Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Venezuela in "selective default" (Nov. 14, 2017)

Venezuela is in selective default according to Standard & Poors, an international credit ratings agency. "Selective default" is used when a country has failed to pay one or more of its financial obligations when it came due, reports the BBC. Venezuela's state-run oil company PDVSA has also been declared in default by rating agencies Fitch and Moody's.

A meeting with creditors yesterday in Caracas was brief and lacked concrete proposals for restructuring debt, reports the Wall Street Journal. Most major investment funds skipped yesterday's meeting, some citing concern over meeting with head negotiator, Vice President Tareck El Aissami, who is blacklisted by the U.S. for alleged drug trafficking. Some bondholders stayed out of the room while El Aissami and Economy Minister Simon Zerpa, who is also the target of U.S. sanctions, were present. (See yesterday's post.)

The "short and confused meeting" offered no plan for restructuring or refinancing the country's $60 billion in debt, though investors were gifted boxes of chocolate, notes Reuters.

Venezuela continues to divide the international community. (See yesterday's post.) Yesterday, the U.S. denounced Venezuela as a global threat in an informal U.N. Security Council meeting yesterday on the deteriorating situation in the country, reports Efecto Cocuyo. Russia, China, Egypt and Bolivia refused to attend and said the body should stay out of the situation, related to the country's domestic affairs, reports Reuters. Venezuela's U.N. ambassador denounced the meeting as "hostile act" in violation of Venezuela's sovereignty, reports the New York Times. Uruguay sent a representative, but clarified that it does not believe the situation in Venezuela is a threat to international peace and security.

Julio Henríquez, representing local rights group Foro Penal, spoke at the meeting about the dramatic increase in political prisoners and use of force against anti-government protesters. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also mentioned abuses against protesters, documented by his office, and voiced concern that human rights violations in Venezuela could have a destabilizing effect on the region, according to Efecto Cocuyo.

Venezuela aside: There are all kinds of medicine shortages affecting the country. A woman who gave testimony about lack of medication to prevent rejection of her transplanted kidney died shortly after, reports Efecto Cocuyo.

News Briefs
  • Candidates for promotion in Colombia's army include five officers linked by strong evidence to extrajudicial killings that are under criminal investigation, denounced Human Rights Watch. Four colonels and one army general on the list of 22 have been credibly linked to “false positive” killings and other abuses under their watch, according to HRW. The Colombian Senate is set to decide the promotions in the next few weeks, but resumes released by the Defense Ministry were incomplete about these officers' records. "False positives" refers to the systematic killings of innocent civilians between 2002 and 2008 to boost body counts in the country’s long-running armed conflict. "Human Rights Watch research has shown that patterns in false-positive cases – including their systematic nature and the implausible circumstances of many of the reported combat killings – strongly suggest that commanders of units responsible for a significant number of killings knew or had reason to know about them." 
  • Human Rights Watch has reported on a military directives linking honors and advancement to enemy combatant deaths. Most recently the organization discovered a 2003 formula requiring 150 enemy combatant deaths and another 500 captured in order for a brigade captain to receive a medal for distinguished services, reports Semana.
  • A soda tax aimed at reducing consumption of sugary beverages in Colombia became a fierce battle between rights groups and soda corporations, reports the New York Times in a feature piece that goes in depth on the threats faced by activists and pressures on media outlets.
  • About 90 percent of cases of child rape remain unpunished in El Salvador, where judges have leeway to pardon the crime even when its proved. Magistrates often appeal to character traits or try to force the victim and aggressor to form a home together, reports El Faro.
  • "Online manipulation and disinformation tactics played an important role in elections in at least 18 countries over the past year, including the United States," according to a new Freedom House report. In Latin America, Venezuela was "among 30 countries where governments were found to employ armies of 'opinion shapers' to spread government views, drive particular agendas, and counter government critics on social media." 
  • U.S. prosecutors accused three former South American football officials of taking millions of dollars in bribes as part of a broad corruption network within Fifa, reports the Guardian. The former heads of the football federations of Brazil, Paraguay and Peru denied the charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering. It's the first trial since a high profile arrest of football officials in Zurich in 2015. The trial will focus on how marketing and sponsorship rights were sold for two major South American tournaments, the Copa América and the Copa Libertadores, as well as the Brazilian domestic tournament Copa do Brasil. US Assistant Attorney Keith Edelman told jurors the evidence will show abuse over 20 years, reports the BBC.
  • A German court granted a Peruvian farmer's demand to sue energy giant RWE for damages related to climate change threatening his Andean home. Though the victory is small -- the case will be permitted to proceed -- it is significant, reports the Guardian. It could potentially grant precedent for plaintiffs around the world.
  • The "Weinstein Effect" is spreading around the globe, as women and men emboldened by reports of sexual harassment come forward with stories of their own. Nearly half of the “#metoo” mentions since the movement has been launched have come from outside the U.S., reports the Associated Press, referencing Peruvian beauty contestants decision to cite gender violence statistics instead of their body measurements. (See last Wednesday's briefs.)

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