Monday, March 4, 2019

Guaidó announces return, calls for protests (March 4, 2019)

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for nationwide demonstrations starting at 11 am today, to accompany his attempt to return to the country. The presidential challenger -- considered the country's legitimate leader by a relevant chunk of the international community -- left Venezuela in the midst of a push to bring in aid last weekend, defying a travel ban that could push President Nicolás Maduro to arrest him. Unable to return, Guaidó has been on an improvised tour of the region for the past week. In a social media message to followers he said maintaining street protests is critical to achieving a transition process, reports Efecto Cocuyo.

Guaidó's absence is imperiling the opposition push to oust Maduro. But, his return pushes up the stakes even more -- an arrest could be devastating for the movement. Guaidó's movement has already taken strong hits after it failed to spur mass defections from Venezuela's Maduro loyal military, and regional leaders rejected his call for military intervention in Venezuela. International supporters, including Chilean President Sebastián Piñera were reportedly bothered by these recent failures. (Efecto CocuyoNew York Times, and Wall Street Journal)

In part, some analysts say Guaidó's diplomatic blitz through in Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Ecuador was aimed at shoring up international support ahead of a possible arrest. But, despite strong warnings from the U.S., it's not clear that Maduro will be deterred from promises to detain Guaidó, reports the Washington Post.

On Friday the U.S. Trump administration announced a new round of sanctions against top Venezuelan officials. Authorities continue to speak of a military option, but downplay immediate likelihood. (New York Times)

Nonetheless, Colombian President Iván Duque said Maduro's days are numbered, and pointed to international sanctions and a limited number of military defections in support of his assurance. (Washington Post)

More from Venezuela
  • A week after the failed opposition attempt to bring in aid (see last Monday's post), organizers say one of the pitfalls was of the plan was the Venezuela Aid Live concert held the day before -- which drained volunteer energies, reports the Miami Herald. (New York Times correspondent Anatoly Kurmanaev's analysis of why the operation failed takes a broader look.)
  • The Trump administration is considering granting Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans -- the special immigration program would grant undocumented Venezuelan immigrants in the U.S. the ability to stay and work for a time. Advocates say it is a measure aimed at helping people affected by the country's crisis, but the Trump administration has been working separately to terminate the TPS program, reports the Miami Herald. (See Migration section below.)
  • Recent reports point to armed groups in Venezuela -- colectivos -- perpetrating violence against anti-Maduro protesters, including firing on demonstrators. InSight Crime analyzes.
News Briefs

  • A prosecutor for Colombia's special peace tribunal was arrested while accepting a $500,000 bribe. Carlos Bermeo, along with a former senator and two other suspects, were detained accepting cash in exchange for blocking former FARC leader Seuxis Hernández's possible extradition to the U.S. The arrest will likely feed criticisms in Colombia that the tribunal is too lenient on former fighters. (New York TimesAssociated Press)
  • Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was permitted to -- briefly -- attend his grandsons funereal this Saturday. He left the Curitiba jail where he's serving a corruption sentence, and was permitted to attend the service honoring his seven-year-old grandson for just two hours before returning. In January he was not granted permission to attend his older brother's funereal. President Jair Bolsonaro's son criticized the temporary permission to leave, tweeting that it allowed the popular leader to position himself as a martyr. (Associated PressEl País)
  • Indigenous members of Brazil's Raposa Serra do Sol reserve in Roraima state are concerned Bolsonaro will permit mining interests to encroach on their territory, reports the Guardian.
  • Brazilian mining giant Vale SA's top executives asked for temporary leave from their posts in the wake of a dam collapse last month that killed over 300 people. (Guardian and BBC)
  • The Brazilian government's attempt to clamp down on prison gangs is unlikely to lead to longterm security gains, reports InSight Crime.
El Salvador
  • El Salvador's MS-13 is so dangerous that police officers tasked with eliminating the street gang are fleeing the country instead, reports the Washington Post.
  • Haiti's political crisis is in something of a stalemate, after violent protests last month. A national dialogue commission appears to be DOA, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has proven a surprising ally for the U.S. Trump administration's hardline stance towards migrants, reports the New York Times.
  • Twenty-nine parents separated from their children last year under the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy crossed the U.S. border on Saturday, demanding asylum hearings, in an attempt to reunite their families, reports the Washington Post.
  • The U.S. announced a six-month extension of Temporary Protected Status for Haitians, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans and Sudanese living in the U.S. under a special immigration program. About 300,000 nationals of those countries  who have been allowed to temporarily live and work in the U.S. after war or major natural disasters in their own countries can now stay through Jan. 2020. The Trump administration was legally obligated to extend TPS in these cases after a preliminary court injunction last October stopped officials from terminating protections for people from those countries, reports the Miami Herald. (See post for Oct. 5, 2018.)
  • Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno is struggling to maintain popular support, in part because he has not done enough to root out corruption, and also because of a difficult economic context, writes Oliver Stuenkel in Americas Quarterly.

Culture Corner
  • New York Times interviews Silvana Paternostro on her new oral history of Gabriel García Márquez.
  • Easter Islanders are taking steps to conserve their emblematic giant Moai statues, reports the Guardian.
  • So-called "pink cocaine" is apparently making its way from Argentina to Uruguay, a sign that local drug markets are following regional synthetic drug market shifts, reports InSight Crime.

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

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