Friday, April 21, 2017

Protesters stay on Venezuelan streets (April 21, 2017)

For the second day in a row, Caracas was filled with protesters and tear gas yesterday. Crowds were smaller than the massive turnout on Wednesday, and opposition lawmakers accused security forces of using excessive teargas to block protesters, reports Reuters. Police in armored trucks faced off against stone-throwing demonstrators, reports the BBC.

Social media users reported clashes between protesters and security forces after nightfall in several parts of the city, according to Efecto Cocuyo
The most recent wave of protests is characterized by people facing off against security forces, rather than merely marching to show street presence, argues Gisela Kozak Rovero in a New York Times Español op-ed. "Definitively, we have moved from appeasement to resistance."

The political opposition is attempting to maintain pressure on President Nicolás Maduro's embattled government, which has countered characterizing their efforts as a coup attempt. But analysts say demonstrations are unlikely to topple the administration, though, along with increasingly focused international pressure, they could force elections to go ahead as scheduled next year, reports the Guardian.

Maduro seems to retain the loyalty of the armed forces, which he has granted many privileges to in recent years, according to the Miami Herald. Yet the opposition claims there are internal fissures in the military that could come to a head due to the current social pressure.

The combination of internal and external pressure on the administration is a key difference with previous episodes of social conflict, however, according to Efecto Cocuyo. Attorney general Luisa Ortega Díaz has been increasingly critical, and on Wednesday urged the government to respect the right to peaceful protest. (See yesterday's post.)

Taking advantage of these schisms and pushing for free and transparent elections is key for the anti-government movement, as is international pressure marking that a further slide to authoritarianism is unacceptable, writes Kozak.

A General Motors factory seized in Venezuela this week prompted the U.S. car making giant to suspend operations in the country, the latest in a long list of multinational corporations to pull out, reports the New York Times. (See yesterday's briefs.)

Maduro ordered an investigation into Telefónica’s Movistar for alleged "coup-mongering," yesterday, reports the Financial Times

News Briefs
  • A laundry list of Venezuela's current crisis includes chronic recession, rampant inflation, punishing food shortages and lack of basic medicines -- all of which have been widely reported on. But the situation has also "fed the growth of criminality and organized crime to unprecedented levels," reported InSight Crime earlier this week. Caracas' homicide rate is among the highest in the world, high level government officials participate in drug trafficking, and pro-government paramilitary groups have gone rogue and are resorting to criminal tactics to support themselves. "Criminal elements within the regime and outside it would like nothing more than to maintain the status quo," explains the piece that looks at various aspects of criminality at high levels, including in the armed forces.
  • A human rights group representing Haitian women impregnated by U.N. peacekeepers who are seeking child support payments has accused the international organization of refusing to cooperate, reports the Guardian.
  • Amid plans for the U.N. to finalize it's longstanding peacekeeping stabilization mission in Haiti, the country is seeking to revive its military, 22 years after it was disbanded, reports the Associated Press. The proposal could potentially provide much needed jobs, but frightens those who suffered under years of military coups. Defense Minister Herve Denis said a new force focused on development is needed, and said a security vacuum could be created by the U.N. pullout.
  • At least 17 people were killed by a landslide in Manizales in central Colombia yesterday, reports the BBC. Earlier this month 300 people were killed in a landslide in Mocoa, in the country's south.
  • Former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's impeachment process was motivated by a desire for revenge on the part of then-lower house leader Eduardo Cunha, who had sought protection from an ethics committee investigation into corruption. The admission comes from current President Michel Temer, who spoke in a television interview last weekend, reports TeleSUR. "If the vote (at the ethical commission) had turned out differently, Mrs. President would likely still be governing," said Temer. But he noted that vengeance did not motivate all the lawmakers who voted for the impeachment, and that the procedure was still valid, reports Valor Economico. Rousseff's lawyer said the statements will be added to a request to the Supreme Court asking for the annulment of her impeachment and a dismissal order against Temer. Interestingly, almost no coverage of the case in Brazilian mainstream media. The Intercept Brazil calls local media to task for slanted coverage of this and the recent laundry list of corruption accusations that involves many key government figures. (Thanks Manuel Rosaldo for your help on this one.)
  • Justice may finally be in sight for families of the victims of El Mozote massacre in 1981, after the case was reopened by El Salvador's Supreme Court, reports Reuters. (Nothing really new in the piece.)
  • Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are portraying El Salvador's MS-13 gang as an increasingly dangerous threat to the U.S., permitted to gain foothold by the previous administration's lax immigration policy. At InSight Crime Héctor Silva Ávalos fact checks the statements, noting of course that MS-13 originated in the U.S. and that U.S. law enforcement has actually carried out extensive actions against the gang in the past decade. "Both Trump and Sessions resorted to repeating misinformation that other officials -- including Central American presidents, ministers and police chiefs -- have used to justify heavy-handed anti-gang policies, which have only helped the MS13 and Barrio 18 to become more sophisticated as their members have been stuffed into prisons."
  • Uruguay's senate passed a bill that would make femicide a criminal offense, reports TeleSUR. The bill passed unanimously, and several lawmakers called for further actions to instigate social and cultural change, critical to combatting the phenomenon, reports El País.
  • Argentine actors have protested the government dismissal of the INCAA Film Institute president, calling it part of a plan to intervene and defund the industry, reports the Associated Press.
  • Brexit might be Argentina's chance to obtain E.U. support for its Falklands/Malvinas claim, according to Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, reports Reuters.

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