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Venezuela congress leader challenges Maduro’s right to presidency | News





The head of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled parliament challenged President Nicolas Maduro on Friday, saying he is ready to assume country’s presidency himself until free and fair elections can be held.

Juan Gerardo Guaido Marquez made the announcement at an anti-government rally in the capital, Caracas on Friday, a day after Maduro was sworn in for a second term, deemed by many as “illegitimate”. 

Guaido, who leads the internationally-recognised National Assembly, said there was no doubt that Maduro was a “usurper” and called for the support of the public, armed forces and international community in restoring constitutional order to Venezuela

“I assume the duty imposed by the Constitution and Article 333, which obliges all Venezuelans, vested with authority or not, to fight for the restitution of constitutional order,” the National Assembly quoted Guaido as saying in a series of posts on Twitter.

“The Constitution gives me the legitimacy to exercise the charge of the presidency of the Republic to call elections, but I need the support of the citizens to make it happen,” he said before calling for massive protests on January 23.

The date is significant for Venezuelans as it marks the anniversary of the end of the Marcos Perez Jimenez dictatorship, which ruled the country from 1948-1959. 

The call from the opposition comes a day after Maduro began his new six-year term following a controversial win in a 2018 election that was largely boycotted by the opposition.

Maduro has yet to respond publicly to the National Assembly’s announcement. In a recent post on Twitter, he celebrated his inauguration, saying Venezuela was writing a new page in its history and “ready for a new beginning, for the road to democracy and national peace”.

Rising discontent

Friday’s move is the latest in a series of attempts by the National Assembly to dislodge Maduro by legal means, which have so far been unsuccessful.

Under Maduro, the parliament has been stripped of its powers and effectively replaced by the Constituent Assembly, which Maduro has stacked with supporters.

Maduro’s administration does not recognise the National Assembly and vice versa.

“What is happening now is the articulation of competing political forces within the country,” Venezuelan journalist Nayrobis Rodriguez told Al Jazeera.

“The National Assembly’s action will be quick since it is also supported by unions, businesses and social groups […] but it does not have military support and this weakens any attempt to assume the presidency,” she said.

Venezuela’s armed forces renewed their pledge of loyalty to Maduro at a parade following the swearing-in ceremony on Thursday.

A recent survey found 72 percent of Venezuelans wanted Maduro to resign [Manaure Quintero/Reuters]

Public sentiment towards the ruling administration continues to sour as the country’s prolonged economic crisis, which has seen soaring hyperinflation and widespread shortages of food and medicine, shows no signs of slowing. 

A recent survey by the country’s most reliable pollster, Datanalisis, found that nearly 72 percent of people wanted Maduro to resign, rather than begin his second term. 

“Popular discontent can be decisive in defining the situation in the country and there is a high probability that citizens will join the protests,” Rodriguez said. “But it is also a population decimated by the diaspora and the fear of the harsh repression exercised by the government against the demonstrators”.

International response

Guaido’s comments have been welcomed by the Organization of American States (OAS), who declared Maduro’s government illegitimate in a special session on Thursday.

“He [Guaido] has our support, that of the international community and the people of Venezuela,” Secretary-General Luis Almagro said in a statement on Twitter.

The United States, European Union and several Latin American  countries have also refused to recognise Maduro’s government. Peru and Paraguay withdrew their diplomats from Venezuela shortly after the inauguration. 

However, amid the increasing international pressure, Maduro has been courting other allies.

“Russia, China, and Turkey all play crucial roles in propping up the Maduro regime economically. All have investing significantly in the country – Russia recently pledged $5bn to increase Venezuelan oil production, and Turkey has become a major importer of Venezuelan gold,” Max Klaver, senior analyst at Foreign Brief, a geopolitical risk analysis website, told Al Jazeera.

“As long as these three countries continue to back Maduro, there is little the international community  can do to unsettle him without significantly hurting Venezuelan citizens in the process,” Klaver said.

Maduro has been strengthening ties with China, Russia and others [File: Miraflores Palace Handout via Reuters]

Venezuela’s position as a major oil-exporter also reduces the risk of international backlash taking a harsher form than verbal condemnations, despite threats by leaders including US President Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro that military intervention could be an option to remove Maduro. 

“At this point, the international community should look to help Venezuelans who are fleeing the country by providing asylum,” Klaver said.

“Likewise, as long as the military remains loyal to Maduro, which is does through established patronage networks, his ouster will be unlikely.

“Expanding sanctions on high level Venezuelan officials, especially those in the military and political elite to try and shake their loyalty to the regime, would also be feasible measures the international community could take to pressure Maduro without seriously harming Venezuelan citizens”. 


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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic





TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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Canada: Significant Changes To Canada’s Federal Environmental Protection Regime Proposed





On April 13, 2021, the government of Canada proposed significant changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (“CEPA”)1 through the introduction of Bill C-28, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act (the “Amendments“).2

With these Amendments, the government hopes to modernize Canada’s environmental regime which has not undergone significant change in over 20 years. CEPA is the primary statute through which the federal government regulates and protects the environment. CEPA and its accompanying regulations regulate among other things the treatment and disposal of chemicals and hazardous waste, vehicle and engine emissions, equipment and other sources of pollution, and the prevention and impact of environmental emergencies such as oil and chemical spills.

This bulletin provides an overview of the major changes to CEPA that have been proposed.

The Right to a Healthy Environment and Certain Soft Rights

Significantly, the Preamble under the Amendments will officially recognize Canadians’ right to a healthy environment. Section 2 of CEPA will require the government to protect that right when making decisions relating to the environment.3

The Amendments set out specific obligations the government must undertake to safeguard this right, including developing an implementation framework to set out how this right will be considered in the administration of CEPA as well as conducting research, studies and monitoring activities to support this goal.

In addition, the Preamble will recognize some additional considerations, including confirming the government’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as well as recognizing the importance of considering vulnerable persons, reducing or replacing the use of animal testing, and the right of Canadians to have access to information on product labels.

Project Impact Assessment

With respect to risk assessments under CEPA, under the new provisions the federal government must consider impacts on vulnerable populations and possible cumulative effects of the proposed conduct. Vulnerable populations will include groups of people with elevated biological susceptibility, such as children, and groups with elevated exposure risks, such an indigenous communities. Consideration of cumulative effects of proposed conduct takes a holistic approach to substance management by considering the compounding risks of exposure to various chemicals during daily life rather than looking at substances on their own.

Chemicals Management

The federal government has identified the management of chemicals as a key target area under the new CEPA.

The Amendments thus propose to overhaul this regime in order to better protect Canadians from the evolving risks of harmful chemicals and pollution. To accomplish this, the government has proposed wide ranging changes relating to risk assessment, public accountability, management of toxic substances and new substances, which are discussed in turn below.

Risk Assessment

The government must consult, develop and publish a Plan of Chemicals Management Priorities which will set out an integrated plan for the risk assessment of various chemical substances currently being used in Canada. The Plan will establish priorities for the management of substances, taking into account a number of factors including among others the views of stakeholders and partners, public comments, the effects on vulnerable populations, the toxicity of the substance, the ability to disrupt biological reproduction or endocrine systems, and whether there are safer and more sustainable alternatives.4 The government will also be empowered to make geographically targeted regulations to address pollution “hot spots”.

Additionally, the Amendments will establish a mechanism through which any person can submit a request to the Minister to assess a substance to determine its toxicity and risk to the environment. The Minister must provide a response within 90 days, indicating whether they intend to assess the substances and their reasons for their decision.

Public Accountability Framework

The Amendments intend to increase transparency and public participation in risk assessments by the government for the categorization and management of potentially toxic chemicals. Currently, CEPA contains a public accountability framework under section 77 and provides time limits for the government to assess substances under sections 91 and 92. However, these provisions only apply to certain risk assessments being conducted by the government such as substances placed on the Domestic Substances List that in the opinion of the Minister present the greatest potential for exposure to Canadians or are persistent or bio-accumulative. The proposed Amendments plan to amend section 77 to expand these transparency and accountability measures to all substance risk assessments for toxic or capable of being toxic substances, with the exception of assessments for new substances.5

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Scientists, Homalco First Nation team up to probe massive B.C. landslide — and its impact on salmon





When the side of a B.C. mountain gave way on Nov. 28, 2020, crashing into a glacier fed lake and creating a 100-metre high tsunami, no one was around to see the destruction or hear the sound of rocks and trees tearing through the valley below. 

But scientists say the force, which was picked up by seismographs across North America, was the equivalent of a 4.9-magnitude earthquake. 

Fortunately, no one was in the slide’s path, but experts believe that a melting glacier likely contributed by making the slope less stable — and climate change means it is a growing risk. 

As more of Canada’s glaciers recede, scientists say there is great interest in finding out what exactly triggered this slide, and how the rocks and sediment have impacted the salmon population of nearby Elliot Creek and Southgate River. 

The mountain, which is located about 220 km north west of Vancouver, is on the traditional territory of the Homalco First Nation. 

It’s an area of remote wilderness, only accessible by air or by boating 80 km up Bute Inlet.

When the slide hit last year, more than 18 million cubic meters of rock barrelled down the slope hitting the lake within 30 seconds. 

“That is the equivalent of all of the cars in Canada coming down the hill at once,” said Marten Geertsema, a geomorphologist who works with the B.C. government studying landslides. 

He is one of several scientists, along with members from the Homalco First Nation, who have been studying the landslide and its cascading environmental impact on the watershed and salmon habitat. 

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