Shouting "referendum now," caravans of opposition supporters drove through the streets of Caracas early yesterday as they opened a renewed drive to push for a recall vote on President Hugo Chavez's rule. \nFireworks burst over the city with thunderous booms sending bright red, white and green flashes across the dark sky shortly after midnight. \nThe caravans of Chavez opponents, blowing whistles, waving Venezuelan flags and banging pots and pans, were met by tens of thousands who jammed a central highway to show their support for the possible plebiscite. \nOthers gathered in neighborhood plazas or roamed the streets -- walking, biking or skateboarding -- to protest Chavez's continued rule. The smell of spent fireworks filled the air. \n"His time has come. I know the referendum won't happen soon, but when it does I'm sure it will mean the end of Chavez's government," said Henrique Diaz, 47, an unemployed accountant who brought his two teenage sons to the highway demonstration. \nThe opposition, which failed to drive Chavez out of power in a two-month strike earlier this year, called the rallies to mark the midpoint of Chavez's six-year term -- the day when opponents can officially demand a vote on his rule. \nOpposition leaders planned to turn in 2.7 million signatures demanding the referendum while sympathizers staged another street march later yesterday. \nThe government organized its own rally in the capital Tuesday to commemorate Chavez's re-election three years ago. \nSoldiers held a bargain food market, doctors offered free checkups and folk music boomed from loudspeakers in the central Avenida Bolivar. People crowded around booths promoting government social programs like "Inside the Barrio," which uses Cuban doctors to attend the inhabitants of city slums. \n"This is a government that ends its third year battling for and with the people," said Chavez, speaking to a crowd Tuesday evening in Argentina, where he was for an official visit. His speech was broadcast on national television in Venezuela. \nThe Supreme Court is slated to appoint an elections authority by Aug. 24 -- then signatures must be verified, voter rolls updated and hundreds of regional election officials chosen. \nAfter a failed coup in April last year and an unsuccessful two-month general strike earlier this year, frustrated Chavez foes are pinning their hopes on the referendum. Otherwise, the next scheduled presidential election is in 2006. \nThe Organization of American States has endorsed the vote as peaceful solution to a political crisis that has dangerously divided the world's No. 5 oil exporter. \nCritics accuse Chavez, who was elected in 1998 and re-elected in 2000, of failing to deliver on his promises to bring in economic prosperity and put an end to rampant corruption. \nChavez claims the opposition is controlled by a powerful "oligarchy," which has hurt his efforts to empower the nation's poor majority. He often cites the strike, which cost an estimated US$7.5 billion, as an example.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
KEEN INTEREST: India is trying to procure medical gear from domestic producers and abroad, and China has emerged as a possible supplier as its factories reopen India is to buy ventilators and masks from China to help it deal with COVID-19, a government official said yesterday, even though some countries in Europe had complained about the quality of the equipment. India has recorded 1,251 cases of the coronavirus, with 32 deaths, but health experts said the country of 1.3 billion people could see a major surge in cases that could overwhelm its weak public health system. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said that it was trying to procure medical gear, including masks and body coveralls, both from domestic firms and from countries such as South Korea and