Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Protesters clash with police in Caracas, again (April 11, 2017)

Caracas's streets were once again filled with protesters throwing rocks at security forces, who responded with tear gas, yesterday. 

The clashes represent the fourth protests over the past ten days, since the Supreme Court attempted to take power from the opposition-led National Assembly. Though it later partially reversed its position, the political opposition has used the power grab as a rallying point. This is the first sustained wave of protests since 2014, notes Reuters.

The government has responded with crackdowns, including banning opposition leader Henrique Capriles from participating in politics for fifteen years, spurring further clashes over the weekend and yesterday. (See yesterday's post.)

Reuters has pictures of the battle-zones, and opposition leaders have denounced security forces for arbitrary use of force, including tear gas fired into one Caracas clinic. The government accuses the opposition of orchestrating violence to destabilize the administration.

President Nicolás Maduro called on the opposition to return to a dialogue table, a Vatican mediated process that foundered last year, reports the Associated Press.

In the meantime, the OAS and Brazil ratcheted up pressure on Venezuela, calling on the government to confirm an electoral calendar and hold general elections, reports Reuters. (Regional elections were supposed to be held last year, postponed by the government to 2017, while general elections must be held next year.)

The U.S. voiced "grave concern," over the Capriles ban yesterday, reports AFP.

Over the weekend several digital television stations reported being blocked, presumably for their coverage of protests, reports David Smilde at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights, where he reviews the long history of recent press censorship efforts in Venezuela.

Venezuela debt aside: the country is due to make $3 billion in payments on its debt by tomorrow, most analysts expect it to scrape together the cash, reports the New York Times

News Briefs
  • Excoriating New York Times editorial on Trump's big, beautiful border wall and the many questions the plan leaves unanswered, from environmental, pragmatic to potential international treaty violations. "It’s too bad these and other questions weren’t considered before the wall began taking shape. It has been a remarkable journey for an idiotic idea that started life as an applause line, as Mr. Trump admitted to The Times."
  • Nonetheless, relations between Mexico and the U.S. have improved markedly since hitting a low point earlier this year in a twitter feud between the two countries' leaders. At the urging of senior advisors, Trump stopped publicly attacking Mexico. As a result, confidence at reaching an acceptable NAFTA renegotiation is on the rise, reports the Wall Street Journal. Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told Bloomberg he was heartened by the rhetorical shift and expressed confidence a new deal could be reached by next January.
  • Immigration advocates have long argued that gender violence ought to qualify victims for asylum. But many say their efforts in the U.S. will be hampered by the Trump administration's policies, reports the Guardian.
  • More than 30,000 people have disappeared in Mexico, many in relation to drug violence, according to the National Human Rights Commission, reports Reuters.
  • Over half of the acts of aggression against journalists in Mexico last year were committed by government officials, watchdog Article 19 told EFE.
  • Ecuador's president-elect Lenín Moreno will be the only world leader who uses a wheelchair to move around. Already during his period as vice-president he was a fierce defendant of disability rights. Moreno spearheaded efforts to improve life for Ecuadoreans and to make the country a hospitable tourist destination for people with physical disabilities, notes a New York Times editorial observer piece. Ecuador's new Constitution in 2008 guaranteed substantial rights for people with disabilities, and that year the country Ecuador became the 20th country to ratify the United Nations’ disability rights convention, pushing the pact past the threshold needed to go into effect.
  • Nearly 80 U.S. legislators sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressing concern faced by environmental activists in Honduras, reports Common Dreams.
  • Public protests in support of the ever-widening corruption investigation in Brazil, dubbed Operation Car Wash and involving apparently everybody who is anybody in politics, are waning. The Christian Science Monitor analyzes the impact of "scandal fatigue" on a Latin American public excited about crackdowns, but potentially tired of their slow rate of returns. High profile cases have brought an expectation of change, with the flip side of apathy as more and more corruption is unearthed, according to Christopher Sabatini, cited in the piece.
  • Former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos is pulling out of the running for November's presidential election, after the Socialist Party decided to endorse independent Senator Alejandro Guillier this weekend, reports EFE.
  • Activists in French Guiana aim to totally shut down the country in support of demands for investment from France, reports France 24.
  • In a New York Times Español op-ed, Ariel Dorfman laments the world's vulnerability to climate change -- looking at recent examples in Chile ranging from forest fires to red tides to poisonous jellyfish -- and lamenting that environmental issues are coming to a head just as the U.S. president is hell bent on denying there's a problem.
  • Seven construction workers were killed and 10 people injured when a partially constructed parking lot collapsed in Mexico City yesterday, reports the BBC.
  • A proposed international lawsuit challenging the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo -- in which Mexico was forced to accept U.S. annexation of Texas -- will likely not hold much legal water. But the effort, coming from Mexico's left, could become a rallying point understand the long history of U.S. rapacity towards Mexico, argues Enrique Krauze in a New York Times op-ed from last week.

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