Venezuela

Amid the chaos and misery that have engulfed Venezuela lies a strange parcel of tranquility, tucked within a valley surrounded by poplar trees and mountains some 20 miles south of the Caribbean coast.

It is a field populated by dozens of lanky teenage boys who are spending this particular evening — as they often do — galloping around the grass in pursuit of an oval ball.

These impoverished Venezuelans are training in the skills of a sport not often seen in a South American nation that's mad about soccer, baseball and horse racing: They are playing rugby.

The White House is on the verge of taking steps to protect thousands of Venezuelans living in the United States from deportation, even as it finds new ways to restrict the ability of asylum-seekers from other countries to claim refuge in the U.S.

Jesús Parra spent four years as a police officer in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas. He patrolled the streets, provided security at events and even guarded political prisoners. Now, he parks cars at a funeral home for spare change in the Colombian city of Cúcuta.

This is not what Parra, 27, had in mind when he deserted the police force and sneaked across the Colombian border in March.

It sounded like such a good idea at the time.

The year was 2005. Global oil prices were climbing dramatically. Countries in the Caribbean were facing major fuel shortages. Venezuela, one of the world's largest producers of crude, offered to ease the staggering fuel costs faced by its neighbors.

Auri Chirinos keeps close watch over her 2-year-old twin daughters as she walks with them through La Vela de Coro, a fishing town on Venezuela's Caribbean coast. She's extremely protective of the toddlers — and for good reason.

She recently lost her eldest daughter, who drowned while trying to reach the island of Curaçao.

President Trump has resumed talks with Major League Baseball owners after his administration blocked a historic agreement that would have allowed Cuban baseball players to join MLB teams without having to defect.

But the White House made clear that in exchange for revisiting any decision, it wants MLB, like other groups with ties to the island, to urge Cuba to reduce its long-standing cooperation with Venezuela's socialist government.

At a soup kitchen in the western Venezuelan city of Maracaibo, hungry and bedraggled men, women and children line up for free lunch. But it's meager fare: They each get a bottle of milk and a few scoops of rice mixed with eggs and vegetables.

Just a few years ago, the lunch program, which is run by the Catholic Church, provided full meals with meat and chicken, as well as fruit juice and even dessert. But amid a deep economic depression and an outbreak of looting in the city, dozens of Maracaibo businesses that used to donate food have closed down.

Juan Guaidó's war room is a kind of no man's land.

The opposition leader, who is recognized by dozens of countries as Venezuela's rightful head of state, works out of a mostly vacant office in a Caracas high-rise with a couple of sofas, broken swivel chairs and carpet that could use a cleaning.

Guaidó has spent the past five months moving among safe houses and borrowed office space to keep government security agents, who have arrested dozens of opposition leaders, off balance. No one bothers to fix things up because his team may be moving on soon.

The push for a negotiated solution to the Veneuzelan crisis appears to be picking up steam with delegates for President Nicolás Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó slated for direct talks in Norway this week.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Sochi Tuesday, holding talks that are aimed at improving relations between Washington and Moscow. But the discussions also allowed them to air their disagreements — and they took advantage of that, diverging on topics from Russia's attempts to destabilize other countries to how to resolve crises in Venezuela, Iran and other complicated issues.

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