Venezuela ex-prosecutor speaks out on Lopez ‘sham trial’
[BBC] – A former Venezuelan prosecutor has accused the government of jailing an opposition leader “because they feared his leadership”.
Franklin Nieves, who prosecuted Leopoldo Lopez, was speaking on CNN in Miami after leaving Venezuela. He said that Mr Lopez was innocent and the evidence against him was false.
Mr Lopez, who led anti-government protests last year, was sentenced in September to almost 14 years in jail for inciting violence.
Mr Nieves left Venezuela last week and is reportedly seeking asylum in the United States.
Venezuelan Attorney-General Luisa Ortega sacked Mr Nieves on Monday for actions “contrary to his oath of office”.
Mr Lopez handed himself in to the authorities on 18 February amid mass anti-government protests in which 43 people – from both sides of the political divide – were killed.
He has always denied inciting violence and his supporters say he is a political prisoner.
Asked why he had not spoken out before Mr Lopez was sentenced to 13 years and nine months in prison, Mr Nieves said that he had remained silent “out of fear and because of the pressure exerted by each one of our bosses on prosecutors working at the national level”.
He then explained that the pressure filtered down from President Nicolas Maduro and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello through the attorney-general to individual line managers who got prosecutors to act “on the whims” of the authorities.
Severed head found in dumpster
[Trinidad Express] – A severed head of a man was found at daybreak on Wednesday in a concrete dumpster in a crime “hot spot” in Port of Spain.
The gruesome discovery was made at around 6 a.m. by a garbage man on duty along Quarry Street, East Dry River.
The garbage man was removing rubbish from the concrete dumpster when the decapitated head was found among bags of garbage.
Police were contacted and Senior Superintendent of the Port of Spain Division Police Johnny Abraham and Sargeant Bharath and other officers responded. Police are searching for the man’s identity.
‘I DIDN’T DO IT’*
[Trinidad Express] – “I did not do it. I can smile because I know I did not do it.”
This is what a smiling Wheelers murder-accused Andre Romeo of Tobago said to reporters yesterday while being taken by police from the Scarborough Police Station to court.
And his co-accused, Vincentian Naajip Hills, claimed he was tortured by police to speak while being interrogated. Police have, however, disavowed any knowledge of this.
Romeo, 29, of Roach Trace, Mt Pleasant, and 23-year-old Hills, of St Vincent, both construction workers, appeared before Scarborough Magistrates’ Court magistrate Cheryl Ann Antoine charged with the double murder of UK-born attorney Richard Wheeler, 73, and his wife, Grace, 67.
The file on the matter will now go to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for a State attorney to be appointed to prosecute the case.
19th baby dies
[Jamaica Observer] – HEALTH Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson confirmed in Parliament yesterday that the number of baby deaths related to the current bacterial infection crisis has risen to 19.
In a statement to the House of Representatives, Dr Ferguson said that 483 babies have been admitted to hospitals’ special care nurseries since the crisis started in June.
He said that 45 or 9.3 per cent have had their illnesses attributed to sepsis cases and total deaths have risen to 19, which is 42.2 per cent of the total.
He said that most of the babies who died as a result of Klebsiella and Serratia bacterial infections were less than seven months old, and weighed less than two pounds.
The Ministry of Health last week called on health authorities outside of Jamaica for help in the wake of the outbreak of bacterial infections at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) in Kingston and the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) in Montego Bay.
Yesterday, dozens of Dr Ferguson’s supporters from his St Thomas Eastern constituency and some Corporate Area constituencies, dressed in his campaign Tshirt, flooded the street at the southern end of Gordon House to give him support as he responded to intensive questioning from several Opposition MPs.
Opposition Leader Andrew Holness maintained that the health budget cut in 2012/13 contributed to a breakdown in the ministry’s sanitation standards and led to the deaths.
Questions were also asked by Dr Horace Chang, himself a medical doctor; Audley Shaw, the Opposition spokesman on finance and planning; Rudyard Spencer, who served as health minister in the former Jamaica Labour Party Government; and Portland Western
MP Daryl Vaz, who both asked questions and tabled several others.
In response, Ferguson, a dentist, admitted that there are challenges in the health sector.
“There are misery index issues that still impact the sector, and I admit to that. There are some challenges in the sector, and I admit to that. But let us not begin to beat the system down for our people to lose confidence in a system that is better than many other beyond the Caribbean,” the minister insisted.
Ferguson denied allegations that the ministry was aware of the outbreak at the UHWI from June. He said that the chief medical officer in his ministry, Dr Marion Bullock Ducasse, was only made aware of the development on September 7, and he was not informed until October 16 when he queried reports about the deaths.
“There is a process, and once it gets to a certain stage there is a protocol that elevates the matter to the Ministry of Health, and that was not done,” Dr Ferguson admitted in response to questions from Dr Chang.
Chang asked the minister to assure the House that the required protocol has now been put in place to control the spread of the disease in both hospitals, and that the reporting system has been upgraded.