Thursday, May 26, 2016

Scarcities eroding Venezuelan government's support (May 24, 2016)

Note: this is the post for May 24, which did not get published due to a technical problem.

A university poll in Venezuela found that 12 percent of those polled are eating less than three meals a day. With shortages of meat, beans and milk, those who are eating, have seen a deterioration in the quality of their diet and are resorting to pasta, rice and arepas, reports the Guardian. The government has been urging citizens to begin producing their own food via urban agriculture, reports the Miami Herald, a modern day version of WWII's Victory Gardens.

The price for April's food basket shows an increase of 718 percent in a year, and costs 16 minimum wages to purchase, reports the Caracas Chronicles based on numbers by the Teachers' Federation's Center of Documentation and Social Analysis.

Nine NGOs, including Provea, are suing for the protection of the populations' rights to health and life, in light of medicine shortages. They hope the Supreme Tribunal will order the government to improve availability or accept offers of international cooperation and aid, reports Efecto Cocuyo

Scarcities are forcing even government loyalist bastions such as residents of housing projects to protest, reports the Guardian separately.
(See last Monday's  Tuesday's and Thursday's posts as well as Wednesday's briefs.)

On the recall referendum: The Venezuelan electoral authority, the CNE, has no date for the gathering of signatures from 20 percent of the electorate that would trigger a recall referendum, reports Efecto Cocuyo. The CNE is currently verifying the signatures of one percent of the electorate, gathered earlier this month as a first step.

Government officials, including President Nicolás Maduro, insisted last week that there is no obligation to carry out the referendum this year (which would trigger a new election for Maduro's successor). But the constitution says otherwise, according to experts cited in Efecto Cocuyo.

In the midst of increasing tensions between the government and the political opposition, Margarita López Maya, a Venezuelan historian and university professor, argues that the search for a peaceful transition will face very difficult challenges. In an interview published at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights, she also asserts the important contributions of NGOs and social media to the country's democratic transformation. "We need to open our eyes, because the democracies of the 21st century are not the democracies of the 20th century. They are a different type of democracy with different types of representation and mediation," she said.

Venezuela asides: Venezuela's state-oil company Pdvsa is seeking to offer service providers a debt exchange in order to lighten the load of some $20 billion worth of unpaid invoices, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Venezuela seeks to rejoin the Kimberly Process, an international group dedicated to verifying the legitimacy of diamonds for export to to end trade in conflict diamonds, reports Reuters. Venezuela left in 2008, and rejoining could provide an important economic boost in the long run, according to experts. 

Colombian professor Socorro Ramírez analyzes Colombian-Venezuelan relations in Nueva Sociedad. The two countries share a long border, and hundreds of thousands of residents have migrated between the two. Nonetheless, opposite political trajectories have divided the countries' governments and decimated trade. As Venezuela nears a political paradigm shift, and Colombia draws closer to a post-peace scenario, the two have an opportunity to focus on the complicated border area and begin a new era of cooperation, she argues.

News Briefs
  • Argentina and Brazil plan to work together to help find a solution to Venezuela's crisis, announced the Brazilian foreign minister yesterday. Yet, both countries agreed to secure trade deals independently rather than through the Mercosur trade bloc, which includes Venezuela, reports the Associated Press.
  • Brazilian Planning and Budget Minister Romero Jucá said he'd take a temporary leave of absence from his post while prosecutors investigate a recording in which he allegedly discusses how to derail a corruption investigation with another government official, reports the Wall Street Journal. In the recording, he said President Dilma Rousseff's removal was key to quashing the Petrobras corruption investigation, known as Lava Jato (Car Wash), reports theGuardian. (See yesterday's briefs.) Jucá denies wrongdoing, and said he will return to the Senate, reports the New York Times. It's the first political crisis of Acting President Michel Temer's two-week old administration. The accusations against Jucá could also increase scrutiny on his new cabinet, which was meant to increase investor confidence in the country. Seven of Temer's new ministers are implicated in the Petrobras graft investigation already. 
  • Artists and musicians across the country are occupying public buildings demanding Temer's ouster, reports the Washington Post. The cultural revolt was inspired by the elimination of the country's Ministry of Culture as part of an austerity push. On Friday singer Caetano Veloso performed a free show for thousands outside the landmark Ministry of Culture building in Rio that is occupied by protesters. 
  • The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is in the midst of a funding crisis which could lead to the lost of 40 percent of its staff by August, writes James Cavallaro, the body's president, in El País. The IACHR survives thanks to contributions from the U.S., Canada, the European Union and its member states, as well as the OAS. It's time for Latin American countries to step up to the plate and fund the human rights control system, he argues.
  • Cuban migrants arriving in the U.S. -- via Mexico or arriving at international airports without visas -- in the first six months of this fiscal year are already on pace to match the numbers for all of the 2015 fiscal year, reports the Miami Herald. That year was already a record.
  • Cuban human rights activists and U.S. officials say that the island's government has carried out a campaign to criticize U.S. policy in the wake of U.S. President Barak Obama's March visit, reports the Miami Herald. Efforts are being made to diminish the importance of the visit. (SeeMarch 22's post, for example.)
  • Mexico's War on Drugs "has only brought a large-scale deterioration of its institutions and social fabric. The impunity over human rights violations and corruption generates an unconscionable mixture, in which the strong economic and political interests of criminality go unscathed. At the same time, it is the most marginalized, and often innocent, people who face the worst consequences. In short, the negative impact on human rights of the war on drugs in Mexico is not a mere analytical hypothesis to be proven; it is, rather, a daily reality experienced for more than a decade by thousands of families scarred by the crisis of violence," reports the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center, republished by InSight Crime.
  • Last week the new international anti corruption mission to Honduras -- MACCIH -- completed its first month in action. The OAS backed group has hinted that it intends to "take a follow-the-money approach to pursuing corrupt officials," reports InSight Crime. This means, for example, targeting police officers with illicit-enrichment investigations, though they may also be suspected of worst (but harder to prosecute) actions.
  • Haitians are still waiting for the presidential election that will give them a successor to former President Michel Martelly. But the leader who stepped down in favor of an interim government in February has quickly reverted back to his musical career as his alter-ego "Sweet Mickey," reports the Miami Herald.
  • Abortions are common in Jamaica, though they are formally illegal except to save a woman's life or preserve her physical or mental health. The WHO estimated there were more than 22,000 abortions on the island of some 2.8 million people in 2011. Yet the issue remains a local taboo and women who have had them are shamed and shunned in much of the island nation's dancehall music, reports Reuters.

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