Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Vatican to mediate between Venezuela's polarized politicians (Oct. 25, 2016)

The Vatican stepped into the increasingly tense Venezuelan political battle, where both the government and the opposition-led congress accuse each other of acting illegitimately. (See yesterday's post.)

Government representatives and Jesús Torrealba, the secretary general of the coalition of opposition parties, agreed to Vatican mediation in a dialogue expected to start this weekend, reports the Associated Press. Representatives will meet on Isla Margarita, under auspices of the Vatican and UNASUR, 

However, other opposition leaders did not attend the meeting, leaving open the issue of whether the opposition will maintain unity, reports the New York Times. Most of the MUD coalition's major parties said they would not participate. Leaders publicly argued yesterday, as the decision to enter a dialogue clashed with plans for a major street protest the opposition is calling for tomorrow, reports Reuters

The opposition has long rejected offers of talks with the government, saying negotiations would serve as a distraction from the country's economic woes. Other leaders say dialogue must be conditioned to the release of jailed opponents, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Leopoldo López, a jailed opposition leader, wrote in a series of Twitter messages that a dialogue was “not possible” after the recall referendum was suspended and “the people’s right to express themselves was robbed,” notes the NYT. And Henrique Capriles said he found out about the plan via television. 

Both ratified the call to protest tomorrow.

President Nicolás Maduro met with Pope Francis yesterday, in a surprise meeting in Rome. 

In a statement, the Vatican said the pope received Mr. Maduro "within the framework of the worrisome, political, social and economic situation that the country is going through," according to the WSJ.

(Earlier this month, Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights reported that Vatican mediation was one of the few things all parties could agree on.)

Student leaders reported 27 demonstrators against the government were injured in clashes with the police yesterday in San Cristobal, a hotbed of anti government sentiment, according to Reuters.

In a strange development, some opponent legislators have said they will present evidence today in the National Assembly that Maduro is a dual Colombian citizen, and therefore ineligible to hold the Venezuelan presidency, reports the Associated Press.

"Regional governments should press the administration of President Nicolás Maduro to adopt immediate measures to better address the profound humanitarian crisis, including by exploring avenues for increased international assistance," said Human Rights Watch yesterday. The group released a 78-page report, which "documents how the shortages have made it extremely difficult for many Venezuelans to obtain essential medical care or meet their families’ basic needs."

Yesterday Argentine President Mauricio Macri, in a press conference with his Uruguayan counterpart Tabaré Vásquez reiterated calls to expel Venezuela from the Mercosur trade bloc, citing the so-called "democratic clause," reports the Buenos Aires Herald. (See a Sept. posting in Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights on Venezuela's potential expulsion from the regional group.)

There's a useful Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights post from this weekend that has some more of the back and forth at the heart of the postponed recall referendum mess. And Hugo Prieto has an op-ed in New York Times Español from last Friday that gives helpful background on the referendum issue as well.

Mark Weisbrot mounts a defense of Chavista policies through 2014 and analyzes the economy's downward spiral for the past three years in Truthout. He argues that serious reforms are necessary to jumpstart the economy, including dismounting the multiple currency exchange rates, and expanding direct subsidies to low-income families to shield them from the ensuing spike in inflation. (See last Thursday's briefs on other proposals to save the country's economy from its current disaster.)

News Briefs
  • The U.N. is scrambling to implement a $400 million cholera response package in Haiti -- which would include compensation cash payments to victims or their communities. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been criticized for evading responsibility for the disease which experts say was introduced to Haiti by U.N. peacekeepers in the wake of a devastating 2010 earthquake. In recent months Ban has assumed moral responsibility, but lacks the funding for his proposed remediation program, which is expected to be officially rolled out soon. And critics say the organization is still avoiding legal responsibility for the epidemic, reports the New York Times
  • Colombia's second largest guerrilla group, the ELN, has accused the government of "torpedoing" peace talks before they begin Thursday. The rebels have balked at an ultimatum to release a hostage -- believed to be their last -- before the discussions can start, reports the BBC.
  • Brazilian police are investigating whether a woman who says she was attacked and gang-raped was previously attacked by the same group, reports the Associated Press. Another example of the rampant violence against women in Brazil and the region.
  • Brazil's weapons manufacturing is expanding at breakneck speed, and its products are increasingly turning up in world hot-spots such as Yemen, where thousands of civilians have died in an ongoing civil war, write Igarapé Institute's Robert Muggah and Nathan Thompson in a New York Times op-ed. They emphasize the lack of transparency of Brazilian arms sales, though sales have routinely been approved to countries with poor human rights records. The country's "unchecked arms industry and its involvement in foreign conflicts around the globe," threaten Brazil's legacy as an "international reputation as an advocate of peacebuilding and diplomacy." Measures they urge politicians to take include: full ratification of "the A.T.T., the development of more rigorous oversight and transparency mechanisms during the licensing and export process, and a stringent program to guarantee that weapons do not end up in the wrong hands. The country’s policies are dangerously out of date and out of control, generating real suffering at home and abroad."
  • Mexican authorities detained more than 20,000 unaccompanied migrants last year, mostly from Central America, reports AFP. That's more than double the previous year.
  • Tomorrow the U.N. is expected to once more issue a resolution agains the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. The 25th year running that Cuba obtains overwhelming international support for the end of the "blockade," reports the Miami Herald.
  • Four communities have refused to halt protests at Peru's Las Bambas mine, reports TeleSur. So far clashes between protesters and police this year have killed one more civilian, bringing the total tally of deaths since 2014 up to six.
  • Water provision is a top priority for Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, reports the Guardian. He has promised that all Peruvians should have 24-hour access to potable water and be connected to the sewerage system by the time he leaves office in 2021, and conserving watersheds is a key component of the plan.
  • Peruvian prosecutors asked a court to sentence a deputy minister to nine years of jail for alleged graft, a blow to PPK's tough on corruption discourse, reports Reuters.
  • Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández vowed not to stand by his brother if he is convicted in a drug-related crime, as alleged, reports AFP. (See last Tuesday's briefs.)

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