Friday, August 18, 2017

Venezuela's ANC to legislate against hate, protesters (Aug. 18, 2017)

News Briefs
  • Venezuela's National Constituent Assembly (ANC) is set to approve a law "against hate and intolerance" today. Rights groups say it will be used against opposition demonstrators, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's post.)
  • However, the protest movement sustained by the opposition since March has somewhat paused since the ANC took office, and opposition political leaders are trying to navigate the tricky waters of upcoming gubernatorial elections in what they have denounced as an authoritarian context, reports the Christian Science Monitor. "In the end, the largest parties within the opposition coalition decided to participate. But it raises questions about how best to pressure a government into negotiations or leadership change in an environment where the rules of the game are constantly changing. And their choice has left a powerful showing of public pressure via street protests in limbo. While the opposition seems to be making a bet on the possibility of peaceful political change, past missteps and growing national unrest are hanging over the decision."
  • Venezuela's government has around $2 billion in available cash to make $1.3 billion in bond payments by the end of the year and to cover the import of food and medicine, according to documents reviewed by Reuters.
  • Trump's foreign policy towards Latin America is a strange cross between "... two essential elements: first, strong and sometimes bellicose rhetorical opposition to the Obama Administration’s policies; second, significant substantive continuity with Obama Administration policies combined with threats to change that fact," argues Greg Weeks at Global Americans. "Combined, the disjuncture between rhetoric and action fosters uncertainty as U.S. administration officials policy makers walk back Tweets and offhand remarks on a regular basis. That’s one thing for domestic policy, but overseas it weakens the administration’s diplomatic position, especially in Latin America."
  • Evangelical Christians are playing an increasingly prominent role in Brazilian politics -- raising the possibility of "a "Brazilian Christian right"—a movement similar to the American Christian right in its ability to reshape politics," writes Omar G. Encarnación in The Nation. In fact, there are significant ties between the U.S. and the Brazilian evangelical communities, he notes. "More significant, however, is that in the last two decades several American Christian groups, many of the veterans of the American culture wars, have set up shop in Brazil."
  • The State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) cancelled classes for an indeterminate amount of time, amid mounting budget difficulties that have left professors and staff without salaries for months, reports the Washington Post. "UERJ has the reputation for being not only one of the best universities in the country, but also the school that has done the most to address educational inequality in Rio."
  • Manuel Ramiez Mosquera, a social leader in Colombia's Choco state, was killed, one of over 50 social activists killed so far this year, reports TeleSUR. Yesterday a FARC leader was also killed, one of nine killed since the signing of peace accords.
  • Peruvian authorities say a new cocaine producing hotspot is growing near the country's border with Colombia and Brazil, and could be strengthened by dissident FARC guerrillas, reports Reuters.
  • Chile's Constitutional Court is set to decide today on a new law that would allow abortion in limited circumstances. The measure, backed by President Michelle Bachelet would allow abortion in cases of rape, threat to women's health and fetal inviability. (See yesterday's briefs.) Chile is one of only four Latin American countries that forbid abortion under all circumstances, reports the New York Times.
  • El Salvador, another of the countries in the region with an absolute prohibition against abortion, might also be moving to permit it in extremely limited circumstances: when its necessary to save the pregnant woman's life and when the pregnancy is the result of rape. A potential bill has the support of 31 FMLN lawmakers, and a handful of rightwing party representatives. They are angling for two more votes needed to change the country's penal code, reports El Faro.
  • Salvadoran lawmakers abolished a polemic law permitting men to marry underage girls they had impregnated, reports Reuters. Critics say the law is often used to cover up rape.
  • Peruvian military staff were convicted today in the 1983 mass killings of 53 people at a barracks, who they wrongly claimed were part of the Shining Path rebel group, reports AFP.
  • Mexico's Human Rights Commission condemned a video threatening El Universal columnist Hector De Mauleon, reports the Associated Press. At least eight journalists have been killed this year in Mexico, and De Mauleon has received threats in the past for his coverage of organized crime in Mexico City.
  • The flow of Haitian migrants from the U.S. to Canada is spurred by fear of deportation from the U.S. -- but many will have difficulty proving they meet the conditions for asylum, namely that their lives are in danger in their home country, reports the Miami Herald. And if they are denied asylum, many will face the difficult choice about what to do with their U.S. born children. (See Aug. 4's post.)
  • U.S. Vice President Mike Pence ended his LatAm tour a day early. Throughout the visits to Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Panama, he assured regional allies that the Trump administration's "America First" policies do not mean eschewing multilateral trade, reports the Wall Street Journal. Pence sought to push back against perceptions that the Trump administration is isolationist, according to Reuters. Though he did not refer to the "military option" in reference to Venezuela, he did say the country was becoming a dictatorship and that the United States would not stand by while it was destroyed. (See Monday's post.)
  • Paraguay is a global marijuana powerhouse -- the world's fourth largest producer. Though drug cartels have not generally had a strong foothold in the country,  "its porous borders and central position on the continent, among other factors, have begun to attract increasing attention from major drug gangs," according to the Washington Post.

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