SYRIA: Opposition leader stepping down

The main opposition council is crumbling under the weight of infighting over issues that cut to the heart of the revolution, including accusations that the movement is becoming as autocratic as the regime it wants to drive out. The slow disintegration of the Syrian National Council could complicate Western efforts to bolster the opposition, just as President Bashar Assad’s regime gathers momentum in its crackdown on dissent. SNC leader Burhan Ghalioun said Thursday he was ready to step down once a replacement is found, amid mounting criticism of his leadership. He had just been re-elected for a third, three-month term. The council has said it would rotate the presidency every three months, so Ghalioun’s repeated appointments rankled some.

GREECE: A parliament sworn in for a day

Greece swore in 300 legislators for just one day before it dissolves parliament and calls new elections, among them 21 lawmakers from Golden Dawn, arguably the most far-right party to be involved in a European national legislature since Nazi-era Germany. Golden Dawn vehemently rejects the neo-Nazi label, insisting it is a nationalist patriotic party, but its meteoric rise from a largely marginalized outfit a few years ago to one that won nearly 7 percent in recent elections has alarmed many in Greece and in Europe. In the swearing-in ceremony Thursday, Golden Dawn legislators refused to stand as two Muslim deputies took their oaths on the Quran instead of the Bible.

VENEZUELA: Gunfire in prison held by in inmates

Heavy gunfire erupted on Thursday inside a prison where armed inmates have prevented security forces from retaking control for nearly three weeks. The shooting at La Planta prison in Caracas lasted more than two hours in the morning, then continued in the afternoon. Tear gas floated over the penitentiary and smoke billowed from a fire inside the compound. Some prisoners accused National Guard troops of attacking them.

CUBA: Castro’s daughter gets U.S. visa

First daughter Mariela Castro has been granted a U.S. visa to attend events in San Francisco and New York, sparking a firestorm of criticism from Cuban-American politicians who called her an enemy of democracy and a shill for the Communist government her family has led for decades. The trip kicks off next week when Castro is due to chair a panel on sexual diversity at a conference organized by the Latin American Studies Association.

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