Fight the “Power”: Venezuela’s Maduro Responds to Obama’s UN Envoy Nominee

Power has also been ‘credited’ with lobbying the Obama Administration to attack Libya

Ryan Mallett-Outrim

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has described comments made by US President Barack Obama’s nominee for envoy to the United Nations as “despicable”, and demanded an apology.

Yesterday Maduro criticised the nominee Samantha Power’s testimony to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. During the speech, Power called for a “contesting” of what she described as a “crackdown on civil society being carried out in countries like Cuba, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela.”

“Power says she’ll fight repression in Venezuela? What repression?” Maduro responded on Venezuelan television.

“There is repression in the United States, where they kill African-Americans with impunity, and where they hunt the youngster Edward Snowden just for telling the truth,” he stated. His comments come in the wake of a Florida jury acquitting George Zimmerman on 13 July for the killing of  Trayvon Martin.

He also called for an “immediate correction by the US government”.

“And the U.S. government says they want to have good relations? What tremendous relations they want,” Maduro stated.

Following his victory in the 14 April presidential elections, Maduro called for closer relations with the US. In June, his foreign minister Elias Jaua met US Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry described the meeting as the “beginning of a good, respectful relationship”.

After the talks, Jaua told Telesur that the Maduro administration is open to a more positive relationship “based on the premise of mutual respect, non-interference in internal affairs and the proper treatment of disagreements”.

“If this is respected then we can move forward in relations with US,” Jaua stated. Today, Jaua announced that the government had issued a letter of protest to the US embassy in Caracas. According to Jaua, the letter asked if there is still “willingness” in Washington to improve relations, “as expressed by the Secretary of State John Kerry”.

Since then, Maduro has criticised the US for its pursuit of whistleblower Edward Snowden, to whom he has offered asylum.

Yesterday, he stated that Power’s comments were being applauded by the “fascist right” in Venezuela. Power’s speech also received positive feedback from a number of committee members, including some Republicans.

Along with calling for more “efficiency and a greater focus on promoting freedom”, Power stated that the UN needs US “leadership” and fairness.

“There cannot be one standard for one country and another standard for all others,” she stated, before criticising the General Assembly and Human Rights Council for passing “one-sided resolutions” against Israel.

“Just as I have done the last four years as President Obama’s UN adviser at the White House, I will stand up for Israel and work tirelessly to defend it,” she said.

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Henrique Capriles: Venezuela’s Sore Loser

Dan Beeton

Reuters reported Sunday that the president of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) Tibisay Lucena has criticized opposition candidate Henrique Capriles for not presenting proof to back up his claims of fraud (also the focus of our post earlier today):

“We have always insisted that Capriles had the right to challenge the process,” Tibisay Lucena, president of the electoral council, said in a televised national broadcast.

“But it is also his obligation to present proof.”

She dismissed various opposition submissions alleging voting irregularities as lacking key details, and said Capriles had subsequently tried to present the audit in very different terms than the electoral council had agreed to.

“It has been manipulated to generate false expectations about the process, including making it look like the consequence of the wider audit could affect the election results,” she said.

Lucena’s statements that the election audit of the remaining voting machines, as initially called for by Capriles, will not change the results are correct, although perhaps not for the reasons she meant. As noted on Friday, we did a statistical analysis of the probability of the results of the audit of the first 53 percent of voting machines finding the results it did if the remaining 46 percent of voting machines in Venezuela had enough discrepancies to change the results of the election. The probability, according to our calculations, is less than 1 in 25,000 trillion.

The math is pretty straightforward. Considering how many votes by which Nicolás Maduro was declared the winner, and that the initial audit of 54 percent of machines didn’t find anything, and considering how many votes there are per machine, it is almost impossible for the remaining 46 percent of machines to have enough discrepancies to change the election results.

Perhaps because he realized the audit is not likely to change things for him, Capriles has shifted course, now demanding access to the electoral registry and fingerprint records. In light of this news, some have attempted seriously painful logical gymnastics in order to make Capriles’ arguments seem plausible. Writing for Foreign Policy, for example, blogger Juan Nagel asks “Does Henrique Capriles actually have a case to cry fraud?” But Nagel does not seem interested in actually examining the question; his mind seems already to have been made up. Shortly after noting that,

Voters identify themselves at polling centers by showing their government-issued ID card and scanning their fingerprints. The scanner then (supposedly) verifies the identity of the voter, and if it passes, unlocks a machine the voter uses to cast her vote.

Nagel writes:

One has to wonder: How could chavistas get away with this? The explanation, according to Capriles, lies in the fingerprint scanning machines. According to him, these machines allow anyone to vote, regardless of whether the fingerprint matches the records. [Emphasis added.]

But as election monitors who witnessed voting in the April 14 election described to us, the process is more fool-proof than Nagel summarizes. As noted in our April 14 live blog:

People must show identification, their serial number is then entered into a digital device and their photo comes up, then they give a thumb print to verify their identity again.

Rather than just “anyone” being allowed to vote, government ID is required, and the voter’s identity is verified. The voter then enters her/his finger print as a second check against fraud.

Despite the lack of evidence of fraud, or any plausible explanation for how the election could have been stolen in spite of the integrity of the Venezuelan electoral system, press reports and commentary continue to treat Capriles’ claims seriously. This stands in contrast to the foreign media’s treatment of Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s cry of “fraud” following the 2006 election in which Felipe Calderon was declared the winner. “An Anti-Democracy Campaign; Mexico’s presidential loser takes a lesson from Joseph Stalin,” ran a Washington Post editorial headline. The Times of London declared him “Mexico’s bad loser: A demagogue prepared to hold the nation to ransom,” while the Toronto Globe and Mail called him “Mexico’s sore loser.” So far at least, no major U.S., British or Canadian paper has labeled Capriles a “sore loser” and the Washington Post has yet to compare him to Stalin.

The double standard between media treatment of the left-leaning López Obrador and the right-wing Capriles is even more striking considering that López Obrador led in the polls up until the vote. López Obrador and his supporters were understandably surprised when the official results declared Calderon to be the winner. Capriles, on the other hand, always trailed Maduro in the polls; the surprise on April 14 was not that he lost, but that he came as close to winning as he did.

More importantly, in the 2006 Mexican election there were “adding up” errors in nearly half the ballot boxes – i.e. the leftover blank ballots plus the voted (including spoiled) ballots didn’t add up to the blank ballots with which the ballot box location started out. The results were announced with millions of votes still uncounted, and there was a considerable lack of transparency – including a refusal by electoral authorities to release the results of a partial recount. Journalists covering the Mexican election at the time should have demanded answers from the authorities and commentators should have treated López Obrador’s complaints very seriously, since there really was no way to tell who had won that election. The burden of proof in Venezuela, however, should be on Capriles to explain exactly how the election could conceivably have been stolen.

Hugo Chávez, Soldier of the People Forever

chavez-kirchner

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, President of Argentina

Argentine President Cristina Fernández visits Montaña Garrison

I awoke on a cloudy day and am leaving in the sun. I have just visited the Montaña Garrison. It is surrounded by working class neighborhoods. You can see Miraflores in the distance. The head of the guard told me that Hugo always looked this way from his office there. How could he not! This is where he planned the insurrection against Andrés Pérez. The 4th Republic, the tragic epilogue to the Punto Fijo agreement, when the Caracazo broke out – or as Hugo liked to say, the Venezolazo – the final crisis of neoliberal policies.

Repression and death to the people. Coincidences in our history are no accident. Hugo rose up against this from the Montaña Garrison. He failed, “for now,” as he announced upon surrendering.

They showed me a fully restored colonial era cannon. Every day at 4:25 pm the old cannon fires a salute to mark the time of his departure. 4:25? Eva died at 8:25. What capricious times! Don’t you think? When I returned to the broad, bright, outdoor patio, I could not avoid the infinite sadness. There were television cameras, reporters, commentators. Cilia, married to Nicolás, accompanied me. I politely asked all of them to withdraw. I wanted to be alone. Thank you, thank you very much. I hope you understand. I hope so.

The patio was left empty. I was accompanied only by the four hussars of Carbobo on duty, providing the permanent Honor Guard. From somewhere else, the sound of Hugo singing softly could be heard, as if it were floating. How he loved to sing! The sound of the water which surrounds his space could also be heard. But, for a moment, there was complete silence. Or at least, that is what I felt. I could only hear that some of the guards were crying with me. It is strange. Until today, I had not shed a single tear. Not on March 5, when I was informed. Not on March 6, when I attended the wake along with so many others. Florencia, on the other hand, cried so much, she had to leave, she couldn’t breathe. Me, nothing. It was as if I did not want to admit or accept it. I don’t know, some day, if I decide to, I’ll explain it to a psychologist.

Chavez funeral: A young man adjusts a banner before the start Hugo Chavez funeral

I stayed there a while. I walked around the marble coffin, again and again. I see the carving of a phrase from one of Hugo’s speeches in which he mentions Alí Primera. Who is Alí Primera? A popular Venezuelan singer-songwriter, a member of the Communist Party, who died February 16, 1985. February 16, the day my son was born. Hugo departed the day my sister was born. Strange, when you get old, you start in with this business of dates.

The last gift Hugo gave me, was the complete collection of Alí Primera on CD.

His daughter, María brought it to me in Olivos, November 8, and she told me the story. As a young officer, her father would secretly listen to the songs, because they were prohibited in the military.

I read the speech excerpt and the date on which it was delivered. June 12, 2012. June 12, the date of Peron’s last speech. What is this with dates? I was in the Plaza de Mayo that day. 21 years old. The year, 1974. My mother! (She was there, too). So many things. So much history. Strange, the dates, the events. The visible connections. And the invisible ones, as well.

When I went down to see the portraits of Hugo in the galleries which surround the patio, Nicolás entered with those who were waiting outside and accompanied me around the area.

We entered a small, but precious, chapel. Two Virgins. One from the Valley and the other… Rosa Mística! The Virgin venerated in La Plata. I couldn’t believe it.

I told Nicolás that I was going to send an image of the Virgin of Luján to be placed in the chapel and I told them the story, of the Virgin, of course.

It was May, 1630. She was traveling on a wagon toward Brazil, carrying among other things, two boxes with contained images of Virgins. Attempting to cross the Luján River, in Buenos Aires, the wagon was stuck. They added more oxen, but no good. Finally, they removed of the boxes with the Virgins from the wagon, to no avail. They removed the second box and the wagon took off, with no difficulty at all. They loaded the box once more, and once again the wagon wouldn’t budge. The drivers were confounded and the Virgin stubborn. When they opened the box, the image of the dark skinned Virgin appeared. The wagon took off, but the Virgin stayed in Luján. She is now in the Basilica, where she is venerated as Argentina’s patron saint. They were fascinated by the story.

The restoration of the Basilica, was Nestor’s first act. I didn’t tell them that, but it’s true, too.

We continued touring the site. There are two halls with photographs which depict Hugo’s life. What most moved me was an immense mural. Hugo, from the back, walking in the rain, on October 4, his last and most glorious event, which was not, as some believe, the closure of his campaign. It was his last act of love. I understood that later, when I learned of his terrible, unbearable pain. Of his beyond-human sacrifice. My God!

I said to Nicolás, “This is the place. Don’t even think about taking him anywhere else, as magnificent as it might seem. This is where he began and this is where he must stay. In HIS place. In his garrison, in the humble neighborhood. Soldier of the people. Definitively and for ever.”

Venezuelan Opposition Violence Kills 9

Source

Venezuelan Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Díaz, informed that the violent events which took place between April 15 and 16 de abril, after the general election, left 9 deaths and 78 injured.

In a press conference, Ms. Diaz provided a summary of the investigation that her office is conducting about the violent events.

She explained that these events originated as a result of irresponsible calls of some political actors to act against persons and institutions in the country, including the Comprehensive Diagnostic Centers (CDI), Food Markets (Mercal), Food Producer and Distributor (PDVAL) and locations of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

“On April 14 the elections to elect the President of the Republic were held in Venezuela, and after the governing body (National Electoral Council) issued the results, there were calls made through some media and networks like Twitter and others, by direct and subliminal messages, encouraging citizens to take street actions.  Hostile actions and contrary to the law, which led a sector of the public to attack another sector of the population,” Ortega Diaz recalled.

According to the statement presented by the Attorney General, in the area called La Limonera, Baruta municipality, Miranda state, two deaths occurred when a group of people linked to the opposition, in a hostile and violent manner, hindered the free vehicular traffic.

“En ese momento iba transitando un grupo de personas afectas al chavismo y este grupo de oposición, desde un vehículo, procedió a efectuar algunos disparos con armas de fuego, que impactaron a dos personas, que fueron Luis Ponce Ordóñez y Rosa Inés del Valle Reyes”, precisó, al tiempo que indicó que por este caso está privado de libertad una persona, por el delito de homicidio calificado por motivos innobles.

“At that time, there was a group of people linked to the Chavez Government (chavistas) passing and the opposition group, from a vehicle, proceeded to fire gun shots, which hit two people, who were identified as Luis Ponce Ordonez and Rosa Inés Kings Valley,” she said, while indicating that in this case, there is a person under custody for the crime of aggravated homicide by non-noble motives.

In the parrish named Antonio Borjas Romero of the Maracaibo municipality, Zulia state, two children died, 11 and 12 year old.
“It was in the parish Antonio Romero, where a group of Chavez supporters celebrated the victory of Nicolas Maduro after the presidential elections of April 14.  This celebration was hit by a 350cc truck, in an action of hatred, because not only attacked the celebration, but the person backed up the vehicle and rammed against the crowd again, leaving a toll of two dead people,” said Luisa Ortega Diaz.

She explained that in this case, the 350 truck has been retained by pólice, and there is a capture order to aprehend the responsible criminals.
La fiscal general de la República, además, añadió que en la entidad zuliana falleció el ciudadano Johan Antonio Hernández Acosta, específicamente en la avenida principal del Barrio La Música, donde fue arrollado por un vehículo con características que hacen presumir que era de oposición.

The Attorney General also added that in the state of Zulia the citizen Johan Antonio Hernández Acosta died, specifically in the main street of the Barrio La Musica, where he was hit by a vehicle with features which presumably correspond to opposition supporters.

In Zulia also there was the death of Mr. Luis Eduardo Garcia Polanco, who died around the National Electoral Council (CNE), in Maracaibo, which was besieged by right wing opposition supporters.

In Sucre state one person was killed, identified as Joseph Bastardo Ender, while Táchira state recorded the murder of Henry Rangel La Rosa, who was shot when he celebrated the triumph of Nicolas Maduro in the presidential elections of April 14.

“He got shot by a group of motorcyclists, which according to the testimony, could be supporters of the opposition. In this case three people were arrested: Jesus Antonio Galvis, who was charged with the crime of murder, and two others who were charged with the offense of facilitating the crime of qualified homicide, Joel Antonio Contrestas and Jose Omar Leon, ” she said.

Also in Táchira, Keber Guevara died, who was an officer of the National Bolivarian Police (PNB).

“These are the nine deaths that we have across the country, and certainly, are related to events that occurred subsequent to the pronouncement of electoral council that triggered these violent acts,” said the prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz.

USA Intentionally Undermining Venezuela’s Democracy

Dan Kovalik

Update: Venezuelan government agrees to expand audit of votes to 100 percent of all votes cast

The United States is refusing to recognize the results of the Venezuelan elections, insisting that Venezuela conduct a re-count of 100 percent of the votes in light of the narrow margin of victory for Nicolas Maduro. The facts surrounding the voting process and election outcome in Venezuela, the U.S.’s own experiences with close presidential elections, and the U.S.’s recent recognition of coup governments in Latin America demonstrate that the U.S.’s position in regard to Venezuela has nothing to do with the U.S.’s alleged concerns for democracy, but rather, its complete disdain for it.

I just returned from Venezuela where I was one of over 170 international election observers from around the world, including India, Guyana, Suriname, Colombia, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Scotland, England, the United States, Guatemala, Argentina, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Jamaica, Brazil, Chile, Greece, France, Panama and Mexico. These observers included two former presidents (of Guatemala and the Dominican Republic), judges, lawyers and numerous high ranking officials of national electoral councils. What we found was an election system which was transparent, inherently reliable, well-run and thoroughly audited.

Indeed, as to the auditing, what has been barely mentioned by the mainstream press is the fact that around 54 percent of all votes are, and indeed have already been, audited to ensure that the electronic votes match up with the paper receipts which serve as back-up for these electronic votes. And, this auditing is done in the presence of witnesses from both the governing and opposition parties right in the local polling places themselves. I witnessed just such an audit at the end of election day on Sunday. And, as is the usual case, the paper results matched up perfectly with the electronic ones. As the former Guatemalan President, Alvaro Colom, who served as an observer, opined, the vote in Venezuela is “secure” and easily verifiable.

In short, the observers’ experience this past week aligns with former U.S. president Jimmy Carter’s observation last year that Venezuela’s electoral system is indeed the “the best in the world.”

And so, what were the results of the election? With an impressive 79 percent of registered voters going to the polls, Nicolas Maduro won by over 260,000 votes, with a 1.6 percentage point margin over Henrique Capriles (50.7 to 49.1 percent). While this was certainly a close race, 260,000 votes is a comfortable victory, certainly by U.S. election standards. Thus, recall that John F. Kennedy beat Richard Nixon in 1960 with 49.7 percent of the vote to Nixon’s 49.6 percent. In addition, George W. Bush became president in 2000, though losing the popular vote to Al Gore, with 47.87 percent of the vote to Gore’s 48.38 percent, and with the entire race coming down to several hundred votes in Florida, with the Supreme Court actually blocking a hand recount in Florida. In none of these cases, did any nation in the world insist upon a recount or hesitate in recognizing the man declared to be the winner. Indeed, had a country like Venezuela done so, we would have found such a position absurd. The U.S.’s current position vis à vis Venezuela is no less absurd.

The U.S.’s position is all the more ridiculous given its quick recognition of the coup government in Paraguay after the former bishop-turned president, Fernando Lugo, was ousted in 2012, and its recognition of the 2009 elections in Honduras despite the fact that the U.S.’s stated precondition for recognizing this election — the return of President Manuel Zelaya to power after his forcible ouster by the military — never occurred. Of course, this even pales in comparison to the U.S.’s active involvement in coups against democratically-elected leaders in Latin America (e.g., against President Árbenz in Guatemala in 1954, against President Allende in Chile in 1973, and against President Aristide in Haiti in 2004).

And, the U.S.’s failure to recognize the Venezuelan elections is having devastating consequences in Venezuela, for it is emboldening the Venezuelan opposition to carry out violence in order to destabilize that country. Unlike Al Gore in 2000 who stepped aside for George W. Bush in the interest of his country and the U.S. Constitution, the Venezuelan opposition, being led by Henrique Capriles, clearly wants to foster chaos and crisis in Venezuela in order to topple the Maduro government by force (just as the same forces represented by Capriles forcibly kidnapped and briefly overthrew President Chavez, with U.S. support, in 2002). Thus, reasonably believing itself to have the backing of the U.S. and its military, the opposition is causing mayhem in Venezuela, including burning down clinics, destroying property, attacking Cuban doctors and destroying ruling party buildings. In all, seven Venezuelans are dead and dozens injured in this opposition-led violence.

There is no doubt that the U.S. could halt this violence right now by recognizing the results of the Venezuelan elections, just as the nations of the world recognized, without question, the results of the elections which put John F. Kennedy in power in 1960 and George W. Bush in power in 2000. The reason the U.S. is not doing so is obvious: It does not like the Venezuelans’ chosen form of government, and welcomes that government’s demise, even through violence. The U.S., therefore, is not supporting democracy and stability in Venezuela; it is intentionally undermining it.

Non-Aligned Countries Support President-Elect Maduro

Granma Internacional

The Movement of Non-Aligned Countries Coordinating Bureau salutes the elections held in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, April 14, 2013, which were characterized by massive participation and conducted transparently in a climate of democracy.

The members of our Movement congratulate President Nicolás Maduro Moros for his election and express our confidence that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela will continue to contribute, during his administration, to the consolidation of unity within the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries and to the struggle which together we have undertaken to protect its principles.

The Movement of Non-Aligned Countries Coordinating Bureau calls for the preservation of a climate pf peace, tolerance and harmony among Venezuelans and an end to all acts of violence.

New York, April, 17, 2013

Capriles Falsifies Evidence in Order to Claim Fraud in Venezuela’s Elections

Chris Carlson

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles has given falsified evidence to support his claims that there was fraud in Venezuela’s presidential elections on Sunday.

At a press conference on Tuesday, the opposition candidate listed several examples that he claimed were evidence of “irregularities” in the electoral process and in the vote count, and presented a series of slides to national and international media.

However, several of the examples given by Capriles as evidence of fraud are clearly false, as can be seen by consulting the results on the National Electoral Council’s (CNE) website.

As one example, Capriles listed three separate voting centers in which he claimed Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had gotten much higher results than Hugo Chavez had gotten in the previous presidential elections.

Capriles claimed that this was implausible, since overall Maduro did not get as many total votes as Chavez.

“In one voting center in Yaracuy, Maduro got 1000 percent more votes than Chavez did. How can anyone believe that?” he said.

However, the results from last year’s election show that the three voting centers that Capriles gave as examples were cases in which all the votes from that center had not yet been registered in 2012’s results when the election was called for Chavez, leading to an extremely low vote count from those centers for both candidates.

In the Yaracuy voting center, for example, a total of only 9 votes out of 75 were registered in 2012’s elections, 7 for Hugo Chavez and 2 votes for Henrique Capriles.

However, on Sunday all the votes from this center were registered before the election was called, leading to 73 votes for Nicolas Maduro, and only 6 votes for Henrique Capriles.

The same situation can be seen for the examples Capriles gave in Merida (2012 vs. 2013), and Nueva Esparta (2012 vs. 2013), centers at which there was a very low vote count in 2012.

Given the unusually low vote count in these centers in 2012, the votes for both candidates drastically increases when compared to 2013’s results.

In the Merida voting center, for example, votes for Capriles also increased by nearly 1000 percent, and were also much higher than the number of votes for Chavez from that center in 2012.

Other examples given by Capriles were also fabricated by manipulating the numbers of different vote tallies.

Capriles claimed that in some cases there were more votes than total voters registered at that voting center. However, the only example provided by Capriles is also false.

Capriles said that at a voting center in the state of Trujillo the number of voters for this center was 536, but that a total of 717 votes were tallied. However, CNE’s results for this voting center show only 369 votes were tallied, not 717.

Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas explained during a press conference last night that Capriles had erroneously added together the votes from two separate voting tables, but was using the voter rolls from only one of the two tables.

To counter Capriles claims, government officials have pledged to publish online at the PSUV’s website all of the actual vote tallies from the thousands of voting centers around the country so that the public can see that the official results line up with the individual vote tallies.

Electoral witnesses from the Capriles campaign presumably signed off on all of the vote tallies, as they would have been present at the voting centers at the closing of the polls on Sunday.

The nature of Venezuela’s electoral system makes the kind of fraud alleged by Capriles nearly impossible. Witnesses from both sides are present at every voting center around the country, and a random hot audit of 54 percent of the votes is conducted at all of the centers in the presence of all witnesses immediately after the polls close.

The paper receipts that each voter deposits in a sealed box are counted to assure that they line up with the tally from the voting machines, and all witnesses sign the tallies to certify that they witnessed the audit.

However, Capriles claimed yesterday that his witnesses were forcibly ejected, often at gunpoint, from nearly 300 voting centers around the country on Sunday.

No evidence was provided for this claim, and no independent reports of this happening were registered by any major media outlets on the day of the elections.

Pro-Chavez political commentator Mario Silva responded to the claim last night by questioning how this could have happened without anyone noticing.

“Do you really believe that hundreds of witnesses could be forcibly removed from the voting centers without anyone saying anything? Why haven’t any of those witnesses made a denunciation or talked to the media?” he said.

Capriles has pledged to turn over all of his “evidence” of fraud to the National Electoral Council for review, and pledges to continue to demand a recount, or that the election be annulled.

The government has reported that 7 people have been killed so far in the violence that erupted around the country after Capriles claimed the elections were fraudulent.

NOTE: Due to recent attacks from hackers, the National Electoral Council’s website linked to in this article is not currently accessible from outside Venezuela. It should be available in the coming days.