Venezuela is bracing for a potential face-off this weekend.
If the Nicolas Cage movie taught me anything, a face-off is never good.
This one isn't expected to be either. Here's a reminder of what's going on there: In recent years, millions of people have fled the country as it deals with hyperinflation and shortages of basics like food and medicine. Meanwhile, UNICEF has been warning of a malnutrition crisis.
Whose fault is that?
A lot of people pin the blame on the administration of Nicolás Maduro, who's been president since 2013. Last year, he was re-elected but many called it a sham. Then last month, opposition leader and head of the country's parliament Juan Guaidó invoked the country's constitution and declared himself interim president until new elections happen.
How'd that go over?
More than 50 countries – including the US and most Latin American countries – have recognized Guaidó as Venezuela's leader. The Trump admin has thrown its full weight behind him and isn't ruling out military intervention. And tens of thousands of Venezuelans have turned out across the country to protest Maduro – with at least 40 people being killed since last month.
So are there two presidents?
Kinda. And it's putting Venezuelans in the middle of it. The US and other countries have sent tens of millions of dollars' worth of humanitarian aid. But Maduro has been adamant that he won't let it in – calling it a cover for a US invasion. And says he won't let Venezuelans become "beggars." Guaidó says the aid is necessary and that one way or another, it's getting in tomorrow.
Thanks to Venezuela's neighbor, Colombia – where some of the aid has been shipped to. Guaidó, lawmakers, and hundreds of thousands of people are expected to arrive at the Venezuela-Colombia border to help get it across. But Maduro said he's considering closing the Colombian border – a move he pulled with Brazil. Colombian officials are reportedly ready to take down border fences to help Venezuelans get the aid across.
So this is the face-off.
Basically. And it has a lot of people – including those within Venezuela – very, very nervous. Some see this event going one of two ways: maybe Maduro stands down and lets the aid pass through – a major win for the opposition. Or there's a possibility of violent clashes. A major win for no one.
Venezuela was once known for its oil industry. Now, it's dealing with an economic, political, and humanitarian crisis. And world leaders are choosing sides. Russia and Cuba are siding with Maduro. China is trying to be neutral. The US and many EU countries are siding with Guaidó, in what seems to be a face-off over political ideals and...ties to oil. VP Mike Pence will be in Colombia on Monday to try and seal the deal and get Maduro to step down.
Skimm More: We took it a step back to explain how Venezuela got in this political crisis.
REPEAT AFTER ME...
Who everyone is still talking about…
Jussie Smollett. Yesterday, the "Empire" actor appeared in court for his bail hearing. Smollett is facing a felony charge for allegedly filing a false police report. Last month, he claimed he was the victim of a hate crime, saying two people yelled racist, homophobic statements at him, beat him, and tied a rope around his neck. But now police say he staged the attack – paying two Nigerian brothers $3,500 to carry it out – because he was upset over his salary and wanted to promote his career. Now he's facing up to three years in prison. He's currently out on a $100,000 bond. And was ordered to surrender his passport. Smollett has made quite a few enemies during this ordeal. Many people who initially supported the actor are now worried this will potentially harm the credibility of hate crime victims in the future. Smollett still says he's innocent.
Who people are also still talking about...
Jeffrey Epstein. Yesterday, a federal judge said that prosecutors – including current US Labor Secretary Alex Acosta – broke the law when handling Epstein's case. Epstein is a billionaire, accused by dozens of girls of sex trafficking and child molestation. Back in '08, he just pleaded guilty to prostitution. And got what many consider to be an especially light plea deal – 13 months in a private part of jail with the ability to leave custody six days a week. The person who negotiated that deal was Acosta, then the US attorney in Miami. Last year, The Miami Herald dropped a bombshell report on all this. Since then, the Justice Dept has opened up an investigation into how the deal went down. Yesterday, a judge said that Acosta and other US prosecutors broke the law. They were supposed to let victims know about the plea deal but instead let them think that the case was still ongoing. The judge's decision is considered a win for victims' rights. But it stops short of overturning the plea deal.
What to say when the vote for office snacks seems rigged…
I want a re-vote. Yesterday, North Carolina election officials said 'same.' This is about North Carolina's 9th Congressional District. During last year's midterms, it looked like Mark Harris (R) had won the race for House rep by just 905 votes. But officials weren't able to certify that the election was legit. They began investigating allegations that Harris's campaign was collecting incomplete absentee ballots...and filling them out. This week, it came out that Harris had been warned in advance that his campaign's operations could be illegal. Yesterday, election officials said 'this calls for a re-vote' and tossed the results from last year's election. It's unclear when the re-vote will be, so the district could be without a rep for months to come. Meanwhile, the case is focusing the country's attention on the issue of election fraud. In other news happening on the state level, Oregon is on track to become the first state to set mandatory rent controls. And Massachusetts is trying to encourage minorities to lead the charge in the state's legal marijuana business as a way to address the "historic harm" the communities have faced due to the war on drugs.
What to say when your presentation didn't go as planned…
Just Blew It. Yesterday, Nike's stock dropped after Duke star basketball player Zion Williamson's sneaker burst open during the big Duke-UNC game this week. (Seriously, watch the video.) Speaking of companies doing damage control, Tesla. Yesterday, its stock took a dive after Consumer Reports said it was no longer recommending the Model 3 because of concerns it wasn't reliable.
What to say when you're watching the Oscars this weekend...
The only thing we want to see is more of this.