Thursday, April 28, 2016

Lootings and protests in Venezuela (April 28, 2016)

Prolonged power and water cuts in Venezuela are fueling citizen anger and protests, just as a petition drive to trigger a recall referendum on President Nicolás Maduro gets underway. (See yesterday's post.)

There were lootings and riots in cities around the country, reports the Associated Press.

Caracas Chronicles reports on Maracaibo, where protests were particularly strong. About 3,500 troops were deployed to keep the peace yesterday, reports Efecto Cocuyo.

And Caracas Chronciles has a new interactive map documenting incidents of looting around the country.

Hundreds of people in Caracas and thousands in Maracaibo lined up yesterday, eager to add their signatures to the effort which kicked off yesterday, reports the Wall Street Journal.

But there are still many hoops to jump through before an eventual vote could be held. The opposition is now gathering nearly 200,000 signatures, representing 1 percent of the nation's more than 19 million voters. If they are successful, they will then have to collect a further four million signatures over three days to trigger an election. (See yesterday's post on the technical nuances set by the electoral board.)

A recent Venebarometro poll showed some 60 percent of people said they favored Maduro's resignation, reports the WSJ.

Separately, the Wall Street Journal has a photo essay showing Venezuelan's empty refrigerators.

In the midst of ever growing inflation, the country is actually in danger of running out of printed money now, reports Bloomberg.

Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights blogger David Smilde provides a wonderfully refreshing and interesting counterpoint to all the constant "disaster" reporting out of Venezuela. His post focuses on the everyday difficulties in moving around and obtaining groceries in Venezuela.

"For those who have enough money and are in good health, daily life in Caracas has become and endless series of uninteresting challenges interspersed with dirt-cheap delights. Stresses can be compensated for by the opportunities inevitably afforded by economic distortions. 

"But for the poor who depend on price-controlled goods and the sick who cannot obtain medicines it has become an endless series of cruel challenges interspersed with harsh realities. Opportunities for extra income through bachaqueo are confronted by the fact that it is next to impossible to really obtain the variety of price-controlled goods required by a household. And people with chronic illnesses can only wait for the moment when 'no hay' takes its toll."

News Briefs
  • Brazil's ever expanding political crisis could have some unexpected victims, including potential permanent damage to civil liberties in the country, argue Igarapé Institute's Robert Muggah and Nathan B. Thompson in the Boston Globe. They point to last month's scandal, when a judge released questionable wire taps of President Dilma Rousseff and former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, as an example of how judges and prosecutors are increasingly going after suspects' private data. "Draconian surveillance legislation is accumulating in the country’s legislature. Alongside China, India, and Russia, Brazil is turning into a key front in the fight for digital liberty and a bellwether of what’s to come around the world. ... The lines are drawn. On one side are multinational tech companies aligned with civil liberties groups who are defending open expression and rights to privacy. On the other are Brazil’s justice and law enforcement authorities and politicians seeking to expand the state’s surveillance and investigative capabilities. What’s missing is a sense of proportionality. The central debate between the two sides should be how to balance the legitimate needs of the criminal justice system with citizens’ personal freedoms, online and off."
  • Rio de Janeiro favela residents are "living in terror" after 11 people were killed in police shootings in the past month, according to Amnesty International. A surge in police killings augers ill for human rights 100 days ahead of Rio Olympics. There has been a surge in the police use of excessive force in Rio de Janeiro state in recent years, and the majority of victims are young black men from favelas and marginalized areas. (See post for Nov. 4, 2015.)
  • The director of Mexico's criminal investigation agency, Tomas Zeron, defended the handling of evidence in the case of 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students, after criticisms from an international panel of experts. (See Monday's and Tuesday's post's and yesterday's briefs.) He said he visited the site where charred bone fragments which could belong to the students were found on Oct. 29, 2014. He acknowledged visiting the same site the day before, but said no evidence was picked up that day, reports the Associated Press.
  • WOLA reports on the key findings of the IACHR-backed GIEI group, noting that their last report on Sunday focused principally on avenues of investigation that were ignored by the government, and how the official investigation's single-minded focus on one (increasingly challenged) hypothesis created obstacles to finding the truth of what happened to the missing students. (See Monday's and Tuesday's post's and yesterday's briefs.)
  • Two soldiers and three federal police officers in Mexico will stand trial in connection with the torture of a young woman that was caught on video. They are accused of torturing the woman after she was detained in February of last year in Guerrero, reports the Associated Press. (See Monday's briefs.)
  • A new financial-discipline law for Mexican states and municipalities aims lower borrowing costs for responsible local governments, while promoting financial discipline at the local level said President Enrique Peña Nieto yesterday. The move comes as the federal government is reducing spending in response to low oil prices, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Key parts of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet's landmark labor reform were declared unconstitutional by a court yesterday, invalidating union protection aspects just weeks before the legislation is due to take effect, reports Reuters.
  • Pulitzer Center report focuses on the difficulties caused by child protection legislation in El Salvador. While the 2010 Ley De Protección Integral De La Niñez Y Adolescencia (LEPINA) is aimed at protecting children's rights, an unintended negative effect has been to maintain youths in abusive households due to a focus on the right to a biological family.
  • A Peruvian peasant who won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize this year, is under harassment for her continued opposition to a large mining project seeking to move her off her land, reports TeleSur. She is a subsistence farmer who has kept mining giant Newmont from opening at $4.8 billion open-pit copper and gold mining project. (See April 21's briefs.) She reported that gunmen opened fire at her house while she was away to receive the accolade and her husband was home alone. The Yanococha mining company is holding her family prisoner in their home, limiting their freedom of movement and constantly intimidating them, she told TeleSur. A previous winner of the Goldman prize, Honduran Berta Cáceres, was murdered last month. (See March 4's post.)
  • A sibling squabble between the Fujimori scions in Peru could endanger the presidential chances of Keiko Fujimori in June's runoff election. She threatened to throw her younger brother Kenji Fujimori out of the political movement founded by their father, former President Alberto Fujimori, after Kenji said he'd run for president in 2021 if she loses this round, reports Reuters. His declaration fed into fears of a dynastic ambition in the family, and contradicts earlier statements from Keiko promising that no one with the Fujimori surname would seek the presidency in 2021.
  • Of the many shady dealings revealed by the "Panama Papers" document leak, the ones pertaining to Haiti show how politically connected characters negotiated questionable side deals in a petroleum deal, reports the Miami Herald. The data links a close friend of then-President Michel Martelly, Georges Andy René, who headed a government agency charged with promoting investment, with an effort to cash-in on a purchase of oil from Trinidad and Tobago.
  • In the wake of the "Panama Papers," the U.S. and Panama signed an information sharing deal that will formalize the Internal Revenue Service's ability to get information on U.S. citizens’ bank accounts in Panama, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Argentine President Mauricio Macri's austerity policies are contradicting his promises to work for "zero poverty" in the country. "Five months into his term, Macri's policies have so far swelled the ranks of the poor, souring public opinion and raising the risk of backlash against an economic overhaul that is winning over foreign investors," reports Reuters.
  • Victims of human rights abuses in a secretive German colony in Chile hope that Germany's decision to declassify documents will give them more information about the torture, slavery and child abuse that went on at Colonia Dignidad, reports the Associated Press.
  • Latin America's newly empowered middle class citizens are pushing forward anti-corruption and transparency efforts that are pushing back against a long-standing tradition of graft in the region, reports the Washington Post. The piece quotes Guatemala and Brazil as prime examples, but also notes that "new anti-corruption laws are on the books or are working their way through legislatures in Mexico, Colombia and Chile, a response to citizen demands for cleaner government."

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