Friday, March 29, 2019

Nicaragua negotiations stall over early elections (March 29, 2019)

Negotiations between Nicaragua's government and an opposition civil society alliance have stumbled over demands for early elections, reports el Confidencial. Government negotiating team members, including foreign minister Denis Moncada, said the issue was definitively off the table. But Alianza Cívica representatives said the demand is key to their position and is non-negotiable. Both sides agreed to extend talks until April 3.

More from Nicaragua
  • This week Amnesty International called the international community to support Costa Rica's efforts to receive, protect and support people fleeing the human rights crisis in Nicaragua.
  • Russia is helping rearm Nicaragua, part of a broader push by President Vladimir Putin to build up Russian influence in the region, writes Armando Chaguaceda in Global Americans
News Briefs

  • The United Nations made a confidential plea to Venezuela's rival leaders -- legitimacy-challenged president Nicolás Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó -- to end a political battle over humanitarian aid. "The politicization of humanitarian assistance in the context of the crisis makes delivery of assistance in accordance with the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence more difficult," the report said. The document, reported on by the New York Times, avoids casting blame for the country's humanitarian crisis, but notes the impact of Maduro's blockade of the country's borders and restrictions on aid organizations. It also says U.S. sanctions have worsened the situation.
  • Guaidó and Maduro both announced imminent medical and humanitarian aid. Guaidó promised today that support will arrive within hours or days, but did not specify more. Maduro said the government is preparing to receive a shipment of medicine from China. (Reuters and Efecto Cocuyo)
  • Venezuela's government has officially barred Guaidó from holding office for 15 years, reports Reuters. Experts dismiss the legality of the ban, reports Efecto Cocuyo
  • The U.S. is pushing oil trading houses and refiners around the world to further cut dealings with Venezuela or face sanctions themselves, even if the trades are not prohibited by published U.S. sanctions, reports Reuters.
  • Yet another example of the diplomatic complications caused by Venezuela's legitimacy crisis: Germany recognizes Guaidó as Venezuela's president, but hasn't confirmed his representative in Germany as ambassador. (Deutsche Welle)
  • The Venezuela Weekly reviews the ICG. (See also Wednesday's post.) It also has more info on the blackouts, which make headlines when Caracas is affected, but have been ongoing for 40 days in some rural communities. Also analysis on the Russian troops, which have generated a lot of diplomatic feather ruffling, but probably doesn't have many practical implications.
  • Also from Venezuela Weekly, Ecuador is hosting a migration meeting on the Venezuelan crisis next week -- even if the political crisis is resolved soon, Special Representative of the UN High Commission for Refugees Eduardo Stein warned the migration issue will continue for years.
  • A significant portion of roughly $627 million that the U.S. Congress allocated for Central America one year ago — has been in limbo for months at the White House Office of Management and Budget. Officials are unsure whether President Donald Trump wants to withhold those funds from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras as punishment for the ongoing flow of migrants from those countries, reports Politico. (See yesterday's post.)
  • A group of Central American migrants hoping to be reunited with their children after being separated last year by U.S. immigration officials have been in immigration detention for nearly a month, reports the Washington Post.
  • Haiti’s largest opposition groups called for nation wide protests starting today, aimed at ousting President Jovenel Moïse, reports the Associated Press. Twenty-six people were killed and 77 wounded in protests and related clashes that lasted three weeks last month, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti reports higher numbers -- 34 killed and 102 injured, including 23 police officers. Human Rights Watch called on authorities to investigate potential excessive use of force by police.
  • Honduran police arrested a journalist sentenced to 10 years in jail for defamation against the wife of a former attorney general. Police broke down the door of a radio station to arrest David Romero Ellner, a vocal critic of President Juan Orlando Hernández.  (Associated Press) Earlier this year, Romero said the case is politically motivated. Romero denounced a case of alleged misuse of Honduran Social Security Institute funds to finance President Juan Orlando Hernández's electoral campaign. (See Jan 16's briefs, and Jan 17's.)
  • The amnesty bill Guatemalan lawmakers are contemplating would free army veterans convicted of enslaving  at least 11 Mayan Q’eqchi indigenous women, who were kept at a jungle camp and raped over a period of six years starting in 1982. "The amnesty proposal is a get-out-of-jail-free card for convicted war criminals and the dozen plus former military officials awaiting trial for war crimes," Jo-Marie Burt told Reuters. (See March 14's post and March 13's briefs.)
  • Intense domestic and international pressure seems to have dissuaded legislators from immediately approving the bill, which would free convicted war criminals and those awaiting trial for such crimes, writes Burt with Paulo Estrada at the International Justice Monitor.
  • Guatemalan authorities dismantled a criminal group made up of police officers working as drug dealers and hitmen, reports InSight Crime.
  • Argentina's poverty rate grew by 6 points in 2018 -- accelerating in the second half of the year, and affecting 32 percent of the country's urban population, according to statistics released yesterday. The numbers bode ill for President Mauricio Macri, who was elected in 2015 with a "zero poverty" campaign platform. It combines with other negative economic indicators: inflation, peso instability, lowering GDP and increases in unemployment. Low-income families have been particularly affected by austerity driven utility tariff increases. (El PaísAssociated PressBloomberg, and EFE)
  • Colombian President Iván Duque's push against the 2016 FARC peace deal could be key to rebuilding political capital -- "Bringing the JEP back to the frontlines of political debate may help Duque reignite his base," writes Rodrigo Riaza in Americas Quarterly.
  • Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) magistrate Patricia Linares called on former president Álvaro Uribe to play fair and stop distorting the debate regarding the peace deal created transitional justice tribunal. (Semana)  
El Salvador
  • A move by El Salvador's attorney general to unseal evidence and witness statements in corruption cases appears to aim at greater transparency. But the demand could also expose witnesses who testified against his deputy for alleged corruption, notes Insight Crime.
  • Ecuador's chief prosecutor's office said it will not investigate allegations that former President Rafael Correa received funds from Venezuela aimed at destabilizing the current government. Prosecutors said yesterday that records show no indication of illegal activity, reports the Associated Press. (See yesterday's briefs on the accusation.)
  • Politically influential Ecuadorean Carlos Pólit -- sentenced at home for Odebrecht related extortion -- has been linked to Miami properties purchased with secretive companies, reports McClatchy.
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador made fighting fuel theft an early cornerstone of his government. The fight is difficult, but worthy writes Ioan Grillo in a New York Times op-ed. "Mexico is overwhelmed by high levels of criminal activity of many different kinds, and the police need to prioritize which offenses to go after. Fuel theft is one of those worth prioritizing, a crime that the government should be able to actually succeed in reducing."
  • Torture is engrained in Mexico's military, a dangerous fact considering the current government's plan to draw on troops for a new National Guard. "Torture is practiced in groups. In 98% of cases, victims were tortured by two or more members of the army. Those responsible are not just a few “rotten apples” — torture is learned and socialized," writes  Javier Trevino-Rangel in Nexos. (LA Review of Books in English.)
  • A new WOLA and Peace Brigades International report focuses on the Mexican government's failures to address violence against journalists and human rights defenders. Mexico continues to be one of the most dangerous countries in the world for these groups, with at least 12 defenders and media workers killed in the country in just the first three months of 2019. 
  • A wave of strikes demanding higher wages in factories in Mexico could affect the country's labor competitive advantage in the new USMCA regional free-trade deal, reports the Financial Times.
  • AMLO's energy policy requires serious scrutiny, argues Valeria Moy in Americas Quarterly.
  • The new National Guard reform has put a spotlight on a long-standing rule allowing Mexicans to buy army weapons, reports Vice.
  • Brazilian police uncovered a criminal gang death-squad unit that collected intelligence and planned hits on public security officials, including police officers and prison guards. (InSight Crime)
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is visiting Israel -- where he will walk a diplomatic tightrope, trying to balance a promise to move his country's Israel embassy to Jerusalem and avoid angering key Arab trade partners. (AFP
Regional Relations
  • A new regional group -- the seven country "Prosur" -- has more to do with national agendas than serious regional integration, writes Stefano Palestini Céspedes at the Aula Blog.
  • Indeed, Prosur lacks concrete objectives, and responds more to the decadence of Unasur, argue Christopher Sabatini and Nicolás Albertoni in a New York Times Español op-ed.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...


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