Thursday, February 21, 2019

Venezuela aid showdown Saturday (Feb. 21, 2019)

Venezuela is closing its border to sea and air traffic from Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao -- part of legitimacy-challenged President Nicolás Maduro's efforts to block shipments of humanitarian aid coordinated by the Venezuelan opposition. (New York Times) Curaçao was expected to be a staging ground for an attempt to bring aid into the country on Saturday -- along with a main crossing at Cúcuta in Colombia and Roraima in Brazil.

Hundreds of Venezuelan volunteers are expected to gather en masse at the Colombian borer to help bring in food supplies, hygiene kits and nutritional supplements. (CNBC) They will be led by National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó -- who has been recognized as Venezuela's interim-president by a chunk of the international community, including the U.S. He will also be accompanied by about 80 lawmakers, reports Reuters. The "humanitarian caravan" left Caracas this morning headed for Táchira state on the Colombian border -- despite an attempt by police to close off the highway, reports Efecto Cocuyo.

Guaidó also called on followers to surround military bases on Saturday and demand that aid be allowed in. The move will likely antagonize Maduro, notes the Miami Herald

Saturday's aid battle will mark a flash point in the Venezuelan crisis, with the potential to flare into civil strife, reports Axios. Colombian security forces are gearing up in Cúcuta, reports Efecto Cocoyo.

The showdown is effectively Guaidó and the opposition's "Plan B" after they failed to inspire mass defections from the military, which remains largely loyal to Maduro. (Venezuela Weekly, see yesterday's briefs and Tuesday's post.) U.S. Senator Marco Rubio said Venezuelan troops are unlikely to crackdown and are starting to disobey Maduro's orders. (Bloomberg)

The political theater of the stalled aid is a stark illustration of Trump's "crudely transactional approach to aid," argues Peter Beaumont in the Guardian.

While the political crisis plays out, the humanitarian crisis continues to afflict Venezuelans. Desperation pushes many to simply walk away from the country, crossing Colombia on foot, reports the New York Times.

The Venezuelan Pharmaceutical Federation estimates Aids-related deaths have more than doubled as a result of an 85 percent shortage of medicines in Venezuela. Lack of retroviral drugs has pushed many HIV-positive Venezuelans to migrate, reports the Guardian.

The Wall Street Journal has a man on the street on what Caracas residents think of the dueling leaders.

News Briefs

  • New oil production from deepwater wells, starting next year, will drastically increase Guyana's GDP -- but carries risk of disinvestment in other sectors and could fuel political corruption, warns Jennapher Lunde Seefeldt in the Conversation, focusing on the "resource curse."
  • January of this year was the bloodiest on record in Mexico, with a total of 2,928 homicide and femicide victims, reports Animal Político. Violence has reached epidemic levels, with five stabbing or bullet wound victims entering emergency services every hour in Mexico, reports Milenio
  • Mexican senators reached a consensus and are expected to pass President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's National Guard plan today. Changes to the controversial proposal that creates a militarized internal security force include civilian leadership and a commitment to withdraw the military from law enforcement within five years, reports El Universal.
  • In an effort to deter critics who say the plan ratifies militarized policing that has come at a high human rights cost, the government offered to have international rights organizations permanently monitor the new National Guard, reports Excelsior. AMLO compared the new force to U.N. peacekeepers, reports UnoTV. (A rather unfortunate comparison given their track record when it comes to sexual abuse.)
  • The plan, and other aspects of AMLO's security approach since taking office last December, are a sharp departure from his campaign rhetoric, which promised to de-militarize internal security.  The Wilson Center's Eric Olson analyzes some of the pitfalls of the National Guard plan in World Politics Review.
Mano Dura
  • Hardline security policies are coming both from AMLO's left-leaning government and Brazil's distinctly right-leaning government. Why insist on policies that have been proven ineffective? In part it is the legacy of military dictatorships in the region, and the belief that previous policies have not been harsh enough, argues Igarapé Institutue's Adriana Abdenur in Americas Quarterly.
  • The five heavily armed U.S. citizens arrested in Haiti on Sunday, were sent back to the U.S. reports the Miami Herald. The U.S. government apparently intervened, in what some see as a slap in the face to the Haitian justice system. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • The U.S. might allow lawsuits against foreign companies foreign companies that do business on Cuba using properties confiscated from U.S. citizens. Such a move would significantly chill potential foreign investment in the island, reports the Miami Herald.
Climate change
  • Climate change was responsible for the majority of under-reported humanitarian disasters last year, reports the Guardian.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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