Thursday, June 23, 2016

Venezuela dire but not apocalyptic - The Nation (June 23, 2016)

A piece in The Nation offers a counterpoint to the dominant picture of apocalyptic collapse in Venezuela portrayed by international media. "Is Venezuela descending into a nightmarish scenario, as these stories suggest? To answer this question I’ve spent the last three weeks talking to dozens of people—rich and poor, Chavista and opposition, urban and rural—across Venezuela. My investigation leaves little doubt that Venezuela is in the midst of a severe crisis, characterized by triple-digit inflation, scarcities of basic goods, widespread changes in food-consumption patterns, and mounting social and political discontent. Yet mainstream media have consistently misrepresented and significantly exaggerated the severity of the crisis. It’s real and should by no means be minimized, but Venezuela is not in a state of cataclysmic collapse," writes Gabriel Hetland. 

He notes, as have many critics of the opposition, that such characterizations of Venezuela as a failed state prepare the ground for a foreign intervention. On a political note, he says many Chavista activists will not support the opposition, but voice significant criticisms of the current government. 

The piece reviews the difficult situation in obtaining certain food staples and medications, but presents a more tempered reality than the chaos presented in mainstream media over the past few months.

"The current domestic and international climate of fear-mongering, with escalating calls for foreign intervention and exaggerated predictions of Venezuela’s imminent demise, is far from propitious. Instead of encouraging imperial interventions that will only make change more difficult, the international community, including foreign journalists, should be working hard to provide accurate information about the dire, but not apocalyptic, situation confronting Venezuela."

News Briefs
  • Ahead of today's OAS debate over whether Venezuela violated the organization's Democratic Charter, a piece in Semana looks at how the issue has revived a discussion over the OAS's role defending democracy in the hemisphere. The agreement was signed in 2001, in the wake of Fujimori's rule in Peru in the 1990s, explain Jennifer McCoy and Héctor Vanoli. They defend Almagro's crusade against the Venezuelan government as a valuable contribution, that places the OAS back in the center stage after a period in which it lost protagonism to alternative regional organizations such as UNASUR.
  • Even as a top U.S. diplomat attempts to mediate between the Venezuelan government and the political opposition, another U.S. official defended its use of sanctions against Venezuela as a means of responding to "repression," reports Bloomberg.
  • Washington has high hopes for today's OAS meeting. A top State Department official told Reuters that they hope it will lead the formation of an alliance of interested nations to help resolve Venezuela's crisis.
  • More than two dozen people have signed up to run for Haiti's October presidential election redo. Unless that number increases significantly, it still means about half the candidates who competed in last year's questioned and ultimately discarded polls. That could mean an easier election, according to Reuters. Among the candidates who registered yesterday were the four lead candidates from last year. Several politicians who ran last time have pledged support for Jude Celestin, who came second in the previous ballot. The registration of Jovenel Moïse, the top vote getter in the elections which were marred by fraud and irregularities, lends legitimacy for the elections scheduled for Oct. 9, despite his party's threats to boycott the proceedings, according to the Miami Herald.
  • More analysis on the latest breakthrough in Colombian-FARC peace negotiations (see yesterday's post). The Washington Post emphasizes that while the agreement that will be announced today in Havana is not a final accord, it "essentially amounts to an end to the fighting. It means the two sides have worked through some of the most sensitive aspects of their negotiations, particularly the nuts and bolts of getting 7,000 heavily armed FARC fighters to come down from the mountains, lay down their guns and begin a transition to civilian life under the protection of Colombia’s security forces, their lifelong enemies." And the New York Times notes that about 60percent of Colombians are expected to ratify an eventual peace deal in a national referendum. "With the latest advance, only a few minor items remain to be worked out for a peace accord," explains the Associated Press. "The biggest is how the final deal will be ratified and given legal armor so it won't unravel should a more conservative government succeed Santos, who leaves office in 2018."
  • A U.N. mission to verify the eventual ceasefire is expected to begin in mid July, reports El País, and would comprised of about 400 unarmed observers, though many will be recruits from participating countries' security forces.
  • A new report presented by the Mexican government and the UNDOC places Mexico among the world's largest poppy producers. Opium production in the country has grown exponentially, from an estimated 26 tons in 2013 to 42 in 2014, reports El País.
  • Claudia Paz y Paz and Carlos Martin Beristain, who formed part of an independent commission investigating the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students in Mexico, called for a deep follow up investigation. They spoke in Geneva, where they met with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, reports the Guardian. "It is up to the state’s willingness to investigate what actually happened," Paz y Paz said. "We expect a strong follow-up mechanism."
  • Trump continues to have significant impact south of the border. The Guardian writes about how Trumps rise comes just as anti-American sentiment in Mexico was ebbing. He has stirred up nationalist sentiment again, concurs a piece in the New York Times. There's even a new word, "Trumpear," a play on the Spanish verb trompear, though its exact meaning is still unclear. And the political class has reacted with opportunism to the "perfect piñata." At home to, some citizens think he serves as a distraction from discontent with national politicians and rage over corruption and violent crime. And another piece in the Guardian argues that Trump is America's Hugo Chávez. "In the extemporized mix of bombast, menace and bawdy humor, the symbiotic relationship with crowds, the articulation of long-repressed grievances, Trump echoes the comandante."
  • Cuban migrants camped out in Ecuador as they attempt to reach the U.S. are pleading with Mexico for help continuing their journey, reports the Associated Press. They are hoping for an airlift similar to one that earlier this year carried Cubans stranded in Costa Rica to El Salvador where they were able to continue their journey. (See Jan 13's briefs.) 
  • Acting Brazilian President Michel Temer gave his first interview to foreign media to the Washington Post. He said "it will do the country no good to have two presidents in the beginning of the Olympic Games and at the opening ceremony." He also hedged on calling suspended President Dilma Rousseff corrupt: "She might have committed administrative mistakes, but I wouldn’t call her corrupt. I would be unable to tell you if this was corruption or not." He dismissed the danger of Zika, saying it's no longer a problem and that mosquito transmission of the disease is down in the country's winter season.
  • The suspended speaker of the lower house Eduardo Cunha was indicted yesterday by the Supreme Court on charges of money laundering and illegal currency dealing in relation to the Petrobras corruption investigation, reports Reuters.
  • Allies of suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff were arrested yesterday as part of the ongoing Petrobras corruption probe, reports Bloomberg. The federal police is carrying out 25 arrest and detention warrants and 40 search orders in five states, and yesterday detained Rousseff’s former communications minister, Paulo Bernardo.
  • Some articles in yesterday's briefs focused on the difficulties Peruvian president elect Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK) will face governing without the support of the ad-hoc leftist coalition that was critical for his narrow margin of victory in this month's elections. But in the Miami Herald, Andrés Oppenheimer emphasizes that PPK insists he will not allow their electoral support to taint his "criticism of Venezuela and other repressive regimes."


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