Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Maduro assumed responsibility for economic failure (July 31, 2018)

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was reelected PSUV party leader yesterday, in the midst of a blackout that affected the convention and much of Caracas. He will have the power to handpick the rest of the party leadership, despite calls from within Chavismo to delegate that power to party activists, reports Efecto Cocuyo. (Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights goes more in depth.)

Maduro recognized Venezuela's economic crisis, and assumed responsibility for the failure of the Chavismo's "productive models." He called for an end to blaming imperialism for economic problems, though that has been his standard speech since assuming office in 2013. (Efecto Cocuyo and EFE

The mea culpa comes amid several announcements of economic measures, including some form of (possibly politicized) gas rationing and reform of the economic exchange law. Nonetheless, experts say comprehensive reform is needed to change the country's course, writes David Smilde in his Venezuela Weekly.

In another perspective, Carlos Hermoso argues the reforms are tantamount to dollarization and will have devastating effects for poor Venezuelans. (Efecto Cocuyo)

Yesterday also marked the one year anniversary of the election of the National Constituent Assembly, a supra-congressional body of government loyalists. (See post for July 31, 2017.)The assembly could extend its term for up to four years, its government loyalist president Diosdado Cabello said. (AFP)

In the midst of a hyper-inflationary crisis in Venezuela, Miami Herald columnist Andrés Oppenheimer outlines three possible comparative cases for the country: Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe, Cuba, or the Brazilian and Argentine government changes precipitated by economic crisis. 

On the depth of Venezuela's crisis, Smilde cites an interview with nutritionist and food security expert Susana Raffalli, who suggested that 16 states had crossed the line into humanitarian crisis, with 15% of children in danger of dying from malnutrition.

More from Venezuela
  • A new WOLA report looks at how Colombia and Brazil are dealing with the Venezuelan refugee crisis. The report recommends Colombia avoid politicizing the issue of Venezuelan migration, and that Brazil decrease reliance on armed forces for its response to migrants along the Venezuelan border. Among other policies, the report calls on the U.S. to a special refugee category for Venezuelans who fit the proper criteria.
  • Opposition parties that boycotted the May presidential election will have three days in August to gather signatures in order to maintain party status. (Efecto Cocuyo)
  • Opposition legislator José Manuel Olivares fled the country, joining senior opposition leaders who say official harassment has made them fear for their lives. (BBC)
  • A criminal complaint filed in the U.S. last week alleges that Venezuelan businessmen and officials embezzled more than $1.2 billion from Venezuela’s state-owned oil company Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PdVSA) between 2014 and 2015, and later attempted to launder the funds through US and European banks. InSight Crime calls it an example of the "pervasive corruption that has pillaged not only PdVSA, but much of the Venezuelan government’s coffers in recent years."
  • Alberto Barrera Tyszka explores the government's political manipulation of history in the form of independence fighter Simón Bolivar in a New York Times Español op-ed.
News Briefs

  • Mexico's homicide rate rose sharply last year, by 27 percent according to new government statistics. That makes 2017 the bloodiest year on record, going back to 1990, reports the Wall Street Journal. Trends indicate that murders continued to rise this year. (See last Tuesday's briefs.)
  • Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said he'd be willing to resume dialogue with protester, with mediation from the Catholic Church and the U.N., reports EFE. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • The White House announced yesterday that it has confiscated U.S.-donated vehicles from Nicaraguan security forces and suspended future donations and sales in response to the government's repression of protests, reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • Former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe said soon-to-be-released audio recordings will exonerate him from allegations of witness tampering and bribery, reports the Associated Press. (See last Wednesday's post.)
  • Cuba's new draft constitution is effectively a continuation of Raúl Castro's reform program, but the changes outlined "are nevertheless significant milestones along the road to a more market-oriented socialist system," argues William LeoGrande in World Politics Review. New regulations that will go in effect at the end of the year aim to give the state a greater share of privately generated revenue, and also minimize illegal behavior and protect public safety. Still, the restrictions are too many for a thriving business sector, he argues.
  • Abortion activists in Argentina draw parallels between Margaret Atwood's dystopian "Handmaid's Tale" and conservative opposition to legalizing abortion, writes Sylvia Colombo in a New York Times Español op-ed ahead of an upcoming Senate vote that's too close to call. Indeed Atwood personally called on Argentine lawmakers to legalize abortion, saying that forcing women to give birth is slavery. (Clarín)
Animal safety
  • A string of animal fatalities -- a giraffe and a rhino this month -- at Buenos Aires' closed zoo belies authorities' promises to turn the 140-year-old institution into an "ecopark." (Guardian)
  • An order of Mexican nuns Pátzcuaro cares for a colony of about 300 salamanders that could be key to saving the species in the wild. (New York Times)

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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