Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Venezuelan officials ban opposition parties who boycotted municipal election (Dec. 12, 2017)

  • Venezuelan and U.S. officials have been trading barbs in the wake of a Maduro administration decision to ban political parties that boycotted Sunday's municipal elections, reports the BBC. The US state department said it was "an extreme measure" designed to consolidate President Nicolás Maduro's power. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza called the US statement "ridiculous". (See yesterday's post.)
  • Brazil is one of the first country's in the world to employ a pill that prevents HIV contagion as an integral part of its preventive health care policy, reports the New York Times. The drug, known as PrEP, short for pre-exposure prophylaxis, drastically reduces the risk of contracting the virus when taken daily. It will be made available at no cost to eligible Brazilians at 35 public health clinics in 22 cities in the program's initial phase. The rollout of the drug comes in the midst of an increase in the rate of HIV infected young men that has alarmed Brazilian health authorities. Advocates say the PrEP program will show the economic benefits of prevention programs.
  • Honduran chief prosecutor Oscar Chinchilla and the OAS anti-corruption mission in Honduras accused five federal lawmakers of diverting public funds to their own use, reports the Associated Press. They requested the arrest of the lawmakers, reports La Prensa Gráfica.
  • Josh Holt — the former Mormon missionary from Utah who has been detained in Venezuela for more than a year – is in delicate health said his family, urging authorities to release him, reports the Miami Herald. Holt was arrested in Caracas on June 30, 2016, on charges of hiding two automatic rifles and a hand grenade at the home he was sharing with his Venezuelan bride.
  • Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski acknowledged that he worked as a financial adviser for an irrigation project owned by the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. The admission contradicts his previous denials of links to the company, reports Reuters.
  • Argentine President Mauricio Macri has come under criticism for banning representatives from 26 international NGO's from attending a World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial conference in Buenos Aires because of their postings on social media, reports the Guardian. The government said the blacklisted activists "made explicit calls for manifestations of violence through social media, expressing the intent to generate schemes of intimidation and chaos." But a British journalist who was deported last Friday when she attempted to enter the country for the meetings, said that is not the case. The government was forced to reverse its decision in the case of several European NGO representatives, after Norwegian, Belgian and French officials pressured for their citizens to be admitted.
  • An Argentine judge's request to place former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in pre-trial detention -- and the actual imprisonment of several of her former cabinet members -- could backfire against attempts to battle corruption and impunity in the country, argues journalist Lucia He in Americas Quarterly. The move, considered excessive by many experts, has "detracted from efforts to rid the judicial system of its appearance of partisanship," she writes. She summarizes the complex case, noting that there is little evidence to sustain Judge Claudio Bonadio's allegation that the former officials are tampering with the investigation into alleged treason. And the still more questionable argument he makes that the 1994 Buenos Aires Jewish center bombing was an act of war by Iran against Argentina, justifying the charge of treason. She also raises questions about the judges background, allegations of money laundering and an extensive list of formal complaints for bad performance: he is the sitting federal judge with the most complaints against him.
  • Former Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble has angrily denied Bonadio’s accusations that he also colluded in an alleged attempt to let the supposed Iranian masterminds of the bombing off the hook.
  • For a different perspective: Mark Dubowitz and Tony Dershowitz celebrate the judge's advance in the late prosecutor Alberto Nisman's allegations against the Kirchner government in a New York Times op-ed that accepts as true several of the case's most egregious canards.
  • Free-trade in Mexico brought about "an extraordinary transformation of the country’s food system, one that has saddled" millions of citizens with diet-related illnesses, reports the New York Times. As a result of NAFTA, the Mexican food ecosystem increasingly came to resemble that of the U.S. -- "In 1980, 7 percent of Mexicans were obese, a figure that tripled to 20.3 percent by 2016, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. Diabetes is now Mexico’s top killer, claiming 80,000 lives a year, the World Health Organization has reported."
  • "Deportation is like bereavement, it’s a huge loss and if there’s no help, the streets will take you," immigration advocate Claudia Portela says in a Guardian piece focused on the migrants deported to Mexico, many of whom are forced to leave behind their children and decades of work.
  • The harmful effects of Donald Trump's proposed border wall on human and diplomatic relations has been well documented. But while the proposed barrier would likely be ineffective in deterring migrants, it will definitely be deadly for butterflies and endangered animals whose territory straddles the U.S.-Mexico border, reports the Guardian.
  • "In Mexico, death is everywhere: in the cadavers of the victims of the powerful narco cartels, in the brazen way the police disappear students who protest, in the strategies corrupt politicians use to discredit journalists whose investigations damage their reputation. Death is also present in the immigrant who risks his life to cross a wall and pursue the dream of a better life. It can be seen in the care families give to their elderly who don't have health care and in the quotidian struggle of people who work in the fields in dangerous conditions. We Mexicans live with a certain acceptation of death, sometimes, we even celebrate it," writes Ilan Stavans in a New York Times Español op-ed. "Pixar's latest animated film, Coco, is a lavish portrait of the intense romance with life after death in Mexico. From my point of view, Coco is the cinematographic work that has portrayed Mexican popular culture in the most sophisticated way so far."

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