Monday, June 29, 2015

Venezuelan authorities throw opposition for a loop, require more women candidates (June 29, 2015)

Venezuela's National Election Council announced on Thursday that at least 40 percent of each party's candidates for the December National Assembly elections must be women. The announcement came the day after the 29-party opposition MUD coalition announced its list of candidates: out of 110, only 11 are women. It's not clear how the opposition will respond to this new requirement, reports the Miami Herald.

The ruling PSUV held primaries to select candidates yesterday, and about half of the candidates are women. Authorities say they are defending women's rights, and criticize the opposition MUD for lack of diversity among candidates. But opposition leaders say the move is intended to trip them up ahead of Decembers elections, where the PSUV might lose control of the National Assembly for the first time in a decade.

MUD leadership came out to criticize the changes, saying it's not fair to move the goalposts in the midst of the electoral process.

At the Caracas Chronicles, Audrey Dacosta lambasts the MUD leadership for not implementing better diversity policies ahead of elections this year. "... We’ve known this was coming since March. Bocaranda and Diosdi both warned us. And the MUD decided to look the other way. I mean, every election the CNE has been tugging our ears over our female participation," she writes. "It’s time to face it guys: the MUD has a sexism problem. It’s a sausage fest."

And Juan Cristobal Nagal, also from the Caracas Chronicles, though more critical of the government's moves, also says it's time for the MUD to face up to it's gender disparity issue.

"The other good thing that comes out of this is that it forces the MUD to be nimble and adapt. This is just the first salvo in the Tibi vs. the MUD war that will keep us gripped in the next few months. If the MUD can’t deal with this, then it won’t be able to deal with the tsunami of bull-crap coming their way, courtesy of the Revolution’s institutions – candidates disbarred, judicial investigations, torture, harassment, etc. They need to show their mettle, and they need to do it quickly. They have more than enough capable women in their ranks to fill Tibi’s absurd quotas," he writes.

And on the topic of government electoral moves, the Venezuelan government is keeping opposition leader Leopoldo López in jail as part of an electoral strategy to weaken the opposition, argues David Smilde at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights. The opposition is split among those who favor an electoral strategy against the government and those who favor a more radical approach, it's in the government's interest to strengthen the more radical minority, to the detriment of the opposition's electoral strategy. Also, keeping López in jail focuses the opposition on a "freedom" message, which fails to engage Venezuelan society at large.

But the Venezuelan government is paying a heavy international cost for imprisoning López and other political opponents, which at some point soon may shift the balance of the equation in favor of freeing him, says Smilde.

News Briefs

  • Thousands of angry Hondurans, as much as 25,000, again marched in Honduras on Friday demanding the resignation of President Juan Orlando Hernández, reports Reuters. A coalition of opposition political groups is demanding an independent investigation into a $200-million corruption scandal at the Honduran Institute of Social Security, where companies, some formed by institute officials, overcharged for services. 
  • Yesterday marks the six year anniversary of the presidential coup in Honduras that deposed President Mel Zelaya, for proposing constitutional reform that might have included overturning presidential term limits. (Of course, that happened this year and nobody seemed to care very much, see April 24th's post.) TeleSur notes that the numbers since the coup are pretty bad: "violence and poverty rates have skyrocketed in the country: 60 percent of Hondurans live below the poverty line, making it one of the poorest nations in the region. It is also the most deadly, with about 85 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. Murders target vulnerable populations like children (almost 1,000 died in 2014, partly explaining why so many flee north to the United States), women (the femicide rate has reached epidemic levels – one woman is killed every 14 hours), and activists: Honduras is the most dangerous place for environmentalists (over 100 killed between 2010 and 2014) and journalists (29 killed since the coup) and rural leaders."
  • "Far from being a discrete episode of US imperialism’s sordid past, the coup and its legacy remain a driving force in Honduran politics and society today," argues Counterpunch. "The beneficiaries and participants are all still either in government or have shifted to the private sector, and continue to enrich themselves at the cost of the poor and working people of the country. The coup government of Honduras continues to wage a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against minority communities to benefit itself and its patrons from the US and elsewhere."
  • Guyana won't let Venezuelan claims on two-thirds of its territory -- including a recently announced significant oil discovery off Guyana's coast. President David Granger says he will resolve the issue through diplomatic channels, and is offering Exxon Mobil —which was contracted by Guyana— assurances that exploration work won’t be interrupted, reports the Wall Street Journal. The boundaries in question were set in 1899 by a Paris arbitration tribunal, but were rejected 60 years later by Venezuela. Analysts quoted in the piece speculate that Venezuela's government is angling to distract citizens from a crumbling economy ahead of parliamentary elections in December. Guyana is the hemisphere's third-poorest country and Granger says the oil discovery could be an important boon for the nation. 
  • Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is visiting the U.S., two years after the originally scheduled state visit was cancelled in the wake of allegations that the National Security Agency had spied on her and on Petrobras. Economic difficulties at home has forced Rouseff to turn to the international scene, reports the Washington Post. She is seeking foreign investment, and will spend today meeting with bankers in New York to sell a $63 billion infrastructure package. But the current visit is also viewed as an opportunity to reset relations between the two countries, according to the Washington Post. 
  • New York Times profile on Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Brazil's philosopher minister of strategic affairs, tracks his journey from Harvard Law School to the Amazon. Unger views his role in Rousseff's government as an intellectual provocateur of sorts. "I have to create tension within the administration and agitate outside."
  • Economic woes in Brazil have spurred interest from some of its citizens in a program offering fast-track green cards for foreigners who invest in the U.S., reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is stepping down in December, at the end of her second presidential term, but critics fear she will retain influence behind the scenes, reports the New York Times. Kirchner endorsed Daniel Scioli as the candidate for her Frente para la Victoria party, effectively by passing the primaries scheduled for August. Scioli appointed a close Kirchner aide, Carlos Zannini, as his running mate, and is running as a continuity candidate. The piece covers speculation that Kirchner, who cannot run for a third consecutive term, will attempt to return to power after a Scioli administration. 
  • An Argentine federal judge has ordered authorities to seize the assets of five companies drilling for oil in the Falkland/Malvinas Islands. The oil companies named in the case are not based in Argentina and it is not clear how the measure will be implemented, reports the BBC.
  • Colombia's leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) claimed responsibility for an attack on an army helicopter last week that killed eight soldiers, reports AFP. The army had reported the attack, but blamed the FARC, amid intensified fighting from the rebel guerrilla group in recent months.
  • The Panama canal $5.25 billion expansion project is nearing an end, and will open to commercial traffic in xApril of next year, reports the Miami Herald. The Panama Canal Authority filled the new Atlantic locks earlier this month, and will begin a four month testing phase. And ports in the Caribbean and along the Eastern seaboard, including PortMiami, are rushing to be able to receive post-Panamax ships. Cuba is also eying Panama traffic and has overhauled, deepened and expanded Port Mariel, though an expert quoted in the piece says Jamaica is a more logical waypoint for U.S. headed shipping traffic.
  • The Uber ride-sharing application is receiving bad news around the world as authorities attempt to limit services, but it may receive an unexpected boost in Mexico DF, where it received the thumbs up from the Federal Commission on Economic Competition, reports the AP. Though city authorities have yet to formally decide, the new cab services' popularity in Mexico is due, in large part, to the poor service of traditional taxis, which for years were linked to robbery and abductions.
  • El Daily Post has a review of Cartel Land a new documentary that offers an up close look at the vigilante movements in Mexico and in Arizona. The piece particularly lauds the Mexican portion of the film, which focuses on the autodefensa movement in theTierra Caliente region of Michoacán. The director follows the vigilantes very closely in their quest to defeat the Knights Templars drug gang. "And he is there to document the transformation of the valiant crusaders into something that eerily resembles their enemies."


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