Thursday, March 12, 2015

Top Latin America Stories, March 12, 2015


Skepticism abounds around Obama's executive order on Venezuela. The U.S. once again is "cast in the familiar role of the hemispheric bully" with Maduro taking the place of a victim, analyzes the NY Times (3/11) while the message "may have been a little stronger than intended", suggests the Washington Post.  The Obama's administration "gamble" in Venezuela could end up backfiring, says a NY Times editorial which also blames Mr. Maduro for wanting "to escalate the conflict."  All this affirms what David Smilde predicted earlier, and he repeats it again in the NYT.

The war of words escalated with Venezuela's Foreign Minister calling State Dept's Roberta Jacobson "petulant" and "rude," according to Reuters and El Tiempo (3/11). Jacobsen's Twitter feed tries to tone down the conversation and tells Andres Oppenheimer that this exec order poses "no change in U.S. policy" and that the administration "wanted to support mediation efforts by UNASUR", according to his column in the Miami Herald.
Ecuador's Pres. Correa says UNASUR will convene regional presidents in support of Venezuela, according to the BBC and TeleSur.  Bloomberg rounds up reactions from several Latin American leaders and while they headline that former Chilean Pres. Piñera supports the the Obama administration, they conclude that U.S. is "on its own" in the region.

Several analysts offer their takes Mark Weisbrot (CEPR) claims that "the Obama administration is more isolated today in Latin America than even George W. Bush’s administration was," according to a column in Al Jazeera (3/10). The executive order could be "aimed to break up the Colombia-Venezuelan partnership that is taking shape," speculates The Nation (3/10). Even Glen Greenwald takes on the issue and asks, "is there anyone, anywhere, that wants to defend the reasonability" that Venezuela poses an "extraordinary threat to the national security" of the U.S.?, in his column in The Intercept. A blogger on American Thinker perhaps captures how U.S. policy is seen in the region: "Maduro, muy malo, Castro, mi nuevo amigo."

  • Uruguay's CAinfo (Center for Archives and Access to Public Information) filed a legal motion to force the Interior Ministry to comply with a law mandating freedom of information, according to a press release and La Red 21 (3/10).  The government responded that Article 7 of the Constitution establishes the right to security, according to El Pais (3/12). "¿Quién Vigila a Los Vigilantes?", asks a related oped written by CAinfo in La Diaria (3/10). 
  • Guatemala’s constitutional court rejected sanctions against the judge who presided over the trial convicting former dictator Efraín Rios Montt of genocide and crimes against humanity, according to the International Justice Monitor and El Periodico (3/11).  As it turns out, the defense attorney who filed the initial complaint against the judge is one of eight former military officers, along with a son of Ríos Montt, accused of grafting $60 million from the state.
  • Peruvian Pres. Humala may lift a 14-year-old ban on shooting down aircraft suspected of carrying drugs, even though the U.S. government opposes the practice, according to Reuters and IDL Reporteros (3/10). The legislation is written by an opposition member of Congress and could threaten "joint anti-narcotics efforts with the United States and possibly millions of dollars in aid."
  • The Petrobras scandal is taxing the political coalition behind Brazil's Pres. Rousseff, according to Reuters (3/11). Though there may be more substantive issues behind the rising discord, the party was also "miffed it did not get meatier positions in [the new] cabinet." Rousseff's Vice President is from the PMDB, Brazil's largest party in parliament, though it has "no clear ideology." The President of the lower house of Congress, a member of the PMDB, doesn't expect the coalition to last until the 2018 elections, according to Istoé magazine (3/9)

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