Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Updates on OAS, Venezuela and Brazil (June 15, 2016)

News Briefs
  • The Organization of American States has prohibited civil society groups from being present in the 46th General Assembly, reports CEJIL in a press release denouncing the decision. In an email on Monday, the OAS announced that because of "space limitations," civil society organizations would be invited instead to watch the meetings on television screens in a nearby hotel. 
  • Meanwhile, the United States and Venezuela have agreed to begin a direct, bi-lateral dialogue, El Pais reports. Secretary of State John Kerry initiated the dialogue with Venezuelan foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez; the two will seek to ease mounting tensions between the two countries and, ultimately, re-establish ambassadors. Though Washington has expressed support for the Venezuelan opposition's recall referendum, along with the decision of OAS secretary-general Luis Almagro to evoke the Democratic Charter (see June 3 briefing), the move to establish dialogue with Venezuela has been interpreted by some as backing down. "At this moment, I think it's more constructive to have dialogue than to isolate" Venezuela, Kerry said. 
  • RealClearWorld has an helpful op-ed explaining other countries' actions toward Venezuela and asking when the international community will intercede. "Venezuela's decline into crisis has been years in the making, but up until recently, only a few former heads of state were willing to speak up...the key focus should not merely be the ousting of the regime, but rather what must be done in order to extricate the Venezuelan people from this horrific situation," writes Jason Marczak, the director of Atlantic Council's Latin America Center. 
  • Reuters reports that a man was shot during looting and food riots in Cumana, Venezuela, Tuesday, bringing to at least four the total fatalities during this month's wave of unrest. 
  • Igarapé Institute's latest Homicide Dispatch examines the relationship between organized crime and lethal violence, noting that while criminal and gang violence may be responsible for as much as a third of all homicides in the Western Hemisphere, organized crime groups can also reduce homicides by imposing order where state institutions are weak and ineffective. 
  • Igarapé's recent report on safe cities has sparked a regional debate, with media outlets weighing in from NicaraguaArgentinaEcuador (where the president cited the report!) and elsewhere. The authors published a piece in the Guardian explaining the study and some lessons learned. 
  • A Brazilian high court dealt a major legal setback to ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva by referring a corruption investigation involving him back to a crusading lower-court judge who has jailed many powerful Brazilians on corruption charges, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Supreme Court took over the case in March after judge Sergio Moro released a wire-tap conversation between Lula and Dilma Rousseff, alleged evidence that his appointment to her cabinet was a move to guard him from prosecution, TeleSur reports. Moro was removed from the case while the leak's legality was investigated. The Supreme Court determined the wiretap is inadmissible as evidence and returned the case to Moro. 
  • Meanwhile, Brazil's Congressional Ethics Committee voted to strip suspended Speaker Eduardo Cunha of his seat Tuesday for allegedly lying about undeclared swiss bank accounts, Reuters reports. Cunha insisted on his innocence and said he would appeal to another congressional committee. To remove him, a majority of the lower house of Congress would need to affirm the decision. 
  • El Salvador confirmed its first case of Zika-related microcephaly Tuesday, Reuters reports. Forty-eight babies have been born this year with the condition, but this is the first in which the virus was detected, reports Diario de Hoy. The Ministry of Health said it was monitoring 274 pregnant women who had presented Zika symptoms. More microcephaly cases should be expected.

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