- As election day nears, tension in Venezuela is growing over whether citizens opposed to the government should vote or not. The argument to vote in hopes of defeating the Maduro administration is grounded on two suppositions: that a tide of votes will overcome irregularities and give opposition candidate Henri Falcón an undisputed victory, and that the government would accept and recognize that victory. However, there is no guarantee that either would occur, writes Alberto Barrera Tyszka in a New York Times Español op-ed. (See last Friday's briefs for an opposing view by Sylvia Colombo.) The issue is not Falcón himself, writes Barrera, rather the system, hopelessly stacked in favor of the government. "Calling to vote because there is no choice, because there is no other alternative, is absurd. We are not choosing between voting and taking up arms. ... We are denouncing that the elections are an artifice, that democracy in Venezuela is a trick."
- The U.S. Treasury announced sanctions against a former Venezuelan financial intelligence chief, Pedro Luis Martin Olivares over allegations that he participated in drug trafficking, aided by the Venezuelan government. At an OAS meeting yesterday U.S. vice president Mike Pence called on Venezuela to suspend the May 20 presidential election, saying the outcome would be "fake," reports the Wall Street Journal. He also called on the OAS to suspend Venezuela, reports the Associated Press.
- Spain's trajectory with ETA, which disbanded last week, is an example of how democracy -- without resorting to violent crackdowns -- was able to overcome a strong internal terrorist threat, argues David Jímenez in a New York Times Español op-ed.
- Cuba will host talks between the Colombian government and the ELN guerrillas, after Ecuador pulled out as host, reports the Associated Press.
- Colombians head to the polls on May 27 to choose a new president -- for the first time since the FARC demobilization. Legislative elections on March 11 occurred without major incident, for the first time in decades. But security remains a concern and authorities have increased protections for leading candidates in the wake of intelligence indicating a potential attack on former president Álvaro Uribe, reports El País.
- The fragile FARC peace accord is a primary electoral issue, and how it will be implemented by President Juan Manuel Santos' successor, reports the AFP.
- Extrajudicial killings aimed at boosting statistics of felled combatants in Colombia -- "false positives" -- were more widespread than previously reported, according to a new study co-authored by a former police officer. Omar Rojas Bolaños and Fabian Leonardo Benavides found that approximately 10,000 civilians were executed by the army between 2002 and 2010 – more than three times the number tallied by human rights groups, reports the Guardian. "'False positives’ were not just a problem of a few bad apples," said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. "These apparently widespread and systematic extrajudicial killings were committed by troops attached to virtually all brigades in every single army division across Colombia."
- Colombian authorities have deployed 1,000 police officers and soldiers in Medellín and are cracking down on organizedcrime bosses, in the midst of a sudden homicide surge and clashed between criminal groups, reports InSight Crime.
- Medical marijuana could be a potential bonanza for farmers growing the crop illegally in Colombia, reports Reuters.
- The small city of Niquinohomo, home of Nicaraguan national hero Augusto Sandino, has become a symbolic battlefront between supporters of the Ortega government and the newly emboldened protest movement against it, reports El País.
- Cuban lawmaker Mariela Castro, daughter of Communist Party chief Raúl Castro, has promised to push for gay marriage to be included in a constitutional reform process due to start later this year, reports the Associated Press.
- Today Carlos Alvarado assumes Costa Rica's presidency, becoming the regions youngest elected leader at 38. He promised, and delivered, a multi-party cabinet with gender parity. In fact, there is a female majority and they hold key posts, notes El País. Alvarado, or "Carlos" as he is called by Costa Ricans, has promised to end the use of fossil fuels in transport by 2021, the country's bicentennial, reported Reuters last month.
- Brazilian President Michel Temer has offered to drop his potential candidacy in October's elections in order to support a unity centrist candidate. Temer has rock bottom approval ratings, notes Bloomberg.
- Amnesty International criticized the "discriminatory" application of justice in a case that convicted three indigenous Mapuche leaders under a controversial anti-terrorism law, reports TeleSUR. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has also criticized the application of the law in this case.
- NACLA reports on the particular dangers faced by journalists along the Paraguay-Brazilian border.
- The New Yorker profiles Emilio Gutiérrez Soto a Mexican journalist who fled to the U.S. after facing violent threats. He now faces deportation after a federal immigration judge ruled against his asylum request, arguing, among other things, that the reporter could have just relocated within Mexico.
- Two prominent Mexican media outlets cut ties with Ricardo Alemán, a well-known journalist who urged ALMO supporters to assassinate him, reports the Guardian. Mexicans reacted with outrage on social media, and #NoAlPeriodismoSicario (no to hitman journalism) trended on Twitter.
- Ahead of Mexico's presidential elections, an exhibit in México DF's Museo del Objeto displays a century of clever electoral propaganda from lavish campaigns carried out even when there was only one candidate running, reports El País.