Jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Daniel Ceballos called ended a 20-day hunger strike yesterday. It is unclear whether his fellow imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo López has also ended his hunger strike, which today would be on it's nineteenth day.
The men are demanding the release of jailed politicians and that the government set a date for this year's parliamentary elections, reports Reuters.
Mike McCarthy notes that the strikes -- which have captured attention and support in Venezuela and internationally -- play into the ongoing process to select opposition candidates for the upcoming elections (whenever they are). "... this event can be understood as López’s intervention in the decision-making processes that will shape the opposition’s strategy going forward. It is part of the real politick maneuvering that is typical during primary season, the period in which jockeying for position is often at its most fierce."
The strikes have upped international pressure on President Nicolás Maduro's government, and are mobilizing the opposition. However, Reuters notes that some opposition moderates say they are a distraction from the elections and the very real problems Venezuelans face, such as food and medicine shortages, severe crime and inflation.
McCarthy argues that the prolonging of the candidate selection process for the opposition "raises questions about what proposals opposition party candidates can promise to follow through on. The special relevance for the Venezuelan case is that opposition parties face the linked challenges of staying disciplined about their messages and overcoming serious credibility problems." The opposition's message should not be about freedom, but rather how to face the economic crisis, he says.
- Mexico deported nearly 80 percent more people from Central America in the first four months of this year than it did during the same period in 2014, reports the AP. Government statistics say that 51,565 immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador were deported between January and April, up from 28,736, during that period in 2014. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)expressed concern Wednesday over stepped-up actions reportedly being taken against migrant persons and those who defend their rights in Mexico since the Southern Border Plan (Plan Frontera Sur) was put into operation, as well as reports that migrants and their defenders continue to be targets of attacks in Mexico. Also this week the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child drew attention to the case of migrant minors' detention. Mexico must end administrative detentions of minors and keep them in reception centers that are integrated into municipalities, reports EFE. Twenty percent of foreign detained people in 2014 were minors. The automatic and generalized detention of children and adolescent migrants in Mexico is the wrong approach that breaks multiple laws and endangers their rights, argues Derribando Muros a publication by The Instituto para la Seguridad y Democracia, A.C. (INSYDE) focusing on migrant detention focuses on children and migration issues. City Lab features Spanish photographer Ignacio Evangelista's photographs of the fence dividing the Mexico-U.S. border.
- FARC attacks killed three policemen and left half a million Colombians without electricity, reports the BBC.
- Today will be a key moment for Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina, according to the AP. Lawmakers will name a commission that will decide whether to lift his constitutional immunity from prosecution, in relation to the corruption scandals rocking the country. The piece rehashes the ongoing investigations into widespread corruption schemes that involve high-ranking government officials and have led to ongoing protests in Guatemala. Such mobilization is new in Guatemala, where the after-effects of a the 1960-1996 civil war in which at least 245,000 people died or disappeared are still being felt. Though protests are common -- especially in indigenous and rural areas -- the piece notes that the current process "is unique for constituting sustained demonstrations in the capital by a broad-based, mostly well-educated crowd that relies on social media and smartphones."
- Brazilian police say they have broken up a criminal network accused of evading foreign exchange tariffs and laundering more than $800 million, reports the BBC. Eleven people were detained in raids in three states including a former vice president of the state-owned Bank of Brazil.
- Paraguay's Senate unanimously passed a bill stripping South America's soccer confederation, Conmebol, of immunity from prosecution. The protection was secured by former president Nicolás Leoz, who is among those indicted by the U.S. Justice Department on charges of bribery and money laundering. It gave Conmebol a status similar to that of a diplomatic mission, reports the Wall Street Journal. Lifting that immunity will permit authorities to begin investigations regarding corruption.
- Brazil's soccer confederation will implement term limits for its president and create an independent ethics committee, amid calls for reform in light of the FIFA corruption scandal, reports the Wall Street Journal.
- With just over a year before the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, evictions in the city seem to be on the rise. Rio On Watch reports that a series of “lightning evictions”–forced evictions with little or no warning and tenuous court approval–took place in favelas across Rio last week in what appears to be a new shift in policy. from January 2009 to December 2013 over 20,000 families, or 67,000 people, were removed from their homes. Catherine Osborn reports on Olympic related expropriations in Rio and the real-estate interests behind the sporting event's investments in The Architectural Review.
- The Guardian has an in-depth piece with a lot of detail on the Honduran institute of social security scandal (IHSS). A massive fraud involving high-ranking government officials who were reportedly involved in the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars from the social security system using a network of sham companies which left dying patients without life-saving medicines has led to massive protests against President Juan Orlando Hernández, whose National Party benefitted from the misappropriated funds. The case has provoked widespread anger in Honduras. The IHSS had provided good quality care for 1.6 million Hondurans before the fraud, and it is now saddled with debt. The government is negotiating a $188m loan with the IMF, which is insisting on the IHSS's privatization. Keeping witnesses alive through the investigation is also a challenge, according to the piece.
- Belgian lawmakers are considering a proposal to limit so-called "vulture investors." The law would affect funds that have purchased government debt at rock-bottom prices from high-risk countries on the brink of default and subsequently seeking repayment for the full value of the bonds. Lawmakers seek to limit the funds from seizing assets in Belgium belonging to the indebted nation, reports the Wall Street Journal. NML Capital Ltd, a hedge fund embroiled for more than a decade in a dispute with Argentina over debt repayment, recently demanded Belgian banks freeze about €52,000 in Argentine accounts.
- Brazil's central bank reaffirmed its commitment to bring down rampant inflation, reports theWall Street Journal. The efforts will require “determination and perseverance” according to the minutes of the bank’s monetary-policy committee and will involve hawkish measures, according to some analysts.
- El Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) released it's annual report on human rights in Argentina last month. The consolidation of human rights as a public policy pillar is considered an important advance, while the report also notes repressive actions on the part of security forces constitute an area of concern. Human rights vulnerabilities are concentrated in certain areas and groups, said the executive director Gastón Chillier in Página 12. The latest report, which comes on the organization's 35th anniversary covers 2013-2014 and goes into specific detail regarding human rights trials for abuses during the Dirty War; security Forces and penal Institutions; the international agenda; and social, cultural and economic rights.
- Fun Friday feature: The Los Angeles Times has an account on the growing popularity of yage/ayahuasca tourism in the Amazon.