Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Venezuela briefs (July 17, 2018)

  • Venezuela's electoral authority has announced municipal council elections for December, but the main opposition parties will be barred from participating after boycotting the last election, reports David Smilde in his weekly at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights.
  • Last week prisoners at the infamous Helicoide prison, which holds many of the country's political prisoners, mutinied for the second time in three months. (Efecto Cocuyo)
  • Venezuela has become a regional crime hub, and organized crime is digging in deeper as President Nicolás Maduro continues to survive the country's devastating crisis, writes InSight Crime's Jeremy McDermott in a New York Times op-ed. "Drug trafficking is the main growth industry in Venezuela, followed by illegal gold mining. Cocaine may well become the lubricant that keeps the wheels of corruption moving in Mr. Maduro’s Venezuela."
  • The scale of Venezuela's economic collapse is vast, and the decimation of the once-powerful oil industry is particularly telling, argues a Foreign Policy piece. "The only way Venezuela, which is broke and stripped of talent, can possibly fix its oil industry today is by relying more on foreign companies. Even if they were given a free hand, however, it’s not clear that international firms could turn things around anytime soon; the lack of investment in recent years hasn’t helped the health of Venezuela’s oil fields."
  • U.S. President Donald Trump seems to prefer strongmen everywhere in the world, except for Latin America -- where he has readopted a contemporary version of the Monroe Doctrine, argue Michael Shifter and David Toppelberg in another New York Times op-ed. "Trump should be commended for coming down hard on Latin America’s strongmen. But by also resurrecting an impulse for unilateral action and indifference to the region’s needs and concerns, he is making it more difficult to help bring about the democratic change he ostensibly seeks."
  • Last week, outgoing Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called on Trump to ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop supporting the Maduro administration. (EFE)
  • The Lima Group voiced concern over military mobilization on the Colombian frontier, reports EFE.
News Briefs

  • The U.S. has pledged $6 million more to fund health and nutrition programs in Colombia to aid the Venezuelan refugees flowing into the country. The fresh funding is in addition to the nearly $16 million that Washington earmarked in April to help Venezuelan migrants in Colombia and Brazil, reports the Miami Herald.
  • The New York Times profiles a reunited Guatemalan family -- mother and daughter were separated at the U.S. border and deported together.
  • Lethal violence against anti-government protesters continues in Nicaragua, carried out by security forces and "parapolice," reports InSight Crime. (See yesterday's post.)
  • The U.N.'s top poverty expert criticized the IMF's push for Haiti to reduce fuel subsidies, and called on donors such as the World Bank and the IADB to help poor Haitians struggling with austerity measures, reports the Miami Herald. (See yesterday's briefs.)
El Salvador
  • Three years after El Salvador's government launched Plan El Salvador Seguro -- a citizen-security initiative -- authorities point to a reduced homicide rate and say it's been a success. Critics say crime rates in some targeted municipalities have actually increased, and that other improved indicators can be chalked up to street gangs' increasing sophistication. They call for more attention to the root causes of crime and violence. (InSight Crime)
  • Infant mortality rose 5 percent in Brazil between 2015 and 2016 -- the first such increase since 1990. And authorities expect the 2017 numbers to be worse, caused by cuts to health services in recent years as well as the outbreak of the Zika virus in 2015, reports the Guardian.
  • Scorpions are adapting to urban habitats, and increasingly pose threat to Brazilians, particularly children. (Guardian)
  • The New York Times profiles a ballet teacher inspiring children in Rio de Janeiro's Manguinhos favela to overcome their dismal circumstances.
  • The son of presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro -- Rio de Janeiro City Councilman Carlos Bolsonaro -- tweeted an old canard linking LGBTs to pedophilia last week. The Intercept reports that "overt hatred for LGBTs has become a central prong of the increasingly powerful Bolsonaro family and the retrograde wing of Brazil’s evangelical political movement (that wing by no means represents all evangelicals, many of whom are progressives or otherwise opposed to the Bolsonaros)."
  • Honduras has lost approximately 30 percent of its total forest cover since 2000 -- and deforestation appears largely spurred by the drug trade's use of of logging, land purchases, and cattle operations to launder profits, writes Luis Noé-Bustamente at the Aula Blog.
  • A U.S. State Department official speaking at a congressional committee ruled out Russian interference in the CICIG. (InSight Crime)
  • An international arrest warrant against former Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa is proving divisive, and plays into broader regional accusations of politically motivated judicial attacks against former leaders, like Brazil's Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Argentina's Cristina Kirchner. (Council on Hemispheric Affairs)
  • An indigenous anthropologist was key in resolving a long-time mystery regarding Inca markers scattered through the Atacama desert. (Guardian)

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

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