Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Venezuela lambasts OAS (March 28, 2017)

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez accused the OAS wanting to destroy her country yesterday, and said the organization's secretary general is a stooge of a the U.S., reports the Los Angeles Times. The OAS scheduled a special session of its Permanent Council today to consider the issue, reports EFE. Venezuela says the meeting is contrary to the group's rules, and accused the OAS of acting in favor of hostile U.S. interests, reports Reuters.

Rodríguez appeared in a panel convened after a group of 14 member states demanded the Venezuelan government free political prisoners immediately and set a date for regional elections. (See last Thursday's post.) Failure to comply could lead to the country's suspension from the regional organization.

Nonetheless, it's not clear that the organization will gather the two-thirds vote from member states required to suspend Venezuela, notes Deutsche Welle

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio threatened to cut U.S. aid to the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and El Salvador if these countries do not support the initiative, reports El Nuevo Herald.

But even if it does not pass, the Venezuela situation represents an opportunity for "post-Western" diplomacy within the region and beyond, according to David Smilde and Timothy M. Gill in an LSE Latin America and Caribbean Centre post. The Trump withdrawal from international spaces -- including shunning an Inter-American Court of Human Rights hearing last week and reducing the country's contribution to the OAS -- effectively sideline the country more from the region. This could create a more productive space for other countries to act, they write. 

"Berating the lack of unity among Latin American countries is a favourite pastime of Washington policy circles. However, “groups of friends” are often able to overcome differences among countries through their reduced focus. And the Trump administration’s increasingly aggressive rhetoric towards Mexico is already pushing that country into greater contact with the region, thereby increasing the possibility of a regional solution."

Venezuela aside: Maduro announced a new currency exchange mechanism that will replace the current intermediate rate, reports Reuters.

News Briefs
  • There has never been a more optimal time for Latin American economic integration, argues a column in the Economist that examines the potential to merge Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance, but also general removing of obstacles to trade.
  • A GPS-enabled panic button Colombia's government distributed to about 400 activists has flaws exposing them to more danger, reports the Associated Press. Vulnerabilities in the devices given to human rights activists, labor organizers, and journalists working in risky environments could let hostile parties disable them, eavesdrop on conversations and track users' movements, found the AP.
  • The militarized "war on drugs" launched a decade ago in Mexico was characterized in early years by aggression, improvisation and increasing lethality according to Nexos. The most notable effect? A drastic increase in violence, reflected in a national homicide rate that jumped from 8.1 to 23.7 between 2007 and 2011. The authors base their analysis on extensive data on violence from government sources to show that the results of the policy were catastrophic, for security and human rights.
  • Al Jazeera has an in-depth piece on how drug gang wars in Brazil are fueling prison violence like the riots that killed more than 130 inmates in the beginning of this year. "Experts say that the prison killings reflect decades of failed policy; the prison population has soared beyond the control of a chronically underfunded system, enabling gangs to step in and take the place of the state. The upsurge in violence is also attributed to growing tensions between gangs fighting for control of the cocaine trade."
  • U.S. rapper Wiz Khalifa has caused a stir by taking flowers to the grave the notorious cartel leader Pablo Escobar. Medellin Mayor Federico Gutierrez said the rapper is advocating crime and called for an apology, reports the BBC.
  • French Guyana was paralyzed yesterday by a general strike and protests over high crime and economic hardship. The unrest has pushed the overseas territory into the center of French presidential campaign, reports the New York Times.
  • The flood related death toll in Peru rose to 90 this weekend, reports EFE.  Four people died and 500 evacuated in the country's north, reports the BBC. The effects have been particularly devastating because the country was completely unprepared to deal with the natural phenomenon, experts say. The standing of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski will depend on managing reconstruction well, according to the Economist.
  • Experts on both sides of the Mexico-U.S. border are saying that overturning NAFTA would be a disaster (see yesterday's post), but farmers in Mexicali are allying themselves with Trump and hoping to kick out a major U.S. brewery they accuse of using up scarce water resources, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Mexico is considering offering duty-free access to Brazilian and Argentine corn as an alternative to U.S. exports that could impact American farmers, reports the Financial Times. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Brazilian airline Gol agreed to pay an indigenous tribe compensation for an 2006 plane crash the community says cursed an area of the reserve they inhabit, reports the BBC.
  • Pensions in Cuba are so low that retirees must find ways to supplement their income, what the Economist calls "hustling, cradle to grave." But they are also beneficiaries of an health care system that has obtained excellent results. 
  • Chile will withdraw peace keeping troops from Haiti, said President Michelle Bachelet yesterday in Port-au-Prince. But she reinforced her country's commitment to Haiti, reports the Miami Herald. The state visit comes in the lead up to a U.N. debate over whether to extend the long-standing stabilization mission there. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres has recommended a staggered withdrawal. (See March 20's post.)

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