BORDER STRIFE: Venezuela/Colombia & Haiti/Dominican Republic
Venezuela and Colombia have recalled their ambassadors, escalating tensions between them, according to the Associated Press. (While the Ven Foreign Minister tweeted her solidarity with the Colombian people yesterday, the Colombian newsweekly Semana explains the heightened tension in Colombia). The New York Times focuses on the hundreds of Colombians fleeing back home across the Venezuela border as Maduro threatened to raze down a border town, while the AP reports on Colombians who fled their own civil war years ago and now face an anti-immigrant crackdown in their new home.
Semana and the BBC have stark videos of individual Colombians explaining how they left 'with only the clothes on backs.' Pres. Santos said “raiding houses, removing the inhabitants by force, separating families, not allowing them to take with them their few belongings and marking the houses in order to demolish them later on, these are totally unacceptable actions that recall bitter episodes of humanity that must not be repeated." Santos has received united support across the political spectrum, according to El Espectador. Foreign Policy suggests "Colombians Are Paying to Save the Venezuelan Regime" in the sense that they are the pawns in an electoral strategy by Pres. Maduro. A Venezuelan blogger on Pro DaVinci says this just might work.
In other border news: the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic is still heated, according to the Miami Herald and Agence France Press, where the "Dominican truckers’ strike entered its 32nd day and frustrated Haitians block[ing] a road to the border." The U.S. Ambassador in Port-au-Prince, Pamela White, said she doesn’t want to link “truckers, which I am furious about, and the deportations, which I am not furious about.” The Dominican truckers’ strike "greatly concerns the United States, which has invested hundreds millions of dollars" in a local industrial park there. Dominican Today suggests that the truckers' union still holds the cards. Ambassador White is transitioning from her post in September and says, "I leave without a good understanding of what was going on in the political field."
- Guatemalans hosted massive rallies yesterday against the corruption led by President, many communicating through the #27A hashtag (August 27). As the protestors convened, Pres. Pérez Molina reiterated his refusal to resign, in an interview with Radio Sonora. Groups representing U.S. interests made interesting comments on social media: the US Embassy in Guatemala retweeted yesterday's NYT editorial calling for the resignation of the President; while McDonalds tweeted that they would close all their stores in support of the marches, Burger King called for a corruption-free country and declared Guatemala was the King for the day. Semana Economica and WOLA post an overviews of 'What's Happening in Guatemala's Political Crisis?'
- A Salvadoran government website, Transparencia Activa, brings up a 5-year old video that shows opposition leader Rodrigo Avila (ARENA) warning against a CICIG counterpart in their country.
- Bloomberg dives into the thousands of documents released in Mexico last week that cleared the president and his wife of wrongdoing, but quotes several officials and opposition leaders that it just doesn't "pass the smell test" and that the investigation is an “offensive joke.” The Democratic Revolution Party said on its website the verdict “lacks credibility. The probe was led by the federal comptroller, who reports directly to Pres. Pena Nieto.
- Why are Brazil’s environmentalists being murdered? asks the Washington Post. The reasons "are simple," writes the newspaper: "The country’s land ownership is among the most concentrated and unequal in the world, leading to conflicts between subsistence farmers or indigenous groups and well-connected landowners." Between 2002 and 2013, at least 448 environmentalists were killed in Brazil, about half of all the environmentalists murdered worldwide, according to Global Witness.
- Environmental activists in Ecuador are feeling the squeeze, according to an essay in Foreign Affairs. The piece includes a review of what has happened at the Yasuni National Park, "one of the most biodiverse places in the world, but [which] also contains 20 percent of Ecuador's crude oil." Many supporters of the president, the article suggests, have now turned against him as a result of his environmental politics which are becoming "increasingly authoritarian."
- Half way through his 6-year term, Mexico's Pres. Peña Nieto shuffles his cabinet, according to Milenio and the Wall Street Journal. Most worrisome, says Proceso is that he is naming his third leader in three years for his Cabinet-level Comisión Nacional de Seguridad (CNS), suggesting that he doesn't know how to responde to the crisis of violence and citizen security. Keep an eye out for Manlio Fabio Beltrones, says Reuters about the Minister who moves from the Foreign Ministry to the Social Development Ministry - he is a top candidate for the 2016 dedazo.
- WOLA highlights (and translates) an interview Colombian legal expert Rodrigo Uprimny (De Justicia) gave to Verdad Abierta about the peace process. "His message here combines optimism and alarm. A peace accord could come sooner than we think, he says, because negotiations are advancing fast. However, Colombia’s legal system is not prepared either to ratify or to implement it."
- Five leading opposition candidates have been disqualified from running for office in Venezuela’s upcoming elections, according to Human Rights Watch, which in turns calls for other organizations (like OAS, UNASUR and MercoSur) to denounce these infringements on democracy.
- This past week the “Next Generation Democracy for the Americas” forum was convened in Colombia in which several former Latin American presidents participated. It was organized by IDEA, FLASCO among others at the Universidad de los Andes. Learn more about this initiative here and see the conference photo gallery here.
- Brazil's Prosecutor General was voted in 59-12 for another term by the Senate, according to Reuters. Rodrigo Janot is leading "a massive corruption investigation that has put dozens of politicians under scrutiny for allegedly receiving kickbacks."
- Brazil's big bet on a China-driven commodity boom is going sour and the country is now looking at another "lost decade," according to the Wall Street Journal. The country is likely already in a recession, says Reuters. And while the The Economist argues that Brazil's tanking economy could be as disastrous as political corruption, market traders tell Bloomberg it is most certainly politics and not economics that could sink the country in the end.