At least 28 people have been killed this week in anti-government protests, killed by security forces or armed, pro-government civilian groups, according to Efecto Cocuyo. U.N.human rights chief Michelle Bachelet condemned the killings and called for an investigation into potential undue use of force, and expressed concern that the Venezuelan crisis could rapidly spin out of control with "catastrophic" consequences. (BBC)
Yesterday, the Venezuelan military, headed by defense minister Vladimir Padrino, stood by President Nicolás Maduro. (Guardian and Wall Street Journal) It's a severe plan to attempts to oust the leader whose legitimacy has been severely questioned by opponents in Venezuela and countries around the world. On Wednesday National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president and was rapidly recognized by the U.S. and countries in the region. (See yesterday's post.) Persuading military officers to support Guaidó's bid for a transitional government is a key aspect to effectively removing Maduro.
In an interview yesterday Guaidó offered Maduro and his inner circle an amnesty if they step down and permit a peaceful transition, referencing previous such pardons in Venezuela and Chile as examples. (Guardian)
The dual power situation raises all sorts of practical consular and economic issues. And international recognition of Guaidó should not be confused with de facto power, warns WOLA Assistant Director for Venezuela Geoff Ramsey.
Opposition unity behind Guaidó is a positive sign -- and a radical departure from characteristic fragmentation, writes Ramsey at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights. Outreach to dissident factions of Chavismo, which Guaidó has engaged in, is another critical step.
Mexico has offered to mediate in Venezuela, but only at the request of both sides and without violating citizens' right to self determination, said President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Mexico has not recognized Guaidó and has not subscribed to Lima Group statements calling Maduro illegitimate, reports Efecto Cocuyo. (See yesterday's post.)
U.S. President Donald Trump's challenge to Maduro is a departure from his anti-interventionist stance, and tendency to befriend autocrats around the world. And his sudden support for what amounts to regime change carries significant diplomatic risks as Maduro digs his heels in, reports the New York Times. The Wall Street Journal reports that Guaidó's decision to declare himself president came after the U.S. explicitly promised to back him up.
Though U.S. support for Guaidó has fed a narrative of an imperialist coup among Maduro supporters, the large number of countries in the region and around the world that rapidly followed suit softens parallels with past U.S. supported military dictatorships in Latin America, according to the New York Times.
And despite serious saber rattling this week, there appears to be no immediate plan for U.S. military intervention, reports the Guardian. Non-essential U.S. embassy personnel and families left Caracas. Senior staff remains and are bracing for Maduro's response, reports the Washington Post. (See yesterday's post.) Maduro ordered the recall of all Venezuelan diplomatic staff from in Washington.
The European Union is debating a unified response to the current crisis, but seems likely to demand Maduro hold elections, without yet recognizing Guaidó's claim to authority, reports EFE and EFE again.
Russia has been particularly vocal in denouncing U.S. interventionism against Maduro -- behind the posturing is concern over losing a significant financial investment in Venezuela, according to the Washington Post.
The Venezuela crisis could have significant impact on the international oil market, reports the Guardian. Venezuelan oil exports are critical for U.S. production, but the cash is vital for Venezuela, leaving Maduro without leverage, reports the Washington Post separately.
More from Venezuela
Remain in Mexico
U.S. authorities will start sending asylum seekers crossing the country's southern border back to Mexico while their cases are processed. The drastic change in migration policy will be implemented starting today at the San Ysidro crossing, but will eventually be scaled up the entire Mexico-U.S. border, reports the Washington Post. The Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), informally dubbed "Remain in Mexico," aims to curb increasing numbers of Central American migrants, often traveling in family groups, who apply for asylum due to violence at home, reports Reuters. Critics say the policy, first announced in December, violates international asylum laws and could be challenged in court. (See Dec. 21's post.)
Its not clear how Mexico will deal with thousands of migrants, whose asylum claims could take years to process in the U.S. Mexican authorities were informed yesterday of the implementation.Many areas of the Mexican border with the U.S. are also violent and dangerous for migrants. In December two Honduran teens were murdered in Tijuana while moving between migrant shelters, for example. (See Dec. 19's post.) “Make no mistake — Mexico is not a safe country for all people seeking protection,” said Amnesty International Executive Director Margaret Huang in December.
Advocates are also concerned that asylum seekers will not be able to access lawyers to represent them in U.S. courts.
More on Migration
- In addition to all the other issues with Trump's proposed border wall, the negative environmental impact would be significant, reports the New York Times.
Gay Brazilian lawmaker goes into exile after death threats
Brazilian lawmaker Jean Wyllys said he is giving up his seat in congress and will stay outside the country in response to death threats. Wyllys is openly gay and has been a fierce LGBTQ advocate. He has been the target of threats for years, but said they intensified after the murder of his ally, Rio de Janeiro councillor Marielle Franco, last year. (New York Times)
In an interview with Folha de S. Paulo, Wyllys mentioned recent reports linking President Jair Bolsonaro's son to a death squad suspected in Franco's killing. (See Wednesday's briefs, and see below) "I have to stay alive. I don’t want to be a martyr," said Wyllys.
From Davos, Bolsonaro tweeted “Great day!” and a thumbs-up emoticon. Many supporters responded with homophobic comments.
Brazil's LGBT community has increasingly been targeted by homophobic attacks, especially during last year's campaign -- Wyllys cited examples in his interview. In 2017, at least 445 LGBT Brazilians died as victims of homophobia – a 30% increase from 2016. (Guardian)
More from Brazil
- Flavio Bolsonaro is implicated in a corruption investigation that threatens to tarnish the new Bolsonaro administration -- but there are other indications that its politics as usual in Brasilia, reports the New York Times.
- The U.N. Security Council expressed concern over the "about the persistent pattern of assassinations of community and social leaders," in Colombia. Seven leaders have been killed so far this year.
- Guatemala's congress is considering a blanket amnesty for military officials accused of international crimes related to the internal armed conflict, in which an estimated 200,000 lives were lost, report Jo-Marie Burt and Paulo Estrada in the International Justice Monitor.
- Former San Salvador mayor Nayib Bukele could win El Salvador's presidency outright on Feb. 4's elections, according to three out of four polls. But there are signs that conservative candidate Carlos Calleja, who heads an alliance that includes the traditional ARENA party, is gaining support, reports AS/COA.
- A sign of changing times? Roberto Valencia analyzes Calleja's security platform, which emphasizes human rights and -- on paper! -- diverges significantly from Arena's traditional "mano dura" stance.
- Latin America has huge potential to grow its creative, or orange, economy -- but piracy, often with links to transnational crime, threatens to stifle artists and inventors according to the latest issue of Americas Quarterly. Piracy costs Latin America’s software industry 60 percent of its potential revenues and as much as a third of the region’s medicines are pirated.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...