Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Venezuelan election updates (Feb. 21, 2018)

Venezuela's government officially requested U.N. electoral accompaniment and observance, said the head of the country's electoral authority yesterday. The request aims to satisfy one of the demands of the failed negotiation with the political opposition, reports TeleSUR.

The CNE requested the delegation be led by former Spanish President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who has led international mediation efforts, reports El País. The U.N. said it had not received a formal request yet.

The move comes as the country's main opposition parties have announced they will sit out the vote due to lack of electoral guarantees, reports Bloomberg. Yesterday, Henrique Capriles' Primero Justicia party announced it would not participate, and last week Leopoldo López's Voluntad Popular party also said it wouldn't field a candidate. 

However, Avanzada Progresista candidate, former Lara state governor Henri Falcón might participate outside of the MUD opposition coalition, reports Efecto Cocuyo. Yesterday the party's secretary called for a united opposition to the government. The Juntos political movement, which includes critical chavistas, also called on civil society to participate and rejected opposition calls for a boycott, reports Efecto Cocuyo separately. Abstention is useless and only promotes violent confrontation said the group in a press release yesterday.

Government leader Diosdado Cabello, VP of the ruling Socialist Party, proposed holding early Congressional elections in April, along with the presidential vote. The move would cut short the tenure of the opposition-controlled National Assembly by two years, reports Reuters. Political experts consulted by Efecto Cocuyo said the plan wasn't viable and would run roughshod over political rights.

President Nicolas Maduro said Venezuela's new oil-backed cryptocurrency raised $735 million dollars on its launch day, at a a "startup-style" celebration, reports the Washington Post. But skeptics say the project is unlikely to thrive due to lack of confidence in its leadership.

The New York Times quotes Cynthia J. Arnson, director of the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, who calls it "a desperate move by a regime that is increasingly isolated and has an economy that has spiraled out of its control."

Though its angled at mitigating the effects of U.S. sanctions limiting credit and business with the Venezuelan government, though U.S. officials have warned that investing in the petro could potentially be interpreted as an extension of credit.

Yesterday Maduro made a direct appeal via Twitter to U.S. President Donald Trump, reminding him of his campaign promise not to interfere in other countries and inviting him to dialogue, reports the Washington Post. The White House rejected the proposal, calling on Maduro to restore democracy in Venezuela first, reports EFE.

News Briefs
  • Making it harder for immigrants to legally stay in the U.S. and increasing deportations will only make the U.S. less safe, argues Oscar Martínez in a New York Times op-ed. Deportation, in and of itself, strengthens gangs like Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) by handing them recruits familiar with the U.S., who often return and bring the gang along with them, he writes. "But the biggest problem with the focus on deportation is that it distracts from the efforts that would really make a difference." Gangs do not win over these youths, he writes, because "the United States is not fighting for these boys." He criticizes lack of social policies in areas where immigrant youths live in the U.S., and lack of oversight of unaccompanied minors. "Last June, a teenager at Uniondale who was a “chequeo,” the lowest rung on the MS-13 ladder, told me why he joined the group. “You feel lost,” he said, when reflecting on his arrival at the school. He said that everyone had been after him: the police, because being young and Salvadoran made him a potential MS-13 member; the black gangs, because he looked like a Latino gang member; the Latino gangs — including MS-13 — because he wasn’t then a member. He did not join a cartel for money, or a gang because he was an “animal.” He joined MS-13 out of frustration, loneliness and the need for protection."
  • Immigration is also a major political issue in Chile now, writes Ariel Dorfman in a New York Times op-ed. He argues the country should look at its history of receiving Spanish republicans fleeing Franco, the result of a campaign by poet Pablo Neruda. "Almost 80 years later, those undesirables pose disturbing questions for us, both in Chile and elsewhere. Where are the presidents who welcome destitute refugees with open arms despite the most virulent slander against them? Where are the Nerudas of yesteryear, ready to launch ships like poems to defend the right to happiness?"
  • Looking at Latin America in 2018, an observer might well feel a sense of déjà vu, writes Carol Pires in a New York Times Español op-ed, comparing the current state of regional politics to 1989. She analyzes various political throwbacks throughout the region, and the rise of socially conservative agendas. "The left that is exiting the stage now, disinflated by its populist tendencies and accusations of corruption, needs a new programatic project that doesn't sound like a late-night Cold War conversation. But the right has reacted as if the solution to all problems is to enter a time machine that throws us back to the 80s. A good start to air out that smell of mothballs would be for the right to commit to liberal values, not only in its economic discourse, but also in the social arena. And to, for once and for all, break its ties to military regimes."
  • Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has consolidated broad control over the country's institutions and politics, helped along by a well-oiled network of friendly businesses fed with Venezuelan financing. U.S. sanctions -- such as the U.S. Nica Act, which if passed by Congress would seek to limit financing unless the government strengthens democratic and electoral institutions -- are a start, but will be insufficient to root out the corrupt system put in place by the former Sandinista guerrilla leader, argues Diego Fonseca in a New York Times Español op-ed. "The crisis has the dimension of a generational mortgage for Nicaragua because, even if Ortega were to leave power tomorrow, the state within a state constructed by the FSLN would remain encysted while the partners of the president maintain key posts in congress or the court of justice."
  • Brazilian authorities indicate a desire to institutionalize the militarization of security policy launched in Rio de Janeiro this week. (See yesterday's post.) But the approach "has shown little long-term promise — both in Brazil and throughout Latin America," warns InSight Crime.
  • A large-scale seizure of FARC assets in Colombia "is likely to reinforce the perception that the rebel group is not fully committed to the terms of the peace agreement, particularly when it comes to using its assets to provide reparations for victims," reports InSight Crime. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • The U.N. warned that criminal gangs battling over drug trafficking routes in the wake of FARC demobilization have displaced more than 800 people in northern Colombia, reports Reuters.
  • The FARC political party is analyzing resuming its presidential campaign, suspended nearly two weeks ago due to lack of security guarantees, reports El Espectador.
  • Candidates for Mexico's main political parties formally launched their presidential campaigns on Sunday: Andrés Manuel López Obrador for Morena, Ricardo Anaya for a coalition between the the conservative National Action Party and leftist Democratic Revolution Party, and José Antonio Meade, the first non-member presidential candidate for the governing PRI, reports the Associated Press.
  • A Mexican bishop uses his religious status to negotiate with cartel bosses and attempt to reduce violence in Guerrero, reports the Guardian.
  • At least 500 children were illegally adopted by foreigners during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet according to an investigation by a Chilean judge. The practice was common during the authoritarian regime and affected mostly poor women, reports TeleSUR.
  • Cuban performance artist Tania Bruguera, known for her politically charged art, will be the Tate Modern's next commission for the Turbine Hall, reports the Guardian.

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