Wednesday, March 29, 2017

OAS push to suspend Venezuela falls short (March 29, 2017)

OAS member states backed away from a push to suspend Venezuela, but urged the government to engage in dialogue with the political opposition, reports the Associated Press. (See yesterday's post.)

The Permanent Council engaged in three hours of speeches, but concluded without a concrete course of action to support democracy in the country, reports El País. The charge was led by Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. (Efecto Cocuyo has details on each country's speech.)

Though a majority of member states support some form of action, the block is shot through with disagreement over what approach should be taken. Caribbean countries tended to place greater emphasis on supporting dialogue and noted the country's sovereignty, according to El País.

Venezuela characterized the push as interventionism, and said if the U.S. really wants to help it would stop attacking the country, reports TeleSUR. Representatives from the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Haiti voted with Venezuela, despite threats from U.S. Senator Marco Rubio to cut of U.S. aid in retaliation. (See yesterday's post.)
The tense meeting underscored the difficulty in reaching a regional agreement on the issue, according to the AP.

In parallel, President Nicolás Maduro called on OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro to step down and accused him of attempting to destabilize the country. And he raised the possibility that Venezuela will leave the OAS altogether, reports Efecto Cocuyo.

News Briefs
  • At least 600 people in El Salvador have been victims of hate crimes based on their sexual orientation or gender identity since 2004, according to testimony given at an Inter-American Commission on Human Rights hearing last week, reports the Washington Blade. Statistics from COMCAVIS and Asociación para Impulsar el Desarrollo Humano (ASPIDH). Data from  Arcoiris Trans, another Salvadoran advocacy group, says about two dozen trans people were killed in 2015. A spate of killings this year has increased fear in the country's LGBT community, and has put a spotlight on gang violence towards transgender people, reports Reuters. About seven transgender people have been killed this year.
  • Five members of an Afro-Colombian community in Chocó were killed in unclear circumstances last weekend. Human Rights Watch has called on the Colombian government to investigate claims that they were the victims of either the ELN guerrilla group or the Gaitanist Self-Defenses of Colombia (AGC).
  • Today is the deadline for companies to submit proposals to build Donald Trump's great border wall. "It is the first step in a process that promises to combine three of Trump’s most successful ventures: beauty pageants, reality TV competitions and xenophobia," according to the Guardian.
  • A Mexican judge cleared a wealthy young man who abducted a private school classmate and sexually assaulted her, on grounds that he hadn't enjoyed himself, reports the Guardian. The man in question was one of four Veracruz youths from prominent families involved in the attack.The case has angered human rights activists who say it reinforces the perception that wealth and social prominence serve as judicial shields. Though the violation was videotaped by the perpetrators, the judge said the victim did not resist the sexual act, reports Animal Político.
  • Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's landmark oil reforms have communities in the country's south up in arms -- literally -- and increase the appeal of leftist presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has promised to rollback the changes, reports Bloomberg.
  • In the midst of a push to pass a security bill that would formalize the military's participation in internal security, Peña Nieto has been sharing the stage with the armed forces in public events. The government has also launched a public relations campaign promoting the military to citizens, reports Animal Político. Experts have criticized the military's human rights record in matters of internal security. (See Jan 30's and Feb 23's briefs, for example.)
  • Carlos Slim's Giant Motors is joining with China’s JAC Motors to produce low cost cars in Mexico, reports the Financial Times. The announcement comes as U.S. automakers have been pushed to pull production out of Mexico by Trump.
  • The governor of Mexico's Chihuahua state requested national help to fight cartels, saying he lacks the resources to tackle organized crime, reports the BBC.
  • Guardian photo-essay portrays life on the very edge of Mexico City -- the fringe of a megacity.
  • Brazil's meat industry is stalled after several countries banned exports in the wake of allegations that companies bribed sanitation inspectors. The issue is concerning for the poultry industry in particular, where producers are trying to figure out what to do with fowl ready for slaughter in a time-sensitive cycle, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Porto Alegre has banned the use of pushcarts -- effectively criminalizing the 7,000 families that depend on street waste picking to make a living, writes University of California PhD candidate Manuel Rosaldo. "More troubling still, in the midst of a rightward lunge in Brazilian national politics, public authorities in several cities appear to be cracking down on street waste pickers."
  • Voters in Colombia's Tolima province decided to ban mining projects in their municipality. The choice could affect AngloGold's La Colosa mine, a $2 billion potential investment that could yield 28 million ounces of gold, reports Reuters. But it's not yet clear whether the decision would actually stop the project. The results could create a snowball effect in several regions considering similar consultations, according to la Silla Vacía.
  • Should conservative former banker Guillermo Lasso win Ecuador's upcoming presidential run-off, he will likely kick Wikileaks founder Julian Assange out from the country's London embassy. Assange has been holed up there for five years, reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • The Quipu project in Peru created a free telephone line permitting victims of Fujimori's forced sterilization program to share their experiences, listen to testimony and record response, reports the BBC. Once recorded, the messages are translated into Quechua, Spanish and English and uploaded to the project's website where they can be listened to from anywhere in the world.

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