Thursday, April 13, 2017

Protests, clashes intensify in Venezuela (April 13, 2017)

Venezuela's political opposition is maintaining pressure against the government through ongoing protests, even as clashes appear to be intensifying. The MUD coalition called for protests today, 13A.

Two protesters were killed Tuesday evening in the western city of Barquisimeto, bringing the total deaths of the latest wave of demonstrations up to four, reports the BBC. Witnesses describe confusing scenes of burning tires and clashes with security forces in working class neighborhoods in Caracas that have joined protests, reports Reuters.

The death of a 13 year old boy is blamed on armed government supporters or right-wing opposition protesters, depending on whose version you listen to.

About 70 people were arrested on Tuesday, according to the Penal Forum, part of what the opposition is calling a crackdown on dissent.

Videos circulating on social media and online channels show National Guard officers air dropping tear gas from helicopters into crowds of protesters, and other reports show black-clad groups of protesters throwing Molotov cocktails and attacking soldiers, according CNN

In a press conference yesterday, the country's Roman Catholic leadership called for an end to "indiscriminate repression" on the part of the government, and "illegal groups" that act with impunity against opposition demonstrators, reports Efecto Cocuyo.

Later yesterday a group of men attempted to attack Caracas Cardinal  Jorge Urosa Savino while he officiated mass and called for the liberation of political prisoners, reports Efecto Cocoyo separately. Members of the political opposition had called for supporters to join the procession of Nazareno with Venezuelan flags as a symbol of protest, though Urosa called to avoid politicizing a religious event. The march was carried out later that afternoon without further incident, reports Efecto Cocuyo in another piece.

This latest round of protests is different, according to opposition leader Henrique Capriles who spoke to the Miami Herald's Andrés Oppenheimer. He points to factors such as the government's blocking of National Assembly initiatives and a recall referendum over the past year, and an increasing international pressure.

Speaking with Voice of America, David Smilde says Latin American leadership of the diplomatic push -- rather than U.S. protagonism -- has been key. And that the widespread international condemnation of the attempted dissolution of the National Assembly has combined with domestic pressure in a way that is more potent than in the past.

The New York Times has an in-depth analysis of how oil prices will likely force Venezuela into a disastrous default. Pdvsa honored a bond payment due yesterday, but at a high cost for the country which needs the dollars for food and medical imports, reports Efecto Cocuyo.

News Briefs
  • Six months after Hurricane Mathew devastated Haiti's southern peninsula food and shelter remain scarce in many areas, and the situation could tilt into famine, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Record rainfalls in Peru have triggered widespread flooding, killing 100 people, displacing 158,000 and destroying vast stretches of roads and infrastructure. Peruvian Defense Minister Jorge Nieto, who has been leading recovery efforts, says the tragedy is an opportunity for much needed development that will leave communities better fortified against alternating droughts and floods, reports the Guardian
  • Graft probes into a broad swath of Brazil's political elite endanger President Michel Temer's already unpopular push for pension reform, and could empower antiestablishment figures ahead of next year's presidential elections, reports the Wall Street Journal. Voters might not have much of a choice, as major figures ranging from former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to PSDB leader Aécio Néves find themselves implicated in Odebrecht plea-bargain testimony allegations of illicit campaign contributions, reports El País. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Newly released plea-bargain testimony from a former Odebrecht exec alleges the company paid $40 million to Brazilian President Michel Temer's PDMD party and the Workers's Party to obtain a contract with state-owned oil company Petrobras, reports the Associated Press.
  • Former Rio de Janeiro mayor Eduardo Paes is accused of taking $5.2 million in bribes from Odebrecht in exchange for favoring the construction firm in Olympics related projects, reports EFE.
  • Over in Peru, 14 of 25 regional governors are implicated in Odebrecht corruption allegations, reports El País.
  • The case of a former Mexican governor caught in Italy this week and accused of colluding with cartels is part of a wider trend. At least 41 governors were accused of corruption between 2000 and 2013, according to the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO), a think tank, with just 16 facing criminal investigation and four being arrested, reports the Washington Post.
  • The case of a 12-year-old impregnated by her father and unable to obtain an abortion in Costa Rica -- where the procedure is legal in cases of threats to maternal life and health -- exemplifies difference between the law and social practice in the country, according to Larissa Arroyo Navarrete writing in the Conversation.
  • A feature from La Silla Vacía on how one former fighters in one FARC concentration zone are using food to bond with civilians.
  • An IADB piece in El País argues in favor of government subsidies on rent, rather than an exclusive focus on ownership in housing policy.
  • Argentina's government is struggling with street protests and strikes against its austerity policies -- but still stands a chance to win October's mid-term elections if promises of economic recovery are fulfilled, according to the Financial Times.
  • Macri will visit U.S. President Donald Trump end of the month, where they will discuss the situation in Venezuela and other issues, reports Reuters.

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