Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Venezuela hit by earthquake, currency woes (Aug. 22, 2018)

Venezuela's northern coast was hit by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake yesterday afternoon. No victims were reported as of yet. Experts say the quake, the strongest experienced by Venezuela since 1900, had limited impact because it occurred very deep underground. A strong aftershock this morning also had limited impact above ground, reports the Associated Press

Strong shocks were felt in Caracas yesterday, captured on state television when they interrupted a speech by Diosdado Cabello at a march in favor of new economic measures announced by the government. (See yesterday's post.)

The notorious Tower of David in Caracas was severely damaged and had to be partially evacuated, report the Guardian and Efecto Cocuyo.

An opposition-called strike yesterday against the government's new economic measures had limited impact -- though many stores remained shut in order to recalculate prices after a massive devaluation and rollout of new banknotes, reports the Washington Post. While the opposition said about 60 percent of the country participated in the strike, Efecto Cocuyo questions the statistic, saying the true number, especially in the interior, is far lower.

One reason for the lackluster participation is likely discord among the opposition parties that endorsed the call, writes Geoff Ramsey in the Venezuela Weekly. The piece also looks at divisions regarding the so-called Supreme Court in exile, which sentenced Maduro to 18-years in jail. Some government critics say the judges have overstepped their power, and question its methodology.

Venezuelan consumers yesterday were having trouble navigating the new currency and conversion with the old, reports the New York Times.

International sanctions against Venezuela represent a war that leaves the government with few options to shore up the sinking economy, argues a Guardian editorial.

More from Venezuela
  • Lawmaker Juan Requesens remains incomunicado in the secret police prison. The lawmaker was detained two weeks ago, and then stripped of parliamentary immunity, on charges of attempted homicide against President Nicolás Maduro. He has not been able to see his family or lawyers since, reports Efecto Cocuyo. (See last Wednesday's post.)
News Briefs

  • Ecuador will organize a meeting of 13 Latin American countries next month to discuss the Venezuelan migration crisis. Ecuador and Peru recently announced tighter entry regulations, and Colombia and Brazil have borne the brunt of migration this year. Argentina, Chile and Mexico are also among the invitees, as is Venezuela itself, reports AFP.
  • The rise and fall of Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega is partially due to Venezuelan oil money, writes scholar Benjamin Waddell in the Conversation. Venezuela shipped about $3.7 billion in oil to Nicaragua between 2007 and 2016. Sold at market prices to the public by a state firm, the oil diplomacy generated economic growth in the country, which the Ortega administration used to fund social programs and, allegedly, enrich the Ortega family. Venezuela's crisis has stopped the shipments, forcing the government to raise gas prices and cutback on welfare programs. "Support for his regime eroded quickly after that."
  • In fact, many anti-government critics point to clientelistic distribution of those social programs, and emphasize the similarities between Ortega and the dictator he once overthrew, Anastasio Somoza. (The Nation)
  • Berta Cáceres' alleged killers go on trial next month, but the environmental activist's family said the prosecution has failed to analyze several key electronic devices seized in the course of the investigation, reports Truthout. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • An investigation into an alleged massacre of 10 indigenous people in Brazil's Amazon hasn't proved whether it happened, but has demonstrated the difficulty of carrying out investigations in the wilderness, the vulnerability of uncontacted indigenous tribes in the Javari Valley, and the prejudice in the communities surrounding them, reports the Guardian.
  • The family of Marielle Franco, a Rio de Janeiro councillor assassinated in March, have asked for state protection after receiving numerous threats to their lives, reports TeleSUR.
  • Political uncertainty over the upcoming October presidential election has fueled a slide in Brazil's currency against the U.S. dollar, reports the Associated Press.
El Salvador
  • Rumor has it that El Salvador broke diplomatic relations with Taiwan in favor of China in search of investment and aid, reports the Guardian. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • The the ruling Salvadoran FMLN party called the change a "transcendental step" in relations between El Salvador and China, reports EFE.
  • Uruguay will seek to continue deepening cooperation with Beijing, announced its foreign minister on a trip to China. (EFE)
  • Colombia is one of the world's greatest coffee producers, but its farms are generally small-scale and family owned. Its 300,000 producers are increasingly under existencial threat from climate change induced crop disease, invasive insects, unpredictable seasons. (Conversation)
  • An Argentine female police officer was promoted after she comforted a hospitalized baby by breastfeeding him while on duty. (Guardian)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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