Friday, May 25, 2018

Maduro rushes reinauguration (May 25, 2018)

News Briefs

  • President Nicolás Maduro was sworn in yesterday for a second, six-year term. The inauguration was moved up by eight months, after an election considered a sham by the country's political opposition and many governments world-wide, reports the Wall Street Journal. The ceremony was held before the National Constituent Assembly, a supra-congressional body created last year by Maduro and considered illegitimate by the opposition and many international observers. Maduro promised to released some jailed opposition activists, boost oil production and open dialogue with business leaders, reports Reuters.
  • Civil society group Foro Penal Venezolano said the government arrested 15 senior military officials around the election. The arrests came in the context of a government investigation into an alleged conspiracy, reports Reuters. Nine were charged Monday with military rebellion, treason, mutiny and crimes against military decorum. Yesterday Maduro said authorities have been dismantling conspiracies, including a plan allegedly financed by the U.S. and Colombia to divide the armed forces and avoid last Sunday's election, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
  • A central criticism of Venezuela's election on Sunday was government use of much needed aid to push people to vote -- Reuters reports that cash prizes and access to welfare programs were among the incentives.
  • A new InSight Crime investigation into Venezuela's criminal dynamics focuses on the border with Colombia, now one of the main territories for illicit groups in the region. The two countries' separate dynamics are working symbiotically to feed into criminal enterprises such as cocaine, contraband fuel, and illegal mining. Venezuelan border states have become sanctuaries, where Colombian guerrillas and criminal groups exercise considerable influence, according to the report.
  • Wall Street Journal correspondent Anatoly Kurmanaev reflects on Venezuela's crisis, through the lens of growing up in post-Soviet Russia.
  • For the Wall Street Journal Colombian voters will be choosing between "a law-and-order conservative versus a former guerrilla and admirer of the late Venezuelan strongman, Hugo Chávez," in Sunday's presidential elections. (See yesterday's post.) 
  • In the wake of the FARC demobilization, lethal violence against farmers seeking to reclaim lands by paramilitary groups has been a consistent issue, reports NACLA.
  • A landslide at Colombia's Ituango hydroelectric dam this week forced about 26,000 people to evacuate. Activists say the case highlights the project's risks to local communities and the environment, reports Reuters.
  • The Trump administration continues to conflate the MS13 street gang with illegal migration to the U.S. Speaking in Long Island yesterday, U.S. President Donald Trump insisted that gang members have "exploited glaring loopholes" to "enter the country as unaccompanied minors." The White House doubled down on the characterization of the gang members as "animals." The strategy, however, leads to ineffective policies that could actually hinder strategies to counter gang expansion, warns InSight Crime.
  • Alicia Díaz González was killed in her home in Nuevo León, the fifth journalist assassinated so far this year, reports Animal Político. She was found dead by her children with stabbing wounds in her neck, and evidence of beating on her face and head. Díaz González collaborated with El Financiero and the Grupo Reforma owned El Norte.
  • Legal gun sales are tightly controlled in Mexico -- on average 38 are sold each day to civilians. But an estimated 580 are smuggled in illegally from the U.S., a disparity feeding into Mexico's unprecedented levels of gun violence, reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • The United Nations human rights office called for an investigation into the deaths of three indigenous men, killed by a military patrol in eastern Honduras, as well as the wounding of three children in protests in the area the next day, reports the Associated Press. Rights groups say the soldiers used unnecessary force.
  • Former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli will stop fighting extradition from the U.S. to face charges in his home country of using public funds to spy on political opponents, reports Reuters.
  • Argentina's Chamber of Deputies will likely vote on a bill to legalize abortion next month. The proposed legislation has the support of over 70 lawmakers from several parties, but needs to obtain 129 votes to pass to the Senate, reports the Associated Press. The vote comes as activists have highlighted the case of a 10-year-old girl denied an abortion in the province of Salta. The pregnancy is the result of abuse by her step-father, but authorities refused to carry out an abortion (permitted in these circumstances by Argentine legislation) because the pregnancy was only detected at week 19 of gestation, reports Página 12.
  • Paraguayan Vice President Alicia Pucheta apologized on behalf of the state to relatives of four opposition activists who were “disappeared” by authorities during the 1954-1989 Alfredo Stroessner dictatorship, reports EFE.
  • Eighteen Waorani indigenous communities are petitioning to stop oil drilling in their territory in Ecuador's Amazon, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Wind-farms on Brazil's northern Atlantic coast could become a powerful industry -- now some authorities are proposing a tax, hoping to cash in on potential profits, reports the New York Times.



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