Thursday, May 4, 2017

Violent clashes in Caracas yesterday (May 4, 2017)

Venezuela briefs
  • One Venezuelan teen was killed and about 400 people were injured yesterday in Caracas, in clashes between protesters attempting to reach the National Assembly building and security forces. Masked protesters threw rocks and fire bombs, and the national guard used rubber bullets and water cannon, reports Efecto Cocuyo. Over thirty people have been killed in protests over the past month, demanding immediate elections. Protesters this week doubled down after a suggestion by President Nicolás Maduro to convene a constituent assembly as a way out of the current crisis. The political opposition accuses the government of a ploy to cling to power by stacking the body with friendly organizations. (See Tuesday's post.)
  • Venezuelan attorney general Luisa Ortega criticized state violence against protesters and praised the constitution Maduro is proposing to revamp, reports the Wall Street Journal. Ortega became an unlikely prominent voice of dissent last month, when she spoke out against the Supreme Court decision (later reversed) to take over legislative powers from the opposition-led National Assembly. (See April 3's post.) "This constitution is unbeatable," Ortega told the WSJ. "This is Chávez’s constitution."
  • Washington Post editorial calls on the U.S. to step up efforts to "rescue" Venezuela, arguing that the country "is headed toward a cataclysm greater than any the hemisphere has witnessed since the Central American wars of the 1980s."
  • A group of U.S. senators proposed a sweeping bill yesterday in relation to Venezuela, which would sanction individuals responsible for undermining democracy or involved in corruption and provide $10 million in humanitarian aid to the struggling country, reports Reuters. The legislation would also require the State Department to coordinate a regional effort to ease the crisis, and ask U.S. intelligence to report on the involvement of Venezuelan government officials in corruption and the drug trade. It calls on calls on U.S. President Donald Trump to take all necessary steps to prevent Rosneft, Russia's state oil company, from gaining control of any U.S. energy infrastructure.
  • An OAS meeting scheduled for later this month could result in a joint position among divided member states regarding the Venezuela crisis, Peru's Foreign Minister Ricardo Luna said, according to Reuters. But the meeting likely won't happen for a few weeks. The proposal for the foreign ministers' meeting last week already led the Venezuelan government to threaten to leave the regional organization. (See last Thursday's post.)
  • A CELAC meeting earlier this week in El Salvador, called by Venezuela in an attempt to counter OAS hostility, was under-attended and ended with a call for dialogue, reports El Diario de Hoy. Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez announced that El Salvador, Nicaragua and Saint Vincent will join mediation efforts led by the Vatican last year and largely abandoned in the interim, reports El Tiempo.
  • Mexico and Uruguay joined the regional chorus of concern over the increasingly grave situation in Venezuela, reports Efecto Cocuyo. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Trump should be doing more for Venezuela, agrees Andrés Oppenheimer in the Miami Herald. "The most effective thing Trump could do to help the Venezuelan opposition maintain its momentum on the streets would be to order the U.S. Justice Department to release the details of these "hundreds of millions of dollars" owned by El Aissami and other top Venezuelan officials."
  • The evolution of the current crisis depends -- to a broad extent -- on the military, which must decide whether to continue supporting the Maduro administration and repressing protesters, or falling back on institutional neutrality, argues Benigno Alarcón in the Conversation.
  • Jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López was rumored to be in grave condition yesterday, leading his family to rush to a prison hospital and later the Ramo Verde jail where he is detained. They said they have not been permitted to visit him for a month, and accused the government of holding López hostage. Yesterday evening the leader of Venezuela’s ruling socialist party, Diosdado Cabello, disseminated a proof-of-life video in which López reassured his family, reports the Associated Press. Critics note that the video, in which López tells his wife he doesn't know why a proof-of-life is being requested at this point, is edited, and his wife, Lilian Tintori, insists she be allowed to see him, reports the BBC. The rumor about López's health was started by a tweet from a widely respected Venezuelan journalist, and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio added to the storm by confirming reports that the jailed activist was in a "grave condition." Cabello accused the family of mounting a political show, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
  • After a month of violent clashes, protesters kit themselves out for marches in motorcycle helmets, gloves for throwing tear gas canisters back at police, and homemade shields and gas masks, reports the Los Angeles Times.
News Briefs
  • A far right group protesting a Brazilian immigration bill clashed with Palestinian activists in São Paulo on Tuesday. The immigration bill in question has not been particularly controversial, and makes it easier for migrants to obtain legal documentation, join the work force and removes discriminatory language adopted by the military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1964 to 1985, reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • Lawyers in Guatemala are pushing for charges of femicide to be brought against officials in relation to a youth shelter fire that killed 41 teenaged girls in March, reports the Guardian. They argue that the girls were subjected to abuse and neglect indicative of wider state failings on the protection of women in Guatemala. (See March 21's post.)
  • Members of the Congressional Black Caucus called on Trump to "show compassion" and extend Haitians' temporary protected status for another 18 months, reports the Miami Herald. (See Tuesday's briefs.)
  • Jamaica is seeking to cash in the cachet of its ganja fame. But subsistence farmers, thwarted by prohibitive licensing fees, fear legalization of medical marijuana is aimed at big business profit, reports the Guardian.
  • A U.S. Congressional spending compromise bill omits many of Trump's policy proposals to more aggressively enforce the country's immigration laws, reports the New York Times.
  • Most of the 20 or so alleged gang members detained by authorities in New York City last week were Dominican, drawing attention to the powerful transnational links of the DR's "Pandilla Puta," reports InSight Crime.
  • Argentina's Supreme Court determined that an old law reducing sentences for people held in pre-trial detention for over two years is applicable for people found guilty of human rights violations in the country's last military dictatorship, reports La Nación. The ruling could potentially reduce by a third the sentences of hundreds of detained former military personnel, reports La Nacion in a separate piece.
  • The traditional White House Cinco de Mayo celebrations -- to be held today -- will be more modest this year than in the past. And the festivities will be headed by VP Mike Pence rather than Trump, reports Animal Político. Oddly, Cinco de Mayo is more of a big deal in the U.S., where has evolved into a celebration of Mexican-American culture – during which 81m pounds of avocados are consumed and $2.9 billion is spent on margaritas each year -- than back home, according to the Guardian.

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