Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Venezuelan opposition concedes "irregular" legislators (Nov. 16, 2016)

Three members of Venezuela's opposition controlled National Assembly -- sworn in despite legal challenges to their election -- have requested to be unincorporated. The move responds to opposition concessions as part of a dialogue process with the Venezuelan government.

Julio Ygarza, Nirma Guarulla and Romel Guzamana submitted their resignations in writing to congress on Tuesday, reports the Guardian. According to agreement between the opposition and the government, this will trigger new elections for those seats.

The resignation was included as a "surprise" in the day's agenda, and is considered an unpopular but necessary move by part of the MUD opposition coalition, reports Efecto Cocuyo.

The National Assembly has been considered in contempt of court and its decisions invalid since July when the three legislators were sworn in, giving the opposition a super majority, reports El País.

If the Supreme Court holds up its end of the bargain, the National Assembly could start functioning again legally.

But critics say the opposition is ceding more than its obtaining in the negotiations. And some parties question the government's commitment to holding new elections for those seats.

The move comes as the Supreme Court ordered legislators to desist from a political trial against President Nicolás Maduro. And after opposition leader Jesús Torrealba promised to continue the trial, though the National Assembly does not technically have the power to impeach the president, notes El País.

Venezuela asides
  • As Venezuelans struggle to fill their stomachs, government distributed supplies of subsidized basic goods provide a tiny escape valve for anger, reports the Financial Times. And Efecto Cocuyo has a piece on how social inclusion programs have been used for political control.
  • Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights blog post by Hugo Pérez Hernaíz notes the country's politician's response to the Trump election: while Maduro asked U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to leave a "positive" bilateral agenda for the two countries, PSUV leader Diosdado Cabello criticized the "unfairness” of the US electoral system, “in which he who gets fewer votes wins." The opposition, on the other hand, compared Trump's win with Chávez's in 1999. And Luis Vicente León, director of pollster DATANALISIS, thinks that Trump’s aggressive tone will fit well into the Venezuelan government’s anti-imperialist rhetoric.
News Briefs
  • As with much of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump's potential policies, when it comes to Cuba observers wonder whether campaign promises to roll back rapprochement will be kept, or whether his business sense will prevail, reports the New York Times. The government could potentially be liable for businesses that acted in good faith, investing and developing projects under relaxed regulations, say experts.
  • Hype or not, the Mexican government is preparing to react if Trump keeps promises made in the past few days, such as deporting three million undocumented migrants and reexamining NAFTA, reports El País. (See yesterday's post.) President Enrique Peña Nieto promised to focus on dialogue yesterday, and the country will be strengthening its consulates in the 50 states of the U.S. to support citizens there. And Mexico's economic authorities seek to reassure investors in the wake of the peso's historic plunge after the election, reports the Financial Times.
  • VOX piece analyzes the Trump promise (threat?) to deport 3 million Mexican migrants with criminal records, and concludes that it would involve deporting many who have not committed crimes. "Deporting 2 to 3 million immigrants in a single term as president would be something we’ve never seen in America. It would put every unauthorized immigrant in the US under a one in four chance of being separated from family, thrown in jail, or sent back to a country that many of them haven't set foot in for years."
  • A self-proclaimed Trump adviser has said the administration could go ahead and build a wall along the border with Mexico, without Congressional approval, reports Reuters.
  • And U.S. carmaker Ford is promising to move forward with plans to shift small car production from Michigan to Florida, despite Trump's promises to impose tariffs, reports the BBC.
  • Right-wing version of UNASUR? Brazilian President Michel Temer says that if Trump alienates Mexico, it could be an opportunity to strengthen regional commercial relations, reports El País.
  • Mexican senator Roberto Gil Zuarth has a piece in El País opining that California's legalization of marijuana means Mexico must reconsider its antiquated stance towards the substance.
  • Colombia's new peace deal with the FARC looks very similar to the one voters narrowly rejected in October, according to InSight Crime's Jeremy McDermott. However, there "appear to have been some small adjustments to address the concerns of the opposition," he writes, analyzing the changes. However, while President Juan Manuel Santos might well bypass another plebiscite, simply presenting the new agreement to Congress for approval, the FARC leadership might face difficulties with its rank and file. "While in the field interviewing FARC members, InSight Crime also found that the guerrillas may well have a Plan B in case the agreement collapses or the government fails to fulfill the terms of the deal. Some 1,500 of the most dedicated and veteran guerrillas may not surrender, but remain in the field, hidden or across the border in neighboring Venezuela, which is facing its own problems. A quantity of weapons will also not be handed over to the United Nations. We heard several different rumors of this plan, but there was a common thread, and that was the Teofilo Forero Mobile Column, the closest the FARC has to a Special Forces unit, which has been responsible for bombs in Bogotá and has shown the ability to act well beyond its base in Caquetá."
  • Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala officially launched a joint border force to tackle gangs. Operations will be carried out by police, military and border officials along the 600 km of Northern Triangle frontier, reports the BBC. The move targets gang members who increasingly commit crimes in one country and flee to another. InSight Crime explains that the movement is largely from El Salvador, where gang members are fleeing a government crackdown, and setting up shop in Guatemala, where many have become leaders of new structures. But the three countries likely already share intelligence and border monitoring operations, which means "the initiative may be more window dressing than tangible security reform," according to InSight.
  • Another mega project aimed at bridging the Pacific and Caribbean oceans. This time the plan is Costa Rica's, and instead of a waterway it proposes a 315 km "dry canal," of highway accompanied by railroad lines, connecting two new maritime ports and three airports, reports El País. Costa Rica's project would compete with the Panama Canal and potentially Nicaragua's polemic Gran Canal project (though it appears unlikely to be built).
  • The party is over in Rio de Janeiro, reports El País. Post Olympics the city is facing the grim reality of lower oil prices, investment paralyzed by corruption investigations and the national political crisis. Unemployment in Rio is double the national average: 6.7 percent, according to the piece.
  • A "lost" Frida Kahlo painting has resurfaced and is expected to fetch $2 million in a Sotheby's auction next week, reports the BBC.
  • Ingenious Cubans employ condoms to catch increasingly valuable fish, reports the Associated Press.

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