Thursday, July 5, 2018

Trump was serious about invading Venezuela (July 5, 2018)

An Associated Press report found that U.S. President Donald Trump's references to a military solution for Venezuela's crisis last year were serious. Sources detail how Trump insisted on a potential invasion of the crisis-wracked country, despite protestations from senior advisors and regional leaders.

But the episode also demonstrated how bellicose rhetoric can backfire -- as the Washington Post pointed out, even discussion of a military solution benefited the government. Trump's bluster temporarily strengthened embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro who was able to marshal popular anger against U.S. intervention. 

And an invasion would almost certainly alienate even allies in the region, many of which condemned Trump's statements about an invasion last August.


Violence in Colombia's Cauca

A campaign coordinator for former presidential candidate Gustavo Petro was killed yesterday. (Semana) Ana María Cortes, Petro's campaign secretary in Cáceres in Bajo Cauca was killed in a restaurant, just days after he denounced systematic threats against his supporters. In the wake of her death Petro called on president-elect Iván Duque to speak against political murders, and said Cortes had been threatened by the municipal police chief. (La FM)

The assassination comes in a bloody week for Colombia's social leaders -- seven have been killed over the past eight days. (El Espectador) A New York Times Español op-ed yesterday put this year's tally of murdered social leaders at 98. (See yesterday's briefs.)

WOLA has an urgent call to action detailing human rights violations in June.

La Silla Vacía explains that illicit mining and drug trafficking are fodder for the violence in Cauca which will be a key challenge for Duque.

News Briefs

  • A family with two young children were killed in a fire allegedly set by 50 masked men, members of the country's shadowy "parapolice" operating against anti-government protesters. The government claims the family was killed by groups of vandals and criminals operating against the Ortega administration. (Guardian)
More on Venezuela
  • Fifty countries, led by Peru, urged Venezuela to permit humanitarian assistance to enter the country. “We are concerned by accounts concerning serious human rights violations that include extrajudicial killings, excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests, torture and ill-treatment, and the lack of access to justice,” Peruvian Ambassador Claudio Julio de la Puente Ribeyro said in the joint statement to the U.N. Human Rights Council. (Reuters)
  • Venezuela announced that it will receive $250 million from the China Development Bank to boost oil production. (Reuters)
  • Venezuela's largest independent newspaper is fighting to stay alive, in the face of a lawsuit from a top government official and blocking of its website, reports the Washington Post. It's part of an increasing onslaught against the country's critical press: 54 radio and television stations have been shut down over the past 18 months and government officials have filed lawsuits in the pro-Maduro courts against the owners of at least 25 outlets on charges of libel, defamation and incitement.
  • The Economist predicts AMLO will weaken the coalition pushing for democracy in Venezuela.
  • President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador's Morena party and allies will hold a majority in the incoming Congress, though they will not have the two-thirds majority required to change the constitution. (Reuters)
  • AMLO promised $7.5 billion for youth job training and aid to the elderly. The programs will form the cornerstone of his first year in office, and will benefit the business sector which will get a chunk of cash to pay apprentice salaries, reports the Associated Press.
  • Truthout reports on the efforts of the Red Universitaria y Ciudadana por la Democracia to stamp out fraud in last Sunday's elections. 
  • A study by a Spanish analytics firm found that a relatively small number of Morena supporters generated over 20 percent of social media activity during a recent period of the campaign. The same study found that local media had far more impact on social media that international media, including RT and CNN. (Animal Político)
  • Actually electing AMLO is just the beginning of the battle for Mexico's left, which must now adapt to the challenges of governing after decades in the opposition, argues Humberto Beck in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • Ecuador's chief prosecutor demanded the arrest and extradition from Belgium of former president Rafael Correa, who is being investigated in connection with the 2012 kidnapping of an opposition legislator in Colombia. The order was given because the court requested he appear before authorities in Quito every two weeks, rather than checking in at the Brussels consulate. (TeleSUR) Correa told the Associated Press that the case is politically motivated and plans to remain in Belgium.
  • Ten people implicated in the La Línea corruption scandal were released from prison while awaiting trial, raising questions of corruption in Guatemala's judiciary. (InSight Crime)
  • A month after the eruption of Guatemala's Fuego volcano, authorities raised the number of missing to 322. (Reuters)
  • Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez proposed a reform of the penitentiary system that would shift towards better rehabilitation for inmates -- a bill contrary to regional trends, notes InSight Crime.
  • Brazilian President Michel Temer has just 4 percent approval rating, but a group of candidates to replace him  -- including Marina Silva and Jair Bolsonaro -- largely said they'd maintain his policies. (See yesterday's briefs on their chances in the October election.) In fact, far-right candidate Bolsonaro said the private sector should have more liberties, since businessmen "should rule." Speaking at the same business summit, only Democratic Labor Party candidate Ciro Gomes, said he would work to revoke the country's labor reform, despite booing from the audience. (EFE)
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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