Tuesday, June 20, 2017

OAS fails to reach Venezuela consensus again (June 20, 2017)

OAS foreign ministers failed to reach an agreement on a resolution criticizing the government of Venezuela, reports Reuters. The proposal put forward by Peru, Canada, the United States, Mexico and Panama and backed by twenty countries, called for the government of President Nicolas Maduro to be condemned, and singled out his unpopular plan to rewrite the constitution, reports TeleSUR. But they fell short of the two-thirds majority needed. 

An alternate resolution proposed by Caribbean countries also failed to pass, reports the Financial Times. The Caricom resolution called for an "internal" solution "based on dialogue" and rejected potential international intervention, but several countries protested the submission procedures.

The ministers met in Cancún, following a failure to reach consensus at a May meeting. The issue was postponed to a later session without a determined date.

In the meantime, protests in Caracas headed into their 80th day, and supporters and critics of chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega Díaz came to blows outside the prosecutor general's main office, reports EFE.

The Prosecutor General’s Office is documenting investigations of injuries in the protests -- and has charged security officers in 10 cases out of 67 deaths. Alleged violations of fundamental rights are a key element in more than half of the more than 1,200 investigations of injuries during the protests.

Ortega has increasingly become a leading voice of internal criticism. Human Rights Watch notes that her legal challenges to the government "and the justice system’s reaction to them has been to create a paper trail of what is probably the heart of today’s institutional crisis in Venezuela: the absolute lack of judicial independence."

News Briefs
  • Cuba's foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez, vehemently rejected Trump's new policy towards the island, reports the New York Times. He called it a "grotesque spectacle" and vowed that his country "will never negotiate under pressure or under threat." Rodríguez marked that the economic pressure the U.S. hopes to exert on the government has not worked in the past. "The measures announced will not accomplish their declared objectives, to the contrary," he said. "These measures do not recognize the overwhelming majority opinion of the Cuban people that want to have a better relationship with the American people." The new policy aims to restrict influx of U.S. tourism dollars to military-owned industry, but will also impact cooperatives and private business owners, noted Rodríguez. The minister said instead the policies would create unity behind the island's communist government, reports the Associated Press. He also said that fugitives such as Assata Shakur – formerly known as Joanne Chesimard – would not be returned because the US had no "legal or moral basis" to demand their return, notes the Guardian. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Incendiary rhetoric aside, former U.S. President Barak Obama succeeded in making significant aspects of his engagement policy irreversible, notes William Leogrande on the Aula Blog. "Why such a flaccid set of sanctions from a president who stood on the stage in Little Havana and demonized the Cuban regime as brutal, criminal, depraved, oppressive, murderous, and guilty of “supporting human trafficking, forced labor, and exploitation all around the globe”? Because Obama’s strategy of creating constituencies in favor of engagement worked."
  • The opening between the U.S. and Cuba brought stories about Google and Netflix disembarking on the island. In reality internet access is still difficult to come by. A Harper's piece looks at El Paquete -- dubbed the Cuban Netflix -- a hard drive subscribed to by about half the country's population, that brings magazine articles, Hollywood films, ­YouTube videos, phone apps, classified ads, and more to people's homes. It's the largest private industry on the island -- it generates at least $1.5 million a week and though illegal, is tolerated by a government that turns a blind-eye.
  • Panama's government is offering a hundred Cuban refugees, stranded en-route to the U.S., a return trip home and start-up capital to start their own business, reports the Miami Herald.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal that would have allowed Ecuadorean villagers and their American lawyer from trying to collect on an $8.65 billion pollution judgment issued against Chevron Corp in an Ecuadorean court, reports Reuters.
  • Jamaica's homicide rate has risen sharply this year, a likely symptom of crackdowns on gangs that have splintered illegal groups, reports InSight Crime.
  • In the midst of a reinvigorated press environment in the Trump era, Univision stands out for the importance it holds for its Spanish speaking audience, reports the New York Times. The organization has focused on debunking rumors and producing vital information for "Hispanics in the United States, citizen and noncitizen alike — a core audience that has an almost existential stake in the Trump administration’s policies." The NYT looks at how it draws on a growing pool of journalistic talent from Latin America, leaving because of threats in their home countries.
  • Two Dutch journalists were abducted in Colombia's Catacumbo region, where several armed groups -- including the ELN -- operate, reports the BBC.
  • In the wake of long, and conflictive strikes in Colombia's Chocó department and the city of Buenaventura, WOLA looks at the factors that led to the civic strikes, the outcome of the strikes, and how the U.S. government can best support efforts to address the structural issues that led to the strikes.
  • Paraguayan senator and former president, Fernando Lugo, was elected head of the country's Congress, just days before the five year anniversary of the coup that ousted him from office. Paradoxically, the same senators who voted to oust Lugo in 2012 were also the ones who elected him as head of Congress in what political analysts call a strategy to reach political stability, reports TeleSUR.
  • A new data map, Silent Forest, makes an urgent case for improved protection of the Brazilian Amazon, reports the Guardian. The project assesses the extent and impact of forest degradation – a largely man-made phenomenon that is less well-known than land clearance, but is seen by scientists as potentially more of a problem for the climate and biodiversity.
  • Brazil's intelligence chief casually outed a CIA spy in a publicly available agenda of the spymaster’s meetings on June 9. The episode shows the tension between publicity required of government and secrecy central to intelligence tasks in Brazil, reports the New York Times.
  • A different wall: Ecuador is building a wall along part of its frontier with Peru, prompting a diplomatic spat between the two countries, reports the Guardian.
  • An auditorium at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) has been occupied by a changing cast of political protesters for the past 17 years -- a situation that shows no sign of changing anytime soon, reports the New York Times. The occupation originally started with a student strike in 1999, but now seems unrelated to the actual student body of the university.
  • A police raid in Buenos Aires uncovered a trove of Nazi paraphernalia that likely belonged to high-ranking Nazis in Germany during the second world war, reports the Associated Press. Interpol agents found the stash after they became aware of a collector of historical artifacts who they say had procured some of his items illegally, reports the Washington Post.
  • The Peruvian government is experimenting with measures to limit the influx of tourists to Machu Picchu, which the UNESCO has repeatedly threatened to add to a list of endangered world heritage sites, reports the Guardian.
  • Floods earlier this year in Peru hit Lima's self-built homes hard, reports the Guardian. A long history of lack of public housing, combined with a policy of gradually giving slums basic services, means many homes are built in vulnerable locations without adequate safety, reports the Guardian.

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