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News Brief: Pence In Colombia, Vatican Summit, Oscar Results


Well, the president and vice president are both on the road this week.


President Trump leaves today for Vietnam and a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Vice President Mike Pence visits Bogota, Colombia. He's discussing the crisis in neighboring Venezuela and meeting U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido. Over the weekend, clashes between protesters and the military around the border left several people dead. The opposition was trying to bring in U.S. aid. So how far is the United States going to push this? Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to Fox yesterday.


MIKE POMPEO: We're going to do the things that need to be done to make sure that the Venezuelan people's voice, that democracy reigns and that there's a brighter future for the people of Venezuela.

GREENE: All right. Let's bring in NPR's Eyder Peralta, who is covering this crisis. He's in Caracas. Hi, Eyder.


GREENE: So talk to me about how these clashes broke out and how exactly they fit into the larger battle for power in the country right now.

PERALTA: So we're about a month into this experiment. It's been a month since Juan Guaido declared himself president in Venezuela. And over the past two weeks, they had built people up to this moment. They said they would bring in tons of humanitarian aid through the Colombian border, and they hoped that the military would turn their backs on Maduro, that they would watch this aid flow into the country and send a message to Maduro that they were no longer with him. But those things did not happen. Only little bits of aid came in, and more than 150 soldiers have defected.

But by and large, what we have seen over the past two days is real repression. The military fired tear gas, and paramilitary groups attacked protesters. One of the aid trucks was burned. And so the government is the one declaring victory. They say they have been able to repel a foreign invasion. But it is important to note that the opposition says they see the government reaction as an opportunity, that the regime has shown that it's repressive, and it's cynical, and they hope that the international community further coalesces around them.

GREENE: Well, not just the international community, but the opposition is hoping that a lot of Venezuelans will continue to stand with them and against Maduro. Is that the sense you're getting from talking to people on the streets?

PERALTA: People are still very much in this fight, but I've heard a lot of frustration. On Saturday, I was here in Caracas, and tens of thousands of Venezuelans, they surrounded a military base here. And they spent hours pleading with the military to join them. Not a single one of them did. Instead, as the crowd started thinning, some of the troops gave the protesters the middle finger.

Now Caracas is back to normal, and lots of people went to the beach yesterday. I met Catalina (ph) there. She was with her friends. She was de-stressing, as she said. But what she said is that she's done. She used to like Hugo Chavez, but now she welcomes a foreign invasion. Let's listen to a bit of what she said.

CATALINA: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: So she's saying, "if they tell us to be out in the streets for 30 days without eating to oust this government, we'd all be out there." And she just wants an end game, and she's ready for the consequences.

GREENE: Well, you have Vice President Mike Pence arriving in Colombia to talk about all of this. To what extent is that heading toward some kind of end game?

PERALTA: It's unclear. I mean, Vice President Mike Pence is coming to the meeting with a clear message that all options are on the table. But what that means, we don't know. Does it mean more diplomatic moves, or does it mean what everyone here is talking about, which is a first step toward a military intervention? Juan Guaido, the opposition leader, hasn't been clear here.

GREENE: All right. That was NPR's Eyder Peralta reporting for us in Venezuela.


GREENE: Pope Francis is calling for an all-out battle against clergy sex abuse.

INSKEEP: Yeah, he ended his first-of-a-kind summit at the Vatican yesterday with a speech in Italian.


POPE FRANCIS: (Speaking Italian).

INSKEEP: Francis there is vowing to confront sexual abusers with the wrath of God. Victims of sexual abuse were hoping for more than speeches, and the pope did not offer a clear plan to hold bishops accountable for predatory subordinates.

GREENE: NPR's Sylvia Poggioli joins us now from Rome. She's been covering this summit. Hi, Sylvia.


GREENE: So is that the take-home here - very strong words but no real, concrete action?

POGGIOLI: Well, you know, Vatican officials have tried to play down expectations on that front. What Pope Francis promised yesterday was that no abuse cases will ever be covered up again and that national guidelines on preventing and punishing abuse will be strengthened. He said the church will listen to, watch over, protect and care for abused, exploited and forgotten children. He said it's time to eradicate this evil by adopting every necessary measure in force at international and church levels and that it's time to provide uniform directives for the church. But he didn't say what those uniform directives will be.

GREENE: OK. So I mean, the interesting thing - there were abuse survivors who were actually gathered in Rome for this meeting. I know you've been spending some time with them. Are they optimistic that the pope is going to follow through here?

POGGIOLI: Absolutely not. There was huge disappointment. They had come here to demand much tougher measures.

Anne Barrett Doyle, who's - she's the co-founder of bishops-accountability.org (ph), which tracks clerical abuse in the church, she said the pope's speech was a stunning let-down, a catastrophic misreading of the grief and outrage of the faithful. She called for new canon laws establishing a one-strike-and-you're-out policy for abuser priests and their bishop enablers. She said what's clear now is that accountability will come only from outside the church, through civil law and with activists around the world campaigning for stricter laws and police investigations.

You know, the unresolved issue here is victims' demands for zero tolerance. That means defrocking abuser priests and bishops who covered up for them. It was hardly mentioned at the summit. And when asked by reporters, church officials here claimed that removing a priest from ministry is a better way to protect the flock because the church, they say, can continue to monitor him, which they can't if he's kicked out of the priesthood.

GREENE: So is this meeting going to change anything?

POGGIOLI: Well, summit organizers did announce some new measures after the Pope's speech. They said the Vatican will soon issue a handbook to help bishops around the world clearly understand their duties. And they're going to set up teams of experts to be sent to countries where local churches don't have the expertise or resources to handle abuse cases.

You know, for Pope Francis, the summit's main purpose was to convince those bishops who were still skeptical, or even in denial, that a global sex abuse crisis exists and has devastated the church's credibility. It was essentially a consciousness-raising tutorial for church leaders. In fact, the bishops heard searing, painful testimonies from victims. But more than Francis, I think it was Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Australia, a country rocked by sex - the sex abuse crisis, who in his homily at the closing mass gave bishops a very intense sense of urgency and shame.


MARK COLERIDGE: We have shown too little mercy. We will not go unpunished. We have been our own worst enemy.

GREENE: All right, a voice to end there. Covering the Vatican summit for us, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli. Sylvia, thanks a lot.

POGGIOLI: Thank you.


GREENE: All right. There was a whole lot of anticipation, some controversy, all leading up to Hollywood's biggest night last night, and now it has come and gone.

INSKEEP: The 91st Academy Awards was the first ceremony in 30 years that did not have a formal host. Comedian Tina Fey, standing on stage with Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph, made that clear at the start of the show.


TINA FEY: We are not your hosts, but we're going to stand here a little too long so that the people who get USA Today tomorrow will think that we hosted.


INSKEEP: Well, the format worked - people handed out awards, winners made speeches, and the show ended more or less on time.

GREENE: More or less on time, but I'm assuming that our colleague covering it probably didn't get much sleep. NPR arts correspondent, Mandalit del Barco. Hi, Mandalit.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Hi. Sleep? What do you mean? I'm still up.

GREENE: (Laughter) Exactly.

DEL BARCO: (Laughter).

GREENE: So what are some of the highlights that are sticking with you from last night?

DEL BARCO: Well, you know, a real fun moment was when Spike Lee finally won his first competitive Oscar. You know, Samuel L. Jackson opened the envelope for the adapted screenplay, in which he won for "BlacKkKlansman." Just listen to this.




DEL BARCO: So Spike Lee jumped up on Samuel L. Jackson. He was so excited. He had never won a competitive Oscar, although he did win a student Oscar at NYU and an honorary Oscar in 2015.


DEL BARCO: Yeah. You know - yeah, he sipped champagne, and he was answering questions in the pressroom, where he seemed a bit upset about not winning for best picture (laughter). But, you know...

GREENE: So a lot of emotions from Spike Lee last night in two different directions.

DEL BARCO: That's right (laughter). You know, another standout was Olivia Colman, who won for best actress for "The Favourite." And she seemed so surprised and flustered and just hilarious. And then there was a really touching moment with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. It was a really intimate duet that they sang, that Oscar-winning song from "A Star Is Born."

GREENE: Yeah, that - a real earworm for us all, and not a bad one. So some controversy - right? - around best picture?

DEL BARCO: Well, yeah, "Green Book" - it was a bit of a surprise that "Green Book" won. You know, it's a story set in 1962 - African-American pianist and his driver, Tony Vallelonga. And his son wrote the screenplay, and he won an Oscar for it. You know, the filmmakers of "Green Book" failed to thank Don Shirley during their acceptance of their awards. And afterwards - also, Shirley's family had been upset by the portrayal of it. But Frank Vallelonga, who - he told reporters that he had gotten Don Shirley's blessing to tell the story.

GREENE: And then complaints from the family.


GREENE: But winning best picture over movies like "Roma" and...


GREENE: "Black Panther," I mean, it was quite a list and such different movies.

DEL BARCO: Absolutely.

GREENE: So no host. I mean, Steve and I don't like setting a precedent that you don't need a host.

DEL BARCO: (Laughter).

GREENE: But the Oscars seemed to pull off not having a host, right?

DEL BARCO: That's right. It - you know, it's better than the last time they didn't have a host, when Rob Lowe and Snow White sang. But, you know...

GREENE: (Laughter).

DEL BARCO: But, you know, maybe Amy, Tina and Maya should have been the hosts.

GREENE: Oh, really? Was that the reaction? I mean, they were - maybe that's the goal next year, have three great hosts.

DEL BARCO: Yeah, maybe so. Yeah, they were great.

GREENE: NPR's - yeah. NPR's Mandalit del Barco covering the Oscars last night. Hope you do get some sleep now.

DEL BARCO: (Laughter) Thanks. Take care.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAKEY INSPIRED'S "REMINISCE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.