    The site of a planned new administrative capital in Egypt’s eastern desert.
    The site of a planned new administrative capital in Egypt’s eastern desert. PHOTO: AHMED GOMAA/XINHUA/ZUMA PRESS

    Egypt is also an example of how those same forces are bubbling just under the surface. In many ways, Mr. Sisi’s strategy mirrors that of former President Hosni Mubarak, whose nearly three-decade rule here was ended by popular uprising. Like Mr. Mubarak, Mr. Sisi has relied on a vast security state and an economic approach that privileges the military. Many in the business sector complain that Mr. Sisi has gone even farther in sidelining private enterprise, to the detriment of the economy.

    “They trust the military first. And the private sector, they accept them,” said Naguib Sawiris, a billionaire who says some of his own Egyptian business plans have been thwarted by state intervention. “The security can block any project. They have their own companies now. It’s not a good situation.”

    Arab Winter

    Egypt is doing better than many of its peers in overall economic growth since the Arab Spring, but ordinary Egyptians remain plagued by a soaring cost of living and high unemployment.

    GDP growth






























































    Source: World Bank

    Egypt’s economy is growing at a modest clip of about 5.4%, according to the central bank. But for the vast majority of Egyptians, living standards have been slipping amid high youth unemployment and rising food prices, fueling some of the same grievances that preceded the revolution—and raising the prospect of a repeat.

    Inflation and economic malaise have triggered demonstrations across the wider Middle East in recent months. In Iran in December and January, economic frustration sparked more than a week of protests that left at least 20 people dead. In Tunisia, budget cuts triggered raucous demonstrations and clashes with security forces in 10 cities and towns coinciding with the anniversary of the ouster of long time strongman Zine Al Abedine Ben Ali. In Jordan, sit-ins and other protests took place in January in reaction to the rising price of bread. Spontaneous protests erupted in Egypt earlier this month after the government announced a surprise increase in the price of subway tickets.

    Riot police recently guarded a metro station at Tahrir square in the center of Cairo, a focal point of protests during the Arab Spring.
    Riot police recently guarded a metro station at Tahrir square in the center of Cairo, a focal point of protests during the Arab Spring. PHOTO: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/REUTERS

    In the Gulf, wealthy monarchies count Egypt’s government as a firewall against a repeat of the popular upheaval.

    “I prayed to God that Egypt would not collapse,” said Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a visit to Cairo in March.

    A former commander of the armed forces, Mr. Sisi surged to power after he led the overthrow in 2013 of the elected Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Following the coup, security forces cracked down on Mr. Morsi’s supporters and other political opponents, killing at least a thousand people and jailing tens of thousands of others, according to rights groups.

    Mr. Sisi promised Egyptians stability and prosperity, claiming credit for steering Egypt away from the turmoil and war that engulfed other Arab countries such as Syria, Libya, and Yemen.

    For a time, Mr Sisi enjoyed cult status. His inspired supporters stamped his likeness on everything from chocolates to women’s underwear.

    But the sheen has worn off his presidency. Stability has proved elusive as the government struggles to halt attacks by militant groups, including the Islamic State which has killed hundreds of soldiers and civilians in recent years.

    Discontent has even surfaced within the same military establishment that brought Mr. Sisi to power. Since December, the government has detained and sidelined a series of opponents who stepped forward to challenge the president in the election, including three current and former military officers.

    Although Mr. Sisi has helped expand the military’s economic profile, would-be opposition candidates from military backgrounds assailed the president’s record on security, the economy, and a lack of political freedoms.

    Mr. Sisi’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment. Egypt’s armed forces spokesman declined to comment.

    Analysts say Mr. Sisi sees himself as a part of a world-wide cohort of strongman rulers. Prior to Egypt’s vote, he made a point of congratulating Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on his victory in a scripted election. He also lauded China’s President Xi Jinping, who just became China’s de facto leader for life.

    A Cairo market, where signs of inflation abound.
    A Cairo market, where signs of inflation abound. PHOTO: KHALED DESOUKI/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

    Egypt’s military has played a major role in the economy for decades. Business ventures helped the armed forces offset budget cuts imposed by Mr. Mubarak in the years following the 1978 peace treaty with Israel. By the end of Mr. Mubarak’s 30 years in power, the military owned supermarkets and hotels and also made pasta as well as weapons, taking advantage of its tax-exempt status and access to cheap labor in the form of conscripted soldiers.

    But under Mr. Sisi, the military has achieved new heights of economic power. The exact percentage of the economy controlled by the armed forces is impossible to calculate, as military-linked enterprises don’t disclose their profits and the details of the military’s budget aren’t made public. Any accounting by government watchdogs is now even harder, since Egypt’s former chief corruption auditor is on military trial after he joined an opposition presidential campaign and threatened to release incriminating evidence about the military leadership.

    In an interview with state TV in March, Mr. Sisi said the military makes up only 2% to 3% of the economy. “If it was 50% I would have been proud,” he said. “The armed forces are part of the government.”

    Experts believe the true size of the military’s economic role is much higher than the official figure, based on observations of army-led enterprises.

    “He doesn’t trust the private sector. He doesn’t trust businessmen,” said Andrew Miller, a former official responsible for Egypt at the U.S. National Security Council.

    When Mr. Sisi came to power, he turned to the military to help fix the stumbling economy. He assigned the Armed Forces Engineering Authority to organize an expansion of the Suez Canal, one of his signature megaprojects.

    With Mr. Sisi’s blessing, the military soon encroached on civilian enterprises too. The government discarded a civilian-authored plan to parcel out land along the canal to build an industrial zone and port area. He instead awarded a pair of contracts, including one to a partnership between the military and a private developer, according to Ahmed Darwish, the former chairman of the Suez Canal Economic Zone. To date, the planned zone hasn’t materialized, although the government says it is pressing ahead with the project.

    Mr. Darwish was later replaced at his post by Admiral Mohab Mamish, a military leader who also heads the Suez Canal Authority. Several other business-oriented civilian officials have departed Mr. Sisi’s government over the years, including two economists who served in previous cabinets, leaving the military even more dominant.

    The military also exerts influence through a diffuse network of current and former officers who sit on corporate boards and own stakes in private businesses. Those holdings help the military class gain control and profit even from enterprises it doesn’t directly own.

    “They just have a finger in every pie,” said Shana Marshall, an expert on Egyptian political economy at George Washington University.

    Military and security officials have orchestrated a takeover of at least three major privately owned television channels in the past two years. A former military spokesman took charge of the satellite channel Al Asema in January 2017. A security company headed by a former military intelligence official took over Al Hayat TV in mid-2017.

    The takeover rolled back the influence of some of Egypt’s most powerful civilian businessmen. Mr. Sawiris, the former owner of popular network OnTV, said the government asked him to fire at least three news anchors. When he refused, the network OnTV was taken over by a pro-government steel magnate, before his shares were sold to a company owned by Egypt’s intelligence service in 2017.

    Egyption billionaire Naguib Sawiris says some of his business plans have been thwarted by state intervention
    Egyption billionaire Naguib Sawiris says some of his business plans have been thwarted by state interventionPHOTO: SIMA DIAB/BLOOMBERG NEWS

    Mr. Sawiris said the security forces also have thwarted private-sector business plans. He said his attempt to acquire the investment firm CI Capital was blocked by the security services in 2016. CI Capital didn’t respond to a request for comment.

    Objections by Egyptian security services scuttled an attempt last year by Archer Daniels Midland Co. to acquire Egypt’s National Company for Maize Products, according to Mr. Sawaris. A person familiar with the matter confirmed that Egyptian regulators blocked the planned acquisition.

    The maize company, which couldn’t be reached for comment, later merged with another Egyptian company instead.

    During Mr. Sisi’s years in power, the government has ushered in regulatory changes that make it easier for the armed forces to do business. His government expanded their ability to strike real estate deals and authorized the military to form a pharmaceutical company.

    When a currency crisis resulted in shortages of staples like sugar in 2016, the army began selling subsidized parcels of food out of the backs of trucks. It also supplied baby formula at a discount through pharmacies, touting the move as a victory over the private sector. “The Armed Forces has landed a blow against the greedy monopoly of traders and companies working in the milk industry,” the military spokesman said in a written statement in September 2016.

    The most visible element of the military’s expanding economic empire is a vast array of government construction projects, including roads and apartment buildings, such as a national initiative to build a million housing units across the country. New regulations have allowed military-linked contractors to establish a virtual monopoly over public building contracts, experts say.

    The so-called “New Administrative Capital” is the most ambitious of those projects. Announced in 2015, the government hoped it would attract five million residents, alleviating overcrowding in greater Cairo, currently home to an estimated 20 million people. Millions live in slums and other informal housing with unreliable access to government services.

    The planned new city has offered the military ample opportunity to flex its economic muscle. When a Chinese state company backed out of a $3 billion deal to build government buildings at the site in 2017, the Armed Forces Engineering Authority offered to complete construction at half the price through subcontracts, according to Mr Husseiny.

    In March, the Egyptian government announced the start of construction of a commercial district in the new capital, an area that includes plans for a 1,263-foot skyscraper. The building would be Africa’s tallest if completed. To complete this section of the new capital, the military-backed company overseeing the new capital contracted with China State Construction Engineering Corp.

    On the dusty road to the construction site is a billboard for the Talaat Moustafa Group, which is one of the largest known investors in the project.  The firm of Hisham Talaat Moustafa, a former senior member of Mr. Mubarak’s party, has poured nearly $2 billion in the new capital.

    Mr. Moustafa emerged from an extraordinary bout of legal trouble to contribute to the project.

    Banners lauding President Sisi are common at election time.
    Banners lauding President Sisi are common at election time. PHOTO: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/REUTERS

    A Cairo criminal court convicted Mr. Moustafa of hiring the former police officer who stabbed to death a Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim in a Dubai hotel in 2008. The trial made Mr. Moustafa into a symbol of what many saw as a culture of excess and cronyism in the twilight years of Mr. Mubarak’s presidency. Mr. Moustafa’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment.

    In June 2017, Mr. Sisi pardoned Mr. Moustafa, freeing him from prison and allowing him to resume his position as CEO of his company, TMG Holding. The firm later reported that its revenue more than doubled following Mr. Mousafa’s release and its involvement in the military-led new capital project.


    One of the most striking things about Harry and Meghan’s official royal wedding photos

    May 21 at 2:23 PM

    The Duke and Duchess of Sussex pose with their families and wedding party members in the Green Drawing Room at Windsor Castle on May 19. (Alexi Lubomirski/Duke and Duchess of Sussex/Getty Images)

    LONDON — Even some of those who are lukewarm about the British monarchy were looking forward to a wedding that would help the royal family reflect some of the diversity of modern Britain.

    Mixed-race British royals are rare enough that you have to go all the way back to the early 1800s to find a candidate: Some historians believe that Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III, was of African descent.

    An official wedding photo released by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the newly minted Duke and Duchess of Sussex, highlights the historic nature of their union.

    Photographed in the Green Drawing Room of Windsor Castle, Meghan — who has asserted with pride that she is a “strong, confident mixed-race woman” — stands next to her African American mother, Doria Ragland, and is surrounded by senior royals and members of the wedding party.

    (Alexi Lubomirski/Duke and Duchess of Sussex/Getty Images)

    1. Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex
    2. Meghan, Duchess of Sussex
    3. Queen Elizabeth II, grandmother of the groom
    4. Prince Philip, grandfather of the groom
    5. Doria Ragland, mother of the bride
    6. Prince Charles, father of the groom
    7. Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, stepmother of the groom
    8. Prince William, elder brother of the groom
    9. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, sister-in-law of the couple
    10. Princess Charlotte, 3, daughter of William and Catherine
    11. Prince George, 4, eldest son of William and Catherine
    12. Page boy Jasper Dyer, 6, godson of the groom
    13. Page boy Brian Mulroney, 7, son of the bride’s best friend
    14. Bridesmaid Ivy Mulroney, 4, daughter of the bride’s best friend
    15. Bridesmaid Florence van Cutsem, 3, goddaughter of the groom
    16. Bridesmaid Rylan Litt, 7, goddaughter of the bride
    17. Page boy John Mulroney, 7, son of the bride’s best friend
    18. Bridesmaid Zalie Warren, 2, goddaughter of the groom
    19. Bridesmaid Remi Litt, 6, goddaughter of the bride

    The official photos were taken by fashion photographer Alexi Lubomirski after the ceremony, which was widely celebrated for combining British and African American traditions. The Archbishop of Canterbury led the couple in their vows. Michael Curry, the first black leader of the Episcopal Church in the United States, delivered a 14-minute barnstorming address that people in Windsor and beyond were talking about long after the service.

    Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, with their bridesmaids and page boys. (Alexi Lubomirski/Duke and Duchess of Sussex/AFP/Getty Images)

    “It has been an incredible honor and privilege to document the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s inspiring journey of love, hope and family,” said Lubomirski, who also took Harry and Meghan’s engagement photos. In a post on Instagram, he said: “This has been a beautiful chapter in my career and life, that I will happily never forget.”

    Kensington Palace tweeted that the newlyweds “would like to thank everyone who took part in the celebrations of their wedding on Saturday. They feel so lucky to have been able to share their day with all those gathered in Windsor and also all those who watched the wedding on television across the UK, Commonwealth, and around the world.”

    Harry and Meghan on the East Terrace of Windsor Castle. (Alexi Lubomirski/Duke and Duchess of Sussex/AP)

    Who’s to blame for the hiccup in North Korea talks? South Koreans say Bolton.

    National security adviser John Bolton listens as President Trump talks during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in April. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
    May 21 at 1:53 PM

    President Trump is blaming Kim Jong Un for changing the scope of their summit talks planned for next month and will doubtless air his frustrations when he meets with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Washington on Tuesday.

    But in South Korea, many say the blame for the sudden problems in the diplomatic process lies squarely at the feet of someone else: John Bolton.

    “There are several land mines on the way to the summit between North Korea and the U.S.,” said Chung Dong-young, who served as unification minister during the last progressive administration and is now a lawmaker. “One of those land mines just exploded: John Bolton,” Chung told YTN Radio.

    Woo Sang-ho, a lawmaker in Moon’s ruling Democratic Party, agreed. “Bolton’s preposterous ‘Libya solution’ is a red light in North Korea’s summit talks with the U.S. and South Korea,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

    Officials now in senior positions in the Moon administration know the current American national security adviser’s background all too well. Many served under pro-engagement president Roh Moo-hyun, at a time when Bolton was a strong proponent inside the George W. Bush administration of the invasion of Iraq and of regime change in North Korea.

    “I think a lot of people who were involved with the Roh administration are concerned about Bolton because he was such a neoconservative at the time, and it seems that he hasn’t changed,” said Lee Geun, a professor of political science at Seoul National University. “People are worried that he’s going to interfere and botch the process,” Lee said.

    Seven of Bolton’s hawkish moments

    Here are some of the instances that earned President Trump’s pick for national security adviser, John Bolton, a hawkish reputation. 

    A spokesman for Bolton, now Trump’s national security adviser, could not immediately be reached for comment.

    After meetings with top officials here last week, one American analyst remarked — only half in jest — that the South Koreans detested Bolton as much as the North Koreans.

    Moon’s visit to Washington on Tuesday was scheduled in the wake of his own feel-good summit with Kim at the end of April and was intended to help Trump prepare for his summit with the North Korean leader, scheduled for June 12 in Singapore.

    Trump had repeatedly said the talks were shaping up well, even calling Kim “nice” for releasing three American prisoners held for more than a year. Until last week, that is, when North Korea made clear it had no interest in “unilateral nuclear abandonment” and would “reconsider” proceeding with the summit if that were the condition.

    This followed Bolton’s appearance on the Sunday shows May 13 to tout the “Libya model” whereby Moammar Gaddafi gave up his nuclear weapons program in 2003 in return for sanctions relief. The North Korean regime, however, remembers what happened afterward: Gaddafi was overthrown and brutally killed by his opponents.

    This repeated mention of Libya caused Kim Gye Gwan, North Korea’s vice foreign minister and a figure well known to American officials thanks to his role in 2005 denuclearization talks, to denounce Bolton. He said North Korea could “not hide a feeling of repugnance toward” Bolton, a man the regime had previously derided as “human scum” and a “bloodsucker.”

    The Chosun Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper based in Japan, doubled down on the criticism. The “super-hard-line” Bolton “has no clear ideology or theory,” the paper wrote. “Instead, he is a simple follower of simple thinking, racism and the narrow-minded America First policy.”

    Lee Jong-seok, who served as South Korea’s unification minister in the later years of the Roh administration, said the two sides seized on different lessons from Libya. Bolton looked at it as a successful case of denuclearizing a rogue regime, while North Korea focused on the dictator’s grisly end.

    “Bolton created a mess by bringing up the ‘Libya model,’ which is deeply dreaded by Pyongyang,” Lee said. He added that he considers Kim Gye Gwan’s response “low-key” in the circumstances.

    “Things would have gotten out of hand had it not been for the immediate follow-up from Trump himself,” Lee said.

    Trump contradicted Bolton, saying he was not thinking of a Libya model — “we decimated that country” — but an outcome where Kim remained in power and his economy flourished under a denuclearization deal.

    Others play down concerns about Bolton, noting that he is in frequent contact with his South Korean counterpart.

    “I do not worry about Bolton,” said Moon Chung-in, a usually outspoken adviser to the South Korean president. “He will follow President Trump’s lead.”

    The biggest problem comes, experts here say, from Trump’s fundamental misunderstanding of North Korea’s interests.

    The regime in Pyongyang has never said it was prepared to unilaterally give up its nuclear program but has instead repeatedly made it clear this would have to be part of a “phased and synchronous” process that would involve rewards for North Korea along the way.

    “Kim Jong Un coming out to talks is not an act of one-way surrender, but a movement to adjust mutual interests,” said Lee Jong-seok, now at the pro-engagement Sejong Institute outside Seoul. “It’s not that North Korea rejects complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, but rather they need a tangible promise from Washington in return.”

    While some here think the Trump administration does not adequately understand North Korea’s negotiating tactics, others think Trump is practicing his own “art of the deal.”

    Bolton’s posturing looks like a ploy to Nam Sung-wook, a senior intelligence official under a conservative government who is now professor of North Korean studies at Korea University.

    “Trump would have been well aware of Bolton’s hawkish stance when hiring him, and Bolton is now effectively playing the role of ‘bad cop,’” Nam said. “I don’t think the Libya model was part of Washington’s strategy from the beginning, but was just brought up to raise the stakes as much as possible before the summit. That’s Trump’s negotiation strategy.”

    Either way, many in South Korea are worried about what happens if the Singapore summit fails to meet expectations — or if it produces a denuclearization deal that North Korea fails to honor.

    Bolton is widely perceived to have a penchant for military action, as illustrated in a column he wrote for the Wall Street Journal in February laying out the legal arguments for strikes on North Korea.

    “In South Korea, many people, regardless of their political orientation, are not fond of John Bolton,” said one senior official close to Moon, asking for anonymity to discuss the sensitive relationship. “He seems to think the U.S. can fight another war on the Korean Peninsula, so from our perspective, as the people living on the Korean Peninsula, he is very dangerous.”

    Gina Haspel becomes first woman to head CIA

    President Trump praised Gina Haspel as she was sworn in as the new head of the CIA. She’s the first woman to head the agency, but her nomination was overshadowed by allegations she was involved in torture programs.

    US President Donald Trump and CIA Director Gina Haspel (picture-alliance/AP Photo/E. Vucci)

    Gina Haspel called for more agents to be deployed overseas as she was sworn in as director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on Monday.

    US President Donald Trump, who nominated Haspel after tapping former CIA head Mike Pompeo for secretary of state, said that there was “no one in this country better qualified” for the job.

    Haspel is the first woman to head the US intelligence agency, a distinction she said she was proud of.

    “I would not be standing before you today if not for the remarkable courage and dedication displayed by generations of CIA women who challenged stereotypes, broke down barriers and opened doors for the rest of us,” Haspel told agency employees at the swearing-in.

    Read moreCIA: The Gina Haspel controversy runs deeper than her appointment

    New plan for CIA

    Haspel, who has worked for the agency for 33 years, also took the opportunity to outline her vision for the CIA.

    She told agency staffers that she wants to increase the CIA’s foreign language proficiency as well as strengthen the agency’s relationships with intelligence agencies in partner nations.

    She also said she wants to deploy “more of our officers to the foreign field.”

    CIA headquarters lobby in Langley, Virginia (Reuters/L. Downing)Haspel’s role in the CIA’s enhanced interrogation methods drew criticism

    Torture program allegations

    The US Senate confirmed Trump’s nomination of Haspel in a 54-45 vote last week.

    Haspel’s long career as a CIA agent and a supervisor of the agency’s clandestine operations was praised by her supporters, who argued she was highly qualified to head the agency.

    She faced a great deal of pushback, however, over her role in the agency’s use of brutal interrogation methods after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington.

    Haspel was CIA station chief in Thailand in 2002 when the agency conducted harsh interrogations including waterboarding of suspected terrorists at secret “black site” facilities abroad. She’s also been criticized for her role in the destruction of interrogation videotapes.

    In a letter sent to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Haspel appeared to reject the interrogation methods, writing: “With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one the CIA should have undertaken.”

    Watch video09:18

    The US under President Trump: Former CIA director Leon Panetta speaks to DW

    rs/rc (AP, dpa)

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    courtesy: DW

    Hawaii volcano activity prompts new threats as man seriously injured from lava spatter

    A man was seriously injured when he was hit with lava spatter while standing on his third-floor balcony — the first known injury related to Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano eruptions as new volcanic activity creates new threats in surrounding neighborhoods.

    The homeowner on Noni Farms Road in Pahoa was hit with lava on the shin and taken to the hospital with serious injuries, Janet Snyder, spokeswoman for the Office of the Mayor, told Reuters.

    hawaii volcano

    “Fast-moving” lava flows threatened to cut off a major escape route for Puna residents.  (USGS Volcanoes)

    “It hit him on the shin, and shattered everything from there down on his leg,” Snyder said, adding that the lava spatter could weigh “as much as a refrigerator.”

    “And even small pieces of spatter can kill,” she said.


    No other information about the man and his condition were released as of Sunday morning.

    “Even small pieces of spatter can kill”

    – Hawaii County spokeswoman Janet Snyder

    Lava oozing out of the 22 fissures that opened since Kilauea volcano began erupting more than two weeks ago on the Big Island has wreaked havoc in surrounding neighborhoods. Officials on Sunday said there were reports of increased sulfur dioxide emissions as two lava flows entered the ocean.

    Hawaii Volcano Map 2

    At least 22 fissures have opened up since Kilauea volcano began erupting more than two weeks ago.  (Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency)

    To add to the dangers, officials also warned residents of laze, which could cause serious health hazards.

    “Laze is formed when hot lava hits the ocean sending hydrochloric acid and steam with fine glass particles into the air,” Civil Defense Agency said. “Health hazards of laze include lung, eye and skin irritation. Be aware that the laze plume travels with the wind and can change direction without warning.”

    Another four homes were destroyed Friday and Saturday, totaling to nearly four dozen structures demolished. A handful of people were trapped when a flow crossed a road Friday. Some had to be airlifted to safety.

    “They shouldn’t be in that area,” said County Managing Director Wil Okabe.


    “Fast-moving” flows on Saturday from fissure 20 in the volcano’s lower east rift zone ignited brush fires and incinerated everything in its path, Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency reported. Photos and videos from the scene showed a flow as smoke billowed from the edges where the bright red lava touched.

    “County and state fire units are in the area, going door-to-door to make sure people are informed and check if they need assistance. Everyone needs to stay clear of this area,” officials said.

    By Saturday night, the lava cut off Highway 137, a key escape route for residents in the area, at the 13-mile marker. Officials said they were monitoring a second flow early Sunday that was inching closer to the highway. Portions of Highway 137 and Highway 130 were closed.


    hawaii volcano

    The lava flows created brush fires. Lava from fissure 20 also entered the ocean.  (USGS Volcanoes)

    The Big Island volcano released a small explosion at its summit just before midnight Friday, sending an ash cloud 10,000 feet into the sky. On Thursday, an “explosive” eruption emitted ash and rocks 30,000 feet into the sky.

    Evacuation orders for two neighborhoods with nearly 2,000 people were given after a first fissure opened on May 3. Officials have been warning neighboring communities to be prepared to evacuate.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

    Katherine Lam is a breaking and trending news digital producer for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @bykatherinelam


    Iran Uses Nuclear Pact as Bargaining Chip With EU Over U.S. Sanctions

    Tehran’s suggestion could drive wedge between Washington and Brussels

    EU Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete was in Tehran with a plan to prevent Iran’s economic isolation and secure its commitment the nuclear accord.
    EU Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete was in Tehran with a plan to prevent Iran’s economic isolation and secure its commitment the nuclear accord. PHOTO: ATTA KENARE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

    TEHRAN—Iran vowed to uphold the pact curbing its nuclear activities if the European Union can offset renewed U.S. sanctions, senior officials here said, advocating an approach that would widen a deepening schism between Washington and Brussels.

    The EU has redoubled its efforts to salvage the 2015 deal in the wake of President Donald Trump’s recent withdrawal of the U.S. The bloc dispatched Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete to Tehran over the weekend with a plan to prevent Iran’s economic isolation and secure its commitment the nuclear accord.

    The EU’s plan faces daunting obstacles. The bloc would have to continue oil and gas purchases to keep Iran’s economy afloat, but do so by making payments outside of the U.S.-dominated global financial system and shielding European firms from U.S. sanctions.

    “We hope that what they have presented to us, it will be materialized,” Iran’s nuclear chief, Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, said in an interview with Western journalists. He urged the EU to lead the fight against Washington to preserve the deal, saying Iran would honor its commitments if EU efforts broadly offset U.S. sanctions. “The ball is in their court,” he said of the EU.

    Mr. Canete said the agreement’s “economic dividends” for Iran’s halting nuclear-weapons activities are at stake. Mr. Salehi, in a thinly-veiled warning to world powers concerned that Iran wants to build nuclear weapons, said the deal’s demise would give Tehran a “free hand in doing whatever we want.”

    The EU’s efforts to safeguard the accord despite the U.S. add to growing clashes between Brussels and Washington. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week plans to outline Washington’s road map for starting negotiations on a new agreement with Iran.

    Mr. Canete said at a press briefing with Mr. Salehi that the EU “deeply regrets” U.S. withdrawal from the Iran agreement and the EU “is determined to preserve the deal.”

    In addition to clashing over the Iran accord, Brussels is threatening a trade war with the U.S. if Mr. Trump doesn’t exempt it from his steel and aluminum tariffs.

    Yet Europe’s ability to sidestep U.S. sanctions are limited and untested.

    The risk of an exodus by major European companies from Iran cast a pall over EU-Tehran discussions, after French energy giant Total SA said that without a U.S. waiver it may need to exit a $1 billion Iranian natural-gas deal.

    “Europe failed in its first test,” Tehran Times Editor in Chief Mohammad Grader wrote Saturday. “They have practically been subject to Washington’s decisions.”

    The EU is now updating a never-used 1996 law, enacted against U.S. sanctions against Cuba, Iran and Libya, known as the blocking statute. The measure seeks to ban European companies from complying with extraterritorial U.S. sanctions, allows firms to collect damages arising from American restrictions and shields them from adverse foreign-court rulings. But most experts say it isn’t legally watertight.

    A revised blocking statute may help small- and midsize European companies that have few U.S. investments or business links to conduct business in Iran despite Washington’s measures, EU and Iranian officials said. Similarly, the EU plans to let the European Investment Bank, its financing arm, finance activities in Iran by opening credit lines to EU small businesses.

    Yet those steps provide scant relief for Europe multinationals active in the U.S., including energy firms Total, Wintershall AG and Royal Dutch Shell PLC, and shipping giant Maersk Tankers AS.

    “The bite of the U.S. sanctions is bigger,” an EU diplomat said.

    The EU is also deploying confidence-building measures, such as energy cooperation and financial assistance, and potentially letting EU governments facilitating oil payments to Iran via their central banks with one-off transfers. Details of such transactions are yet to be agreed and risk U.S. ire.

    “We expect (Europe) to help us” get paid for oil exports, said Iranian Oil Minister Began Zanganeh said in an interview.

    Mr. Trump’s decision renews challenges for Iran to meet its energy goals, including ramping up production to 4.2 million barrels a day from 3.8 million currently and attracting $200 billion in investments, Mr. Zanganeh said.

    Mr. Zanganeh said Chinese and Russian energy firms’ interest in Iran’s larger oil and gas fields, coupled with smaller European firms that can invest up to $1 billion without getting tripped by U.S. sanctions, would largely alleviate the impact of sanctions. Iran last week unveiled a 10-year oil-production deal with London-based Pergas International Consortium PLC, snubbing renewed U.S. pressure.

    “This extraterritorial sanction from the U.S. against Iran will have an effect” by slowing investment, Mr. Zanganeh said. “But it will not stop us.”

    EU annual trade and investment with Iran nearly tripled as of last year to €21 billion ($25 billion) compared with 2015, with European icons including French car maker Renault SAand plane-builder Airbus SA joining energy firms to strike deals.

    Brussels is already lobbying Washington for waivers to protect major European firms’ business interests in Iran, an EU official said. The push signals the EU’s reliance on trans-Atlantic relations to soften some of Mr. Trump’s blows against Iran and its partners, even as Europe tries to go it alone.

    “For sure there are clear difficulties with the sanctions,” Mr. Canete said. Still, the EU “will engage with the United States… a key partner of the European Union and an ally.”

    Write to Emre Peker at


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