Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Mexico calls Trump's wall a "hostile act" (April 26, 2017)

  • Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray lashed out strongly against U.S. President Donald Trump's plan to build a border wall, calling it an "unfriendly" and "hostile act," and saying it would be unlikely to actually deter undocumented migrants and illegal merchandise from crossing between the two countries, reports the Guardian. He spoke before the international relations commission in the lower house of congress and assured lawmakers that Mexico would not contribute any funding, and that the country would pursue legal measures if its border is infringed on. "The wall is not part of any bilateral discussion nor should it be," Videgaray said. "Under no scenario will we contribute economically to an action of this kind." The uncharacteristically strongly worded speech comes as U.S. funding for the project is increasingly uncertain. Trump has backed down from plans to fund the project in this week's spending bill, reports the BBC.
  • A year after the exit of the OAS interdisciplinary group of independent experts (GIEI) left Mexico, the Ayotzinapa case remains unresolved and forced disappearances continue at worrisome levels, according to a new WOLA analysis.
  • There's plenty of room for improvement in NAFTA -- unfortunately, much of those improvements were already included in the now nixed Trans Pacific Partnernship agreement, argues Jeffrey Frankel in the Guardian.
  • The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC, has announced an urgent session on May 2 about ongoing opposition violence in Venezuela, reports TeleSUR. The meeting will be held in El Salvador, and is convened at the request of Venezuela, to address "threats against the constitutional order in Venezuela, as well as the interventionist actions undermining its independence, sovereignty and its right to self-determination."
  • Venezuela's crisis has been long already, but recent protests give a sense that a bridge has been crossed, notes a Guardian editorial. But change will not come from protests alone, a fact the opposition must accept in order to broker a reasonable solution, warns the paper, citing Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights. "That means uniting around concrete objectives such as a timetable for local and governorial elections. It means uniting behind a single leader, a putative presidential candidate that all factions trust – a tall order when one pre-eminent leader, Leopoldo L√≥pez, is in prison and another, Henrique Capriles, has been banned. They must acknowledge that Chavismo still has a real hold on the hearts of many Venezuelans and any future settlement must make space for it; it cannot be the kind of exercise in revenge that has been seen too often in other South American countries."
  • In a piece for the World Politics ReviewDavid Smilde, analyzes how increased international pressures placed on the Venezuelan government have resulted in a surge in opposition activity. "...In the current context, the opposition’s demands are eminently reasonable: respect for the democratically elected National Assembly and an electoral calendar. And now they are receiving the support and sympathy of countries and multilateral institutions across the region concerned by Venezuela’s slide into authoritarianism." But it's far from clear how these demands will be met, and it is possible the government will dig in its heels until running out of money, given high exit costs for loyalists on various U.S. sanctions lists. "Finally, all eyes are on the military. So far, the National Police and the National Guard have been called on to repress opposition protests. It is not clear how unified they are in this task. Last Saturday, for the first time in almost three years, some officers allowed an opposition protest to march through the western part of Caracas at the same time that others were repressing the same march on the city’s main highway. If protests overwhelmed these two security forces and Maduro had to call in the army, how would officers respond? For a government that increasingly needs to rely on force to stay in power, any resistance from the military could pose the most serious challenge yet."
  • Indigenous protesters clashed with security forces in Brasilia, exchanging tear gas, rubber bullets and arrows, reports Reuters. Organizers estimate some 4,000 people took part in the demonstration. They demanded better protection of indigenous lands from ranchers and other business interests, reports the Associated Press.
  • Politicians of all of Brazil's mainstream parties who find themselves under investigation for corruption allegations can probably relax somewhat when they contemplate the Supreme Court backlog of 54,951 cases, reports the Wall Street Journal. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Brazilian gangsters carried out a cinematographic "heist of the century," attacking a Paraguayan security vault and police headquarters using automatic rifles, dynamite and anti-aircraft guns and making off with $8 million in a speedboat get-away, reports the Guardian. The BBC says some reports indicate a sum of $40 million and involve fifty armed men.
  • A Brazilian footballer convicted of murdering his girlfriend has been redetained, after two months of freedom from his 22 year sentence in which he was permitted to sign for a club, reports the Associated Press. Bruno Fernandes de Souza became a target of protests over activists who say Brazilian culture is forgiving of gender violence and femicide.
  • More than two thirds of people living in Mexico, Chile and Ecuador are overweight or obese, according to a new U.N. report. The tend is driven by changing diets, including more processed food that are high in salt, sugar and fat, along with more sedentary lifestyles, reports Reuters.
  • Argentina's economy contracted 2.2 percent in February, indicating that economic recovery might not happen as soon as expected, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Trouble in Paradise: A long report on land-disputes in Mexico's idyllic spiritual getaway, Tulum, by the Guardian.

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