Monday, April 17, 2017

Maduro reportedly negotiating regional elections with opposition (April 17, 2017)

Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro secretly offered the political opposition to hold postponed regional elections this year in exchange for phasing out street protests, according to the Miami Herald.

The offer is appealing to a small section of the opposition, willing to consider the possibility of coexistence with the Chavista government, which believes it could easily win governorships. The deal would also require the opposition to stop claiming Maduro carried out a self-coup when the Supreme Court briefly invalidated the National Assembly a few weeks ago.

The deal would also require the opposition to accept the current Supreme Court composition -- accused by critics of being stacked with government loyalists -- and the current National Electoral Council. In exchange, the opposition-led National Assembly would recover some of its constitutional functions, including the power to approve the budget, according to the Herald.

Negotiations aimed at setting a concrete electoral timetable and freeing political prisoners have failed in the past, but "getting concessions from Mr. Maduro may be feasible now that a growing number of regional governments are taking a harder line against the Venezuelan government," argues a New York Times editorial from Friday. (Not related to the negotiations reported on by the Herald.)

Maduro broadcast videos of youths accused of vandalic acts during recent protests, who confessed and linked their actions to opposition party Primero Justicia leadership, reports Efecto Cocuyo. Opposition leadership said the confessions were a result of torture, reports Efecto Cocuyo separately.

TeleSUR criticizes OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro for his Venezuela obsession, and compares his focus on the crisis to his reaction to the Brazilian impeachment of Rousseff, the Berta Cáceres assassination, and human rights violations around the region. 

For the Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Jackson Diehl the fact that Maduro hasn't yet been ousted speaks to the eclipse of U.S. power in the region. "For at least the past 100 years, the United States’ conception of its international mission included a determination not to allow another state in the Western hemisphere to fail. That sometimes motivated acts of ugly and misguided imperialism, such as encouraging military coups or directly dispatching Marines — the last invasion, of Haiti, happened just 23 years ago. More often in recent years, it has meant using economic and military leverage to force democratic change — as in Nicaragua and El Salvador in the late 1980s — or to save a failing democracy, as in Colombia after 2000."

News Briefs
  • U.S. President Donald Trump might not have actually increased deportations of undocumented migrants just yet (in fact, numbers dropped so far this year). Nonetheless, the nationalist backlash generated by his bullying Mexico stance, has made concern for returned migrants politically fashionable in Mexico, reports the New York Times.
  • Fugitive Veracruz state governor Javier Duarte was arrested in Guatemala, after being on the run for six months. The former Mexican politician is accused of misappropriating $2.97 billion and funneling funds through a series of shell companies, reports the Guardian. He was found late Saturday night holed up in a hotel with his wife in the resort town of Panajachel, on Lake Atitlán in the highlands of Guatemala, reports the New York Times. Under his watch violence and forced disappearances escalated, and the state has become particularly notable for its dangerous conditions for journalists. Mexico's government was deeply embarrassed by the former governor's escape in helicopter last October, the same day authorities asked for an arrest warrant, and promise to seek his extradition from Guatemala, reports the Wall Street Journal. The arrest is a victory for the Peña Nieto administration, and the PRI party which expelled him shortly after he disappeared, and called for a punishment to make him an example.
  • Another fugitive former governor, Tomás Yarrington who was captured last week by Italian police, had eight Tamaulipas state police assigned as bodyguards for six months while he was on the run last year from drug trafficking and money-laundering charges in Mexico and the U.S. The case demonstrates how corruption is systemic rather than particular, according to the Wall Street Journal. (See April 10's briefs.) 
  • Ecuador will recount 10 percent of the votes in its recent presidential run-off election, in response to allegations of fraud from the losing opposition candidate. Guillermo Lasso discounted the move to recount 1.3 million votes -- those contested by both parties -- as a farce that would do nothing to quell doubts, reports the Guardian. International observers including the Organization of American States (OAS) have said they found no irregularities. 
  • In a New York Times Español op-ed, Lasso's VP candidate Andrés Páez Benalcázar says he believes the popular will has been thwarted, and argues that faith in the results is necessary for a strengthened democracy.
  • Bolivia's government denies persecuting political opponents, and instead accuses former presidents of allying in a new "rightist bloc against President Evo Morales, reports EFE. (See last Friday's briefs.)
  • Nearly a year after her impeachment, former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff warns that Brazil's democracy is in peril. In an interview with New York Times she says her government failed to recognize a shift to the right in the Brazilian "center." Rousseff also draws attention to "a very misogynist element in the coup against me. ... They accused me of being overly tough and harsh, while a man would have been considered firm, strong. Or they would say I was too emotional and fragile, when a man would have been considered sensitive. I was seen as someone too obsessed with work, while a man would have been considered hard-working. There were also other very rude words used. I was called a cow about 600,000 times."
  • A new film by Colombian director Víctor Gaviria aims to call attention to domestic abuse in an extreme form. In black and white he portrays the story of a woman kidnapped and forced to live with a man for seven years, based on a real case. But very often the face of sexual abuse and femicide is less extreme -- and more familiar -- argues Camila Osorio in a New York Times Español op-ed. She calls attention instead to the case of a popular futból player arrested last year in Miami for beating his wife, but permitted to play for the national team nonetheless. Painting gender violence as a binary situation, as Gaviria does, doesn't account for "... the thousands of cases in which the abuser does generate sympathy in his neighborhood, among his friends, or in his country. Violence doesn't only occur in poor neighborhoods in Medellín, but on every corner ... Those are the cases which test our capacity to look and react." (See last Wednesday's briefs on recent high-impact femicides in Colombia and Argentina.)

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