Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Growing international isolation for Venezuela (Aug. 9, 2017)

U.N. human rights office denounced “widespread and systematic use of excessive force” against demonstrators in Venezuela, yesterday. Separately, a dozen countries from the region agreed not to recognize the country's new Constituent Assembly.

"Witness accounts suggest that security forces, mainly the national guard, the national police and local police forces, have systematically used disproportionate force to instill fear, crush dissent and to prevent demonstrators from assembling, rallying and reaching public institutions to present petitions," the U.N. rights office said in a report released yesterday based on an investigation conducted in June and July, reports AFP.

UN rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein,deployed a team of human rights officers to monitor the country remotely after being denied access to Venezuela to investigate the situation in the country. The investigators conducted 135 interviews between 6 June and 31 July with victims and their families, witnesses, civil society organizations, journalists, lawyers and doctors, among others.

The U.N. report also speaks of other human rights violations, including "violent house raids, torture and ill-treatment," notes the BBC.

"Since the wave of demonstrations began in April, there has been a clear pattern of excessive force used against protesters. Several thousand people have been arbitrarily detained, many reportedly subjected to ill-treatment and even torture, while several hundred have been brought before military rather than civilian courts," said Hussein. The UN human rights team said that estimates suggested that more than 5,000 people had been arbitrarily detained between 1 April, when the protests began, and 31 July.

In a meeting in Peru, foreign ministers and top officials from 12 countries including Canada said the decisions by Venezuela’s 545-member constituent assembly (ANC) will be considered illegitimate, reports the Wall Street Journal. Officials said they supported ousted attorney general Luisa Ortega and will continue to recognize the opposition-controlled Congress.

Even Uruguay, a staunch supporter of engagement and dialogue, has shifted against the Venezuelan government, reports Geoff Ramsey at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights. Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa said Uruguayan officials had reached out to their "Venezuelan counterparts 22 separate times to enter into talks with the opposition, to no effect."

International condemnation has been too weak, argue Robert Muggah and Adriana Erthal Abdenur in Foreign Affairs. "Venezuela is dangerously close to slipping over the precipice. Many of the world’s most intractable armed conflicts were triggered by far less dramatic circumstances than the current crisis in Venezuela. The consequences of a full-blown civil war would be dramatic for the region, with potentially dramatic spillover effects. As hard as it is to imagine, there is still a window of opportunity for preventive diplomacy."

The Trump administration is preparing sanctions against another group of Venezuelan officials linked to Maduro, reports Reuters.

Yesterday members of the ANC took control of a legislative chamber and put up pictures of the late President Hugo Chávez. The assembly declared itself above all other government institutions, including the opposition-controlled congress, reports the Associated Press. (See Monday's post.)

Yesterday Venezuela's Supreme Court sentence an opposition mayor to 15 months in jail, reports the New York Times. Ramón Muchacho, mayor of the wealthy Caracas Chacao district, was also stripped of his position and barred from holding public office. A second opposition mayor, David Smolansky, has been ordered to appear before the court today. They were among 13 mayors who had been ordered by the judges in May to halt anti-government protests that involved erecting barricades to block traffic. But the protests continued and some mayors argued citizens have a right to peaceful protest. At least three other mayors have been sentenced to 15 months in jail for failing to comply with the order.

President Nicolas Maduro’s government disqualified candidates of the main dissident parties from running in seven gubernatorial elections this year, without explanation, reports the Los Angeles Times. Officials said disqualifications were the results of “decisions taken” in those states Zulia, Apure, Monagas, Bolivar, Trujillo, Aragua and Carabobo.

News Briefs
  • Hernán Capriles, a prominent member of Venezuela's opposition, told the Financial Times that the ranks of dissident Chavistas -- who disagree with the current president but retain loyalty to his predecessor -- are growing. He is seeking to join forces with them. Capriles met with former interior minister Miguel Rodríguez and hopes to reach out to the newly ousted attorney general, Luisa Ortega.
  • Venezuela is increasingly an international pariah, defended only by China and Russia, argues Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez in a Financial Times opinion piece examining China's increasing distance and the interests behind Russian support. "The Kremlin ... provides Mr Maduro with Kalashnikovs, not tear gas. It potentially stands to gain more from increased Venezuelan isolation, more sanctions, and the regional spillover effects of implosion — a South American Syria, rather than its Zimbabwe — providing both catalyst and justification for a more visible Russian presence in the Caribbean, to protect its growing interests. The real losers will be the Venezuelan people and their neighbours."
  • A counter perspective in the Guardian, which interviewed Chavista Ruben Ávila, who said this weekend's attack on a military base "was nothing but a media show” put on by “mercenaries and paramilitaries commanded by a officer who deserted, a traitor and coward linked to the same rightwing that we rose up against." (See yesterday's briefs and Monday's post.)
  • A bill approved by Haiti's Senate prohibits any public support or advocacy for LGBTQ rights and bans gay marriage, reports the Associated Press.
  • A group of U.S. senators voiced frustration with the Trump administration's efforts to address violence and corruption in Honduras, and comes months after they urged U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to take a tougher stance. The Democrats said there is "credible evidence" that not all Honduran officials support serious efforts to combat organized crime and corruption. They also told Tillerson that social activists continue to be the target of threats and attacks and the government of Honduras' "engagement with civil society has not materially improved," reports the Associated Press.
  • Last week Paraguayan president Horacio Cartés vetoed a bill to subsidize the debts of thousands of small producers, reports EFE. Campesino associations announced they will continue to pressure for Congress to repass the bill and bypass the veto.
  • Peru's melting "tropical glaciers" make it a test spot for climate change adaptation -- so far, it's not going well, reports the Washington Post.
  • Members of Mexico's Comité de Participación Ciudadana del Sistema Nacional Anticorrupción have taken legal recourse to try to pressure states to implement the system, reports Animal Político. One suit seeks to have a federal judge force states that haven't conformed to reform their legislation meet the national legislation.
  • Mexico state's electoral authorities have declared PRI candidate Alfredo del Mazo the definitive winner of June's contested gubernatorial race, reports Animal Político. Opposition parties Morena and PRD denounced electoral irregularities favoring Del Mazo and undue use of social programs. (See June 6's post.)
  • U.S. negotiators may push for better working conditions and wages for Mexican workers in upcoming NAFTA renegotiations, part of a bid to make the country less enticing for U.S. firms, reports Bloomberg.
  • The U.S.'s America First rhetoric is causing trouble for U.S. ethanol producers who are trying to avoid a trade spat with Brazil over biofuel, reports Bloomberg.
  • Brazilian Attorney General Ricardo Janot heavily criticized the recent Congressional vote against putting President Michel Temer on trial for corruption. He also said plea bargains being negotiated could lead to charges of racketeering and obstruction of justice, reports the Associated Press.
  • Temer's lawyers asked the Supreme Court to remove Janot yesterday, arguing he is overstepping limits in pursuing cases against the president, reports EFE.
  • U.S. health officials say more than 100 people have contracted salmonella after eating papaya traced to a farm in southern Mexico, reports the Associated Press.
  • Word geeks will like Larousse's Mexico City anti-machista campaign, designed on the premise that language influences how we behave, reports Animal Político.

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