Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Venezuela increasingly isolated/IACHR censures Nicaraguan repression (May 22, 2018)

In the wake of President Nicolás Maduro's highly questioned reelection, Venezuela found itself the object of further U.S. sanctions and international opprobrium. U.S. President Donald Trump placed new sanctions limiting how U.S. companies and citizens can do business with Venezuela, including its state-owned oil company, reports the New York Times

The order aims to prevent the purchase of Venezuelan debt and and state assets at fire sale prices, reports the Washington Post. Though they complicate oil exports, they remain somewhat symbolic say experts. The new sanctions fall short of a full oil embargo, and still permit buying and selling of Venezuelan oil products. 

A full embargo would likely increase misery in Venezuela, but could also impact U.S. and regional economic interests.

Venezuela has increasingly leaned on China and Russia for credit, and a U.S. official said the Trump administration is pushing those countries to avoid issuing new debt, reports Reuters.

The Lima Group, which includes Brazil, Colombia and 14-other countries from the hemisphere, said it did not recognize the legitimacy of the elections, and the German and U.K. governments also criticized the process. Today the European Union lamented that the government had not guaranteed free and fair elections, reports Efecto Cocuyo.

The diplomatic pressure will increase Venezuela's reliance on Russia, China, Iran, Turkey and Cuba, all of which offered Maduro congratulations after Sunday's vote, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Opposition leaders within Venezuela said that if Maduro pushes forward and is sworn in to a new six-year term in 2019, he will have seized power, reports the Associated Press.

International pressure is more relevant than ever as the fractured political opposition within the country appears increasingly powerless, reports the Associated Press.

But international pressure alone will not topple the government, and should instead focus on strengthening domestic pressure which has largely died off after protests last year were violently repressed, argues Mark Feierstein in Americas Quarterly.

The opposition must find a way to overcome internal divisions and old grudges, and construct power from below, writes Alberto Barrera Tyszka in a New York Times Español op-ed

In fact, the key to Maduro's eventual overthrow likely lies in the popular classes that have until now supported him, argues Gabriel Hetland in The Nation.

Sunday's results preclude an electoral resolution to the country's crisis in the near future, writes Tulio Hernández in a New York Times Español op-ed, in which he argues that the options left open range from a military coup, a popular uprising, or a foreign intervention -- or a mix of the three. 

Other Venezuela news
  • Malaria infection rates have made a comeback in Venezuela, once seen as a global example of eradication, reports the Guardian. The incidence of the disease increased 69 percent in 2017 over the previous year, five times higher than the 2013 rate. All part of the country's growing healthcare crisis with growing maternal mortality, tuberculosis and HIV infection rates, for example.
News Briefs

  • The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned the Nicaraguan government's response to protests. The IACHR found that the government's crackdown resulted in rights abuses, torture and possibly murder. A visiting investigative mission found that  documented that since April 18 at least 76 people were killed, and 868 injured, reports Reuters. The preliminary report found that there might be evidence of extrajudicial executions, and urged the government to stop repressing protests. The commission found that there was "disproportionate use of force" and "indiscriminate" use of firearms, rubber bullets, tear gas and possibly even snipers by security forces seeking to break up protests, reports el Confidencial. (See yesterday's briefs.) 
  • The list of 76 dead is far higher than initial estimates, and comes from the government itself, which up until yesterday had only recognized about a dozen deaths, reports el Confidencial. The number is higher than estimates from rights organizations, which said they would be comparing data.
  • The Nicaraguan government accepted to address the list of 15 recommendations, reports DPA. And the Catholic Church Episcopal Conference together with the “Civic Unity Alliance for Justice and Democracy”, made up of students, business people and civil society, agreed to establish mechanisms to monitor compliance.
  • In the National Dialogue discussions yesterday, the University Coalition proposed a framework for democratic transition, which would immediately oust President Daniel Ortega, reports Confidencial.
  • Presidential front-runner Andrés Manuel López Obrador has caused polemic with a proposal to amnesty criminals, as a radical counter to the failed war on drugs policy. Little more is known about how it would work, as he has been intentionally vague, writes Luis Gómez Romero in the Conversation. But there are hints that it would be considered a transitional justice program of sorts, though its not clear what would compel criminal organizations to sign up. He is the only candidate, however, to venture out side of tired old, law-and-order style promises.
  • Three dozen electoral candidates have been killed in Mexico since last September, raising a unique challenge for political parties seeking to fill the slots left empty on ballots in the bloodiest campaign season on record, reports the Washington Post. (See last Tuesday's post.)
  • The OAS anti-corruption mission in Honduras is under serious threat reports the American University in its latest MACCIH Monitor publication. The international commission's most important judicial cases face significant obstacles, and the public prosecutor proposed by the OAS has not yet been accepted by the Honduran government. Spokeperson Juan Jiménez Mayor's resignation in February left the mission open to criticism of lack of support and fund mismanagement. And lawmakers accused of corruption are challenging the agreement that created MACCIH, which could lead to the dismantling of the commission.
  • Honduran drug kingpin Sergio Neftali Mejia-Duarte received a life sentence in a U.S. court for drug trafficking, reports Voice of America.
  • A verdict is expected in the Molina Theissen case this week, a landmark human rights trial focused on a 1981 enforced disappearance, reports the International Justice Monitor.
  • An old CIA memo has given new proof of human rights violations under Brazil's dictatorship (see May 14's briefs) and is fueling calls to reexamine the country's amnesty law and reestablish a Truth Commission, reports the Washington Post.
  • Unpopular President Michel Temer has officially decided not to run for election in October, and will instead through his (rather null) support behind his former finance minister, Henrique Meirelles. Both were polling in the low single digits, reports Reuters.
  • If Brazil has become the poster-child for zealous prosecution of corruption, Argentines have largely ignored the Lava Jato investigation evidence pointing towards wrongdoing in their own country, writes investigative journalist Hugo Alconada Mon in a New York Times Español op-ed. Politicians of diverse political stripes and business leaders share an aversion to delving into corruption that could land many of them in jail, as has happened in Brazil, he argues. But more significant is the apathy of the Argentine public, a key factor in an eventual fight against impunity.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take?  Let me know ... Latin America Daily Briefing

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