Thursday, February 14, 2019

Guaidó losing momentum (Feb. 14, 2019)

Three weeks into Juan Guaidó's self-declared interim presidency, the National Assembly leader is recognized by over 50 governments from around the world. But even supporters increasingly admit that Nicolás Maduro, whose second presidential mandate is widely considered illegitimate, doesn't seem likely to hand over the reins of power anytime soon. (Guardian)

Maduro himself says he has weathered the worst of the storm, and the military's ongoing loyalty to his camp lends credence to the claim.

A massive shipment of humanitarian aid for Venezuela awaits in Colombia, and has become a focal point in the legitimacy battle between Guaidó and Maduro, reports the New York Times. (See yesterday's post.) Venezuela's military has crudely blocked a border bridge that could be used to transport the aid, and Guaidó's momentum appears to have been halted. 

Both sides actually agree that the goal of the aid is to weaken Maduro's claim to power -- the difference being that Maduro strenuously denies the severe humanitarian crisis affecting Venezuelan citizens. In the meantime, humanitarian groups are concerned over the politicization of the aid, and several have said they will not participate in this shipment's eventual distribution, reports the Guardian. (See Feb. 6's post.)

Colombian President Iván Duque met with his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump, to discuss how to get aid into Venezuela. They analyzed how to turn the armed forces against Maduro and how to enlist regional allies to break the military block on humanitarian aid, reports the Miami Herald. Both the U.S. and Colombian officials say they will not use military force to deliver the aid.

U.S. Democratic lawmakers said they would oppose military intervention in Venezuela, and questioned the credibility of the Trump administration's special envoy -- Elliott Abrams. (ReutersCBS News, and see Jan 31's post on Abram's questionable past when it comes to human rights.)

More from Venezuela
  • In the midst of the country's severe political crisis, seizures of military-grade weapons in Venezuela prove that illegal arms are circulating, reports InSight Crime.
  • China denied a Wall Street Journal report that its diplomats met with Guaidó's representatives in Washington, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Trump will give a speech on Venezuela in Miami on Monday, in which he will voice continued support for Guaidó. (Reuters)
  • And Pope Francis reportedly wrote to Maduro indicating the situation is not ready for Vatican mediation, as he had requested. (Associated Press, see Tuesday's post.)
News Briefs

  • In the midst of massive anti-corruption protests a youth was shot dead near Haiti's presidential palace and a journalist was wounded in a shootout between demonstrators and police in Port-au-Prince, report AFP and agencies. A week of protests has left Haiti in disarray -- at least four people (EFE reports nine) have been killed and 78 inmates escaped prison while police dealt with unrest. The streets are virtually empty, reports the Guardian, and an air of uncertainty hangs over President Jovenel Moïse's government. Moïse has stayed out of site since calling for dialogue over the weekend. (See yesterday's briefs and Monday's post.)
  • In the midst of what the Miami Herald called a "descent into chaos," many residents in the capital have been unable to leave their houses for a week, and restocking on basics has become difficult. Yesterday Moïse recalled the Haitian ambassador to the U.S.
  • Sixty organizations, including LAWG, from the United States, Mexico, and Central America asked  Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirsten Nielsen to stop and refrain from expanding a controversial new migrant protocol that forces humanitarian asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their cases proceed in the U.S. system. (See Jan 31's briefs and Jan. 25's post.)
  • Thirteen suspected gang members were killed by police in Rio de Janeiro last Friday. Reports that they were executed after surrendering, and that two were tortured and killed in their homes, have residents scared that this is what promised "shoot to kill" policies will look like in practise, reports the Guardian. (See yesterday's briefs and Tuesday's.)
  • Indigenous survivors of human rights crimes committed during Guatemala's 36-year civil war  filed for an injunction against an amnesty bill under consideration in congress, reports Al Jazeera. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Two years ago, 41 girls in a Guatemala state shelter died in a fire. "But a review of more than two dozen case files of victims and survivors — along with interviews of family members, group home employees and public officials — reveals a pattern of physical, psychological and sexual abuse allegations at the facility stretching back for years," reports the New York Times.
El Chapo
  • Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán receive a life sentence in a New York trial this week. But a slew of pieces lament that the conviction won't have a real impact on drug trafficking and cartel violence -- statistics that show no signs of abating more than ten years into the "war on drugs," writes Ed Vuilliamy in the Guardian
  • The life sentence won't have an impact because the drug trade doesn't depend on kingpins. "Narco-trafficking is a phenomenon that encompasses survival, social ascent, identity, millions of dollars, violence, corruption, and impunity. El Chapo is just a symbol of a cruel and complicated reality that has brutally flogged Mexico for decades," writes José Luis Pardo Veiras in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • The Los Angeles Times also says the conviction is largely symbolic. Worse, by promoting the fragmentation of Mexico's criminal organizations, it could actually increase the country's horrific violence rates. Indeed, Mexico’s crime and violence continue apace in the drug lord’s absence," notes InSight Crime. And even without Guzmán, the Sinaloa Cartel remains a formidable player in the drug smuggling world, reports the New York Times.
  • The focus of the war on drugs must shift from bringing down kingpins to "minimising the harm they, and their products, do to their customers, whether by addiction or incarceration," argues a Guardian editorial.
El Salvador
  • Salvadoran president-elect Nayib Bukele told the Associated Press he wants to improve relations with the U.S. Part of the reason is to keep the Trump administration from forcing tens of thousands of Salvadorans living in the U.S. to return to the country.
  • Hilary Goodfriend takes a negative view of that stance, saying Bukele is likely to shore up "the US’s right-wing crusade in the region." (Jacobin)
  • Former Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will face her first corruption trial later this month -- the case, examining whether she benefitted an associated with public works contracts, will likely last at least a year, long past the October presidential elections in which she might be a candidate. (El País)
  • Tens of thousands of protesters blocked major roads in Buenos Aires yesterday, marching against the Macri administration's austerity policies and high unemployment. (Al Jazeera)
  • The International Monetary Fund and the government of Ecuador have launched formal talks about a potential financial bailout for the South American country, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Living Wage
  • Alta Gracia is a US-owned garment factory in the Dominican Republic, where workers produce U.S. college apparel for a living wage and with "dignity and respect" -- an anti-sweatshop. (Guardian)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...


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