Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Venezuelan legislators declare Maduro in abandonment of duties (Jan. 10, 2017)

Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly declared President Nicolás Maduro in abandonment of duties by allowing the country's economic crisis to spiral out of control, explains Deutsche Welle.

The largely symbolic resolution accuses the government of violating the constitution and employing courts and military to obviate parliamentary power and calls for new elections, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Even before yesterday's vote, the Supreme Court ruled that legislators lack the authority to declare the president in so-called abandonment, notes the WSJ.

Congress appears to have given up on recall referendum efforts (see below) and instead is taking up a symbolic political trial of Maduro, as it doesn't technically have the power to remove him, reports the Associated Press. The trial was suspended last year as a gesture of goodwill at the beginning of a dialogue process between the government and the opposition.

The next round of Vatican-mediated dialogue is scheduled for Friday, but it's not clear whether the process will continue or not. Hugo Pérez Hernáiz analyzes the issue on Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights, providing the back-and-forth minutia of who said what about whom. Though not terribly clear, polling seems to suggest that popular opinion backs continuing the dialogue process.

Note: A brief yesterday said that today was the midway point of Maduro's term. In fact, today marks the two-thirds point of his six year mandate, and the point after which an ouster via popular referendum would not trigger a new election constitutionally, instead leaving his vice president to finish the term. (See last Thursday's post on the newly appointed hard-line VP, Tareck El Aissami.) On technical note, the term in question is actually the late Hugo Chávez's fourth. Maduro won a special election in April, 2013 after Chávez's death. See this Americas Society explainer for details.

News Briefs
  • Many analyses of Trump's nominee for secretary of state, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, focus on his conflictive history with Chávez as a predictor of an even more fraught relationship with Venezuela. But Venezuelan professors Sary Levy-Carciente and María Teresa Romero argue in the Conversation that his business pragmatism could actually reduce tensions between the two countries -- unless of course Tillerson buys into the tough talk that characterizes the president-elect and doubles down on sanctions.
  • Scenes of terrible savagery emerging from several prison riots in Brazil have horrified the country, and experts warn that there are already signs that the gang rivalry that spurred the violence is spilling out from the prison system into Rio de Janeiro, according to the Guardian. The piece provides a useful review of the various riots and background. It notes some of the history behind the São Paulo based PCC, the country's biggest drug mafia which was founded in 1993, a year after 111 prisoners were killed by police at the Carandiru jail. The gang fills in important state failures, and offers inmates medical assistance, legal advice and financial help for family members. It's a relevant insight into why horrific prison conditions, widely noted by experts, have fed into the gangs now struggling for dominance. (See yesterday's post.)
  • The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has ordered the Brazilian government to pay $5 million in reparations to to 128 former farm workers who were enslaved on a Brazilian farm between 1988-2000. Authorities failed to take adequate steps to preventing modern slavery, according to the ruling, which is the first such decision against a country, reports the Guardian.
  • Widespread protesting and looting following gas price hikes in Mexico last week -- known as el gasolinazo -- reflect a deeper social discontent with a government which promised that structural reforms would lead to economic growth, instead of the stagnation currently dominating, reports the Guardian. Discontent with the political class has also been fostered by a string of corruption scandals and fear of the impact of Trump's administration. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Fiat Chrysler's CEO warns that the entire automotive industry has been affected by uncertainty since Trump's election, reports the Guardian. If the president-elect makes good on promises of import tariffs from Mexico, he will be forced to shut down factories, said Sergio Marchionne yesterday at the Detroit North American International Auto Show. The statements add to a growing fear that the booming car industry will fall prey to U.S. nationalist policies, reports the Wall Street Journal. Auto and auto-parts industry account for a significant portion of the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico, which could explain Trump's focus on it. However, it's also Mexico's second-biggest industry. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Cuban entrepreneurs face uncertainty over the continuation of policies that have permitted them to gain from a flux of U.S. dollars and tourists. Trump has threatened to reverse the U.S. policy permitting increased economic engagement, and, at home, President Raúl Castro has shown little commitment to continuing the economic reforms he started six years ago, reports the Wall Street Journal. A third of Cuba’s 5 million workers are now in the private sector, including 522,000 business owners, up from 150,000 six years ago. The change stems both from Cuban reforms, and the U.S. regulatory changes that have permitted much of the funding for the new ventures to come from the U.S. (See Dec. 8's post.)
  • Haiti's parliament inaugurated the year yesterday, but is two senators short after one senator elect was arrested and extradited last week, and another is accused of changing his name to avoid a 1982 conviction, reports the Miami Herald. Senator-elect Guy Philippe, a leader of the 2004 coup against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was arrested and extradited to the U.S. last week. (See yesterday's and Friday's briefs.)
  • U.S. citizens are being evacuated by Haitian police from the Grand'Anse following attempted attacks by Philippe supporters, reports Reuters.
  • Peru is a tuberculosis hotspot -- the country has the highest incidence per capita of tuberculosis in the Americas and includes virulent multi-drug resistant and extensively drug resistant strains. But it also has one of the highest cure rates, an example of the WHO's hands-on approach to ensuring patients don't abandon treatment, reports the Guardian. Local NGO Partners in Heath works with local health promoters within the community to quickly diagnose and treat patients.

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