Friday, May 18, 2018

Riot in Venezuela's Helicoide prison (May 17, 2018)

  • Inmates at an infamous Venezuela intelligence agency run prison in Caracas, el Helicoide, rioted yesterday. Videos posted on social media and reports from people in contact with inmates, who include political prisoners, said they had taken control of the facility yesterday afternoon, reports the Guardian. The standoff with security forces outside the prison continued today, reports Efecto Cocuyo. The group includes a former mayor, Daniel Ceballos, and U.S. citizen Joshua Holt. The prisoners are demanding their cases be reviewed and judicial processes carried out, the so-called Plan Cayapa. They are also calling on Venezuelan authorities to permit the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference to enter the prison and guarantee inmates' human rights. Police and Sebin agents have surrounded the prison, and family members of the inmates are demanding information as to their wellbeing, reports Efecto Cocuyo separately.
  • Maduro called for dialogue with Washington yesterday, along the lines of talks planned between the U.S. and North Korea, reports AFP.
  • Opposition candidate Henri Falcón is not only facing off against Maduro in this weekend's upcoming election, he is also challenging the main opposition coalition's call to boycott the vote, widely considered to lack basic guarantees of fairness, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • In her last act as Guatemalan head prosecutor, Thelma Aldana, revealed new details of an investigation into alleged illicit campaign funding involving the ruling party and President Jimmy Morales. She said the evidence, still being processed, was enough to again seek to have Morales' presidential immunity from prosecution lifted, reports the Associated Press. The new head prosecutor, chosen this month by Morales from a nominating committee short-list, will have to choose whether to pursue the case or not. The case is a joint investigation with the U.N. backed anti-corruption commission the CICIG. The case involves about $2 million in unreported campaign donations by a group of businesspeople, while Morales was party secretary-general. The public ministry and the CICIG revealed the names of businesspeople involved in the scheme, who have been cited to an audience scheduled to start next month, reports Prensa Libre. Two attempts to lift Morales' immunity last year were not approved by lawmakers. This is the third phase of this case, explains InSight Crime, which summarizes the investigation since August of last year.
  • Incoming attorney general María Consuelo Porras swears in today, and will have to rapidly determine how to continue the case against Morales and the ruling FCN party. InSight Crime says how she deals with this and other politically sensitive issues will be a rapid litmus test for the relatively unknown Porras.
  • The changeover and new accusations come as the CICIG is in battle with the Morales administration -- which has found an unlikely Washington ally in U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, reports the Guardian. (See last Friday's briefs and May 7's post.)
  • Along with the U.S., Guatemala moved its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem this week. Morales, along with family and a committee of 44 lawmakers and government officials flew to Israel in a private plane owned by U.S. magnate and major Trump donor, Sheldon Adelson, reports Nómada.
  • The first session of a national dialogue in Nicaragua, yesterday, ended in reproaches between the government and student protesters, reports EFE. President Daniel Ortega and his wife, first lady Rosario Murillo, attended the session in at the Our Lady of Fatima Seminary in Managua, where university students expressed anger at repression that killed nearly 60 people over two weeks in April. El Confidencial lists some impacting moments, such as students calling out the names of those killed. Carlos Chamorro analyzed the issue on his television show, Esta Noche.
  • Continued clashes killed at least three protesters on Tuesday in Matagalpa, reports el Confidencial.
  • Ecuador's government under former President Rafael Correa spent at least $5 million on a secret intelligence budget to protect WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who sought refuge in the country's London embassy, reports the Guardian.
  • Correa called the current Ecuadorean government's policy of isolating Assange in the embassy a form of torture in an interview with the Intercept. He also called the Guardian's piece "sensationalistic."
  • In a New York Times op-ed I discuss abortion bills under consideration in Argentina's Congress and how they are related to Ni Una Menos activism against femicides.
Today's briefing is abbreviated due to travel.  Latin America Daily Briefing

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