Thursday, November 16, 2017

Venezuela gets debt leeway from Russia (Nov. 16, 2017)

Yesterday, Russia announced a deal to restructure $3.15 billion in debt owed by Venezuela, giving the South American country some breathing room, reports the BBC. The debt will now be repaid over 10 years, with minimal repayments during the first six years, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The move will allow Venezuela some lee-way in meeting other debt obligations, as a credit rating agencies declared it in "selective default." It also highlights the role of Russia as Venezuela's main backer, according to the Financial Times. (See Tuesday's post.) Assistance from China and Russia has been increasingly vital for Venezuela in recent years, especially as relations with the U.S. worsened, notes the WSJ. Separately, China also expressed confidence in Venezuela's financial situation. 

The U.S. and the E.U. have sanctioned Venezuelan officials and denounced lack of democracy -- along with a dozen Latin American nations.

Venezuela is broke and it's Chavismo's fault because it strangled entrepreneurship, argues a Wall Street Journal editorial. "Faced with expropriation, hyperinflation, price controls and rampant corruption, human and monetary capital has fled Venezuela."


An attempt at talks between the Venezuelan government and the political opposition scheduled to take place yesterday in the Dominican Republic was called off because the Maduro administration would not accept the presence of several Latin American foreign ministers as "guarantors," according to Efecto Cocuyo. President Nicolás Maduro did meet with former Spanish President  José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero who has been acting as a mediator in the crisis.

Earlier this week, Geoff Ramsey noted at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights that the scope of these talks, unlike previous iterations, was far more limited, focusing on how to achieve a relatively clean presidential election next year. But even though National Assembly President Julio Borges and Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Luis Florido said the MUD coalition parties were largely behind the efforts, the announcement that they would occur was immediately criticized by prominent opposition leaders including María Corina Machado and Antonio Ledezma. He analyzes the ongoing schism within the opposition between those who seek to participate in politics and those who favor boycotting. "Underlining this tension within the MUD is the fact that its members appear to be jockeying for nomination as the opposition presidential candidate. While presidential elections are due in late 2018, many believe that the government is likely to move them up to early in the year, perhaps as soon as March."

News Briefs
  • Violence in Mexico's Guerrero state has overwhelmed morgues, where infrastructure is inadequate for the flow of homicide victims. Workers have complained that bodies are decomposing, reports the Guardian. Between eight and 10 bodies have been arriving daily at morgues in the state, according to Reforma, while the state has registered 1,919 homicides so far this year – already at least 100 more than last year.
  • A recent report by independent experts (GAIPE) regarding the investigation into Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres' assassination emphasizes the participation of security forces and business interests in the killing. More broadly, "As with anything in Honduras, the United States looms large in this case," reports The Nation, reviewing the recent GAIPE report. (See Oct.30's and Nov. 2's posts.) The piece examines the U.S. role in permitting ongoing human rights abuses in Honduras. "Since the coup, a small number of US lawmakers have expressed concern about the human-rights situation in Honduras, sending multiple letters to the State Department, but their admonitions and entreaties seem to spark little meaningful action. The State Department has continued to employ an opaque process to certify that Honduras complies with human-rights conditions despite clear evidence to the contrary, (including its own reports), such as its summary dismissal of credible evidence that Cáceres had been on a military hit list."
  • Honduras appears poised to end 2017 with a significantly lower homicide rate than it started with, reports InSight Crime. The government estimates that the 2017 homicide rate will be 42 per 100,000 citizens by the end of the year, compared to 59 per 100,000 registered in 2016. The drastic reduction -- about half the rate registered in 2012 -- is due to seven factors, according to InSight, including a focus on fighting crimes like extortion in the country's most violent neighborhoods. The piece cites Omar Rivera, the advocacy coordinator for the Association for a More Just Society (Asociación para una Sociedad más Justa - ASJ) who also emphasizes the capture of criminal organization leaders. Other sources point to police reform and prison modernization, as well as cooperation between government institutions and international organizations.
  • In the U.S., a congressional hearing on the effectiveness of the Kingpin act showed the benefits and pitfalls of the 1999 law used to sanction individuals suspected of involvement in the drug trade, reports InSight Crime. Though a former DEA official said the law was tremendously effective, other witnesses criticized parts of its implementation. For example, Eric Olson, the deputy director of the Wilson Center's Latin American Program, cited the case of the Rosenthal family in Honduras to illustrate how the sanctions "risk of collateral damage that can potentially undermine legitimate sectors of the financial system and ultimately the economy."
  • Another Colombian social activist was killed in Tumaco -- just hours after participating in a protest regarding the killings of 130 community leaders in the region this year, reports TeleSUR.
  • Mexican police detained the alleged mastermind of a 72-person massacre in Tamaulipas state. The victims were mostly migrant workers from Central and South America, who appeared to have been tied up and blindfolded before being executed, reports Reuters.
  • A Brazilian proposal to subsidize off-shore oil fields would increase emissions, in direct opposition to the country's stance in international climate change forums. Environmental groups say the government is unfairly providing relief to big oil in order to increase revenue before shrinking global carbon budgets push down demand and prices, reports the Guardian.
  • Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has denied receiving any campaign donations or bribes from the Brazilian construction giant, Odebrecht, reports the BBC. (See yesterday's post.)

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