Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Venezuela's opposition divided over municipal election boycott (Oct. 31, 2017)

Three of Venezuela's leading opposition parties said they will boycott December's municipal elections,  reports the BBC. Justice First, Popular Will and Democratic Action, along with four other opposition parties, say the electoral system is biased. But the decision comes after a surprising loss in gubernatorial elections earlier this month, due in part to illicit maneuvering by the government, but also a high abstention rate among opposition voters. (See last Friday's briefs, for example.) 

The loss and the debate over whether to participate in future elections are not has divided the MUD opposition coalition. (See Oct. 19's briefs on the growing schism, and last Friday's briefs for Geoff Ramsey's primer on the split.) For example, former MUD secretary general  Jesús Torrealba, criticized the parties that decided not to participate in the upcoming elections, saying they were ceding the spots to the government, reports Efecto Cocuyo.

At heart, the debate is over whether to work within the system or challenge it from without, Justice First coordinator Rachid Yasbek told Al Jazeera

Analysts are increasingly critical of the opposition's inability to put forth a clear and united front, as well as it's "incoherent" response to the government's illegal electoral moves, according to another Efecto Cocuyo piece.

The scenario bodes ill for hopes of defeating Chavismo in a presidential election scheduled for some point next year, reports the BBC separately. Opposition parties are increasingly at odds and many of the most popular leaders are jailed or banned from running for office.

Two months ahead of the municipal elections, the National Electoral Council has yet to confirm an exact date (some outlets are reporting Dec. 10), according to Efecto Cocuyo
  • Currently opposition parties hold 76 mayorships out of the country's 335. 
  • In Caracas' Libertador municipality, "critical Chavista" Nicmer Evans is running for the Nuvipa party.
  • Former Zulia state governor and  Un Nuevo Tiempo (UNT) founder Manuel Rosales' ban on political participation was lifted by the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, just in time to declare candidacy, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
George W. Bush's former assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega argues in Newsweek that Venezuela will collapse soon if the U.S. doesn't help focus pro-democracy efforts in a more concerted way.

Amnesty International denounced "a vicious campaign of illegal home raids on citizens suspected of dissent." A new investigation, Nights of terror: Attacks and illegal raids on homes in Venezuela "reveals how Venezuelan security forces and government-sponsored civilian armed groups have violently broken into people’s homes in recent months as a way of intimidating them against taking part in demonstrations or any other form of protest."

News Briefs
  • Cuba's government announced measures aimed at easing visits by Cubans living abroad. The changes boil down to less paperwork, reports the Miami Herald. Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez also announced that Cubans who left illegally will be permitted to return for visits, and children of Cubans born abroad can apply for citizenship. Cuban Americans will also be allowed to arrive and leave Cuba by boat. The changes also seem to be an official response to the U.S. chilling of relations between the Cold-War enemies, according to a subsequent Miami Herald article. It could also be part of a transition to a more open government, ahead of President Raul Castro's stepping down next year.
  • Following a broad electoral victory in mid-term elections earlier this month, Argentine President Mauricio Macri announced a broad array of reforms aimed at making the economy more competitive. He announced a tax overhaul, pension cuts, and asked provincial governments to cut spending, reports the Wall Street Journal. He also reiterated previous promises to cut down on legislation protecting workers in order to create better conditions for businesses. Though he did not flesh out the proposals, the gist is in line with IMF recommendations from last year, notes Alfredo Zaiat in Página 12.
  • Brazilian President Michel Temer recognizes a national insecurity crisis, but "the government does not appear to have a coherent plan to address the main drivers of violence and crime," according to InSight Crime. "During a recent visit to Brazil, InSight Crime observed clear signs of public concern over growing insecurity in the country. News of violent clashes between police and alleged criminals dominated the headlines of major news outlets. However, mirroring the government's messaging about insecurity, the media coverage focused almost entirely on the symptoms of the failure to halt rising crime and violence rather than the factors undergirding this dynamic."
  • Slum tourism has been a popular Rio de Janeiro attraction for years -- but operators rarely mention the very real risks, highlighted by the recent killing of a Spanish tourist by police. (See Oct. 24's briefs.) It's a symbol of the dangers faced daily by locals living in favelas, according to the Wall Street Journal.
  • Mexican criminal organizations are always seeking new revenue streams. The latest: stolen multi-ton shipments of frozen octopus, reports InSight Crime.
  • Among the many profiting from Puerto Rico's deficient finances are a growing cadre of lawyers and consultants, reports the New Yorker.

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