Thursday, February 1, 2018

Venezuela talks edging towards deal, maybe (Feb. 1, 2018)

Talks between the Venezuelan government and the political opposition are advancing, and could reach a final agreement as soon as next week -- depending who you ask, of course. 

A document with the points of agreement until now was signed by both parties yesterday. While a cabinet member told press a "pre-agreement" had been signed, a representative for the opposition said that was not the case, reports Reuters. Both sides are returning to Venezuela for consultation, and will meet again in the Dominican Republic on Monday, reports Efecto Cocuyo

Yesterday President Nicolás Maduro insisted that the document was a "pre-agreement," saying he had added personal corrections and assuring citizens that they could celebrate a full accord within three days, reports Efecto Cocoyo. The opposition insisted that only a comprehensive agreement is acceptable, and that if not the process will be scrapped, reports the Associated Press.

The fractured political opposition is aiming to ensure fair presidential elections in the Santo Domingo negotiations, as well as allow humanitarian relief for a crisis struck population and freedom for political prisoners. For its part, the government seeks to lift international sanctions against it and recognition for a supra-legislative body created last year.

Chile, another international mediator, said it was suspending its participation in talks as conditions for transparent and democratic elections have not been created, reports Efecto Cocuyo. Mexico already withdrew after the Venezuelan government last week unilaterally announced elections to be held before April 30. (See Jan 24's post.)

News Briefs
  • U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres referred a long-standing border dispute between Venezuela and Guyana to the International Court of Justice, after a year of talks failed to make any progress, reports AFP. Venezuela revived a claim to a 40 percent of Guyana's territory in 2015, after Exxon-Mobil discovered oil in waters of the coast of the disputed area. Venezuela rejected the referral to the court yesterday, and said it would seek a diplomatic solution, reports the Associated Press.  
  • Venezuela's government says it will launch a new crypto currency later this month, reports Bloomberg. But critics say the "petro," which would be backed by oil, is illegal, reports Reuters.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is starting a week long trip through Latin America, starting in Mexico and going through Argentina, Colombia, Peru and Jamaica. The State Dept. said the focus of the trip will be the Venezuela crisis. But the Washington Post notes that there's a fair number of delicate issues to deal with in Mexico -- including NAFTA renegotiations, immigration and Trump's protectionist rhetoric.
  • NAFTA renegotiations have stretched into their seventh month, though Canadian, Mexican, and U.S. negotiators say they are advancing to a revamped free trade deal, reports the New York Times. The timeline has extended beyond initial plans, and could be complicated by Mexico's presidential election in July, which could bring in a government less amenable to U.S. demands.
  • If former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is effectively barred from running in Brazil's presidential elections later this year, the race is up for grabs. However, he would likely win handily in a second round run-off if he is permitted to apear on the ballot, reports Reuters. A corruption conviction will likely stop him from presenting himself, leaving right-wing provocateur Jair Bolsonaro in the lead, but a Datafolha poll found he would likely lose in a second round. 
  • "During the first month of 2018, Colombia’s alarming wave of attacks on human rights defenders, particularly community activists in rural areas, continued apace," reports the Washington Office on Latin America in its latest human rights update. "The alarming number of killings, security incidents, and threats involving social leaders, means that it is urgent that U.S. policymakers do their utmost to convince Colombian authorities to take bold, efficient, and constructive steps to address the security crisis facing community leaders and defenders. We will continue to see more killings unless Colombian authorities bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice and provide effective protection to vulnerable communities."
  • Peruvian legislator Keiko Fujimori expelled her younger brother Kenji from the Fuerza Popular political party, reports the BBC. The two are offspring of former President Alberto Fujimori, object of a controversial presidential pardon in December. Critics say President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski bartered the pardon in exchange for Kenji's vote against PPK's impeachment, pushed in Congress by Keiko.
  • Peruvian prosecutors are seeking to investigate Grana and Montero, a major national construction company, in relation to Odebrecht bribes, reports Reuters.
  • A former captain in Hondura's army said repression by security forces of protesters was part of an active plan by the armed forces. In an interview with Radio Progreso he alleged that active intelligence and counter-intelligence units responding directly to President Juan Orlando Hernández are responsible for "eliminating people" and "creating chaos" in the country. (Upside Down World has translated the interview to English.)
  • Families displaced by the flooding Paraguay River in Asunción have taken refuge in military bases, reports EFE. More than 25,000 people have been left homeless.

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