Wednesday, June 6, 2018

OAS avoids blaming Ortega (June 6, 2018)

The OAS approved a watered down criticism of the crisis in Nicaragua, that avoided directly blaming the Ortega administration for brutal repression of street protests that has left over 100 dead since mid-April, reports Univisión. Observers were surprised by the resolution, co-sponsored by the U.S. and Nicaragua, which merely expressed support for the Nicaraguan people, condemned violence there, and called for all parts to engage in constructive pacific negotiations. Earlier this week high level U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley cast blame on the Nicaraguan government for the deaths. 

Adding to the confusion, notes Univisión, after the resolution the U.S. ambassador to the OAS Carlos Trujillo said the Nicaraguan government had committed grave crimes against protesters. In an interview with Confidencial he denied a pact with Nicaragua, and called for early elections.

Before the vote, in reaction to the draft resolution, Amnesty International, condemned the failure to condemn the government. "The courageous people, human rights defenders and civil society organizations of Nicaragua need much more than tepid condolences and generalizations; they need a firm commitment to ensure that the extrajudicial executions and other grave human rights violations will not be repeated and go unpunished," said Americas Director Erika Guevara-Rosas.

Yesterday the Inter-American Commission on Human Right's secretary highlighted the ongoing violence, noting that there were 76 dead when the commission visited two weeks ago, a toll that has since increased to 127 and thousands of wounded, reports Confidencial. He referenced a pattern of gun wounds in the victims pointing to extra-judicial executions.

"It was a wishy-washy resolution, Nicaragua demands more urgent attention from the OAS than it’s gotten," Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, told the Wall Street Journal.

The declaration comes even as violence continues in Nicaragua, though the government denies links to paramilitary groups. Negotiation talks mediated by the Catholic church were shelved last month as protests and repression continued. (See May 24's briefs.)

The Miami Herald reports on the changed situation: "In what was until recently one of the safest countries in Latin America, families are now afraid to leave their homes after dark. Barricades set up by protesters block highways, public transportation is scarce and business in some parts of the country has ground to a halt."

Protesters defended road blocks which they have erected around the country, saying it serves to pressure against continuing abuses. Confidencial reports that 70 percent of the country's roads are blocked, either completely or partially.

News Briefs

  • OAS member states voted to potentially suspend Venezuela, in a resolution that criticized the country for turning its back on democracy, reports the Miami Herald. The resolution, approved 19-4 with 11 countries abstaining, calls for an extraordinary assembly to vote on suspending Venezuela, explains Reuters.
  • Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights reviews the situation in Venezuela after the May 20 elections, and gives invaluable analysis. Notable issues are: prisoner releases, the ongoing exodus, analysis of the supposed Chavista abstention rate, the (lack of) opposition unification, and ongoing international pressure on the regime. David Smilde and Hugo Pérez Hernáiz highlight the significance of U.S. citizen Joshua Holt's release (see May 28's briefs) as a demonstration of "the potential of cross-national, back-channel networks among politicians." They also voice concern that prisoner releases over the weekend cover up new arrests on vague conspiracy charges. (See Monday's post.)
  • Honduras' Anti-Corruption Council - CNA - will file a complaint against Constitutional Court magistrates in relation to a recent ruling that found that an OAS backed international anti-corruption commission was constitutionally valid, but struck down its counterpart within the Honduran government, reports Proceso. (See yesterday's briefs and last Friday's post.)
  • The Honduran Congress struck down controversial addition to the penal code that criminalized the defense of "terrorism" in public statements or media communications, reports Criterio. It was criticized locally and internationally for infringing on freedom of expression.
  • Hundreds of Hondurans protested against a proposal to introduce bible studies in public schools, reports Criterio.
  • The U.S. policy of separating children from migrants families seeking to enter the country is illegal, said the United Nations human rights office yesterday, urging an immediate halt to the practice, reports the New York Times.
  • Rescue efforts to find volcanic eruption survivors were suspended in Guatemala yesterday when the Fuego volcano discharged lava and ash again, reports the Guardian. The official death toll stands at 70, but hundreds – possibly thousands – of people remain unaccounted for from the communities who lived on the foothills of Fuego
  • The U.S. State Department will set up a task force to investigate mysterious health incidents suffered by diplomats stationed in Havana, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Brazilian authorities uncovered a trove of documents detailing the country's largest crime group's finances. But it's not yet clear whether the information can be used to significantly hit the First Capital Command (PCC) group, reports InSight Crime.
  • Argentina's national futbol team cancelled a friendly match against Israel's team in response to political pressure and threats from anti-Israel protesters, reports the Washington Post.
  • "Narcoparamedics": authorities have caught two instances of drug traffickers using ambulances in Argentina to smuggle marijuana, reports InSight Crime.

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... Latin America Daily Briefing

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