Thursday, April 11, 2019

Ecuador withdraws Assange's asylum (April 11, 2019)

British police arrested WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in the Ecuador's London embassy, after Ecuador's government withdrew asylum. Footage shows authorities forcibly removing Assange from the embassy, where he has lived for seven years. Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno said the decision was tied to Assange's "repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life- protocols." 

Ecuador withdrew Assange's citizenship and accused WikiLeaks and Russian hackers of seeking to destabilize the government.

British authorities said that Assange was arrested in relation to a U.S. extradition request, where he is accused of "computer related offenses." A U.S. indictment unsealed today reveals that Assange has been charged with conspiring to hack a computer as part of the 2010 release of secret American documents. It carries a penalty of five years in prison, but -- significantly -- is not an espionage charge.

Assange has argued that WikiLeaks is a journalistic enterprise, and his lawyers accuse the U.S. of "seeking to extradite a foreign journalist to face criminal charges for publishing truthful information."

News Briefs

  • Irregular armed groups are present in nearly half of Venezuela, according to a new Fundaredes report. They include Colombian guerrilla groups -- the ELN and dissident FARC factions -- as well as the Venezuelan Fuerzas Bolivarianas de Liberación (FBL) and the Colectivo de Seguridad Fronteriza. (Efecto Cocuyo)
  • Efforts at political change in Venezuela are stalled, and international attention has turned to alleviating the country's humanitarian crisis, writes David Smilde in the Venezuela Weekly.
  • Venezuela's protracted political stalemate means even more people will likely leave the country, and leaves migrants wondering when they'll be able to go home, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Venezuelan migrants living in Curaçao might be the worst off in the region, according to a new report from Refugees International that calls on the Dutch Caribbean island to allow undocumented Venezuelan migrants to gain temporary legal status, and to establish an asylum process. (Miami Herald)
Regional Relations
  • U.S. Vice President Mike Pence asked the U.N. Security Council to recognize Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela's legitimate leader, and to expel Nicolás Maduro's ambassador. "You should return to Venezuela and tell Nicolás Maduro that his time is up," Pence said to Venezuelan ambassador Samuel Moncada at the session. (New York Times)
  • U.S. officials continue to say all options are on the table when it comes to Venezuela -- and it seems increasingly likely that this could include covert, U.S. infrastructural sabotage could be contributing to the blackouts afflicting large swathes of the country, argues Eric Hershberg at the AULA blog.
  • Cuba ratified support of Venezuela's embattled government, and rejected U.S. "blackmail," in the form of tightening economic sanctions. (Guardian) Communist Party leader and former president Raúl Castro said further deterioration of Cuba's economy is likely as a result of the U.S.'s actions, reports the Miami Herald. Castro also said that the government was taking measures to strengthen its armed forces' defensive capabilities.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to end a legal pathway for Cubans to play baseball professionally in the United States will likely benefit human smuggling networks, reports InSight Crime.
  • Mexico's new National Guard will be led by General Luis Rodríguez Bucio -- while the joint commission coordinating the new security force will be largely composed of retired military leaders, reports Animal Político. The government said National Guard members will receive extra human rights training, with the support of the national human rights commission.
  • A Peruvian judge ordered the arrest of former president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in relation to money laundering charges connected to Odebrecht corruption. Prosecutors believe he used a cabinet post in the Toledo administration to favor the Brazilian construction giant. (El Comercio and El Comercio)
  • Brazilian prosecutors plan to file criminal charges against mining giant Vale SA and its employees over the deadly collapse of a mine-waste dam in January, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Evangelical support was key for President Jair Bolsonaro's electoral victory last year, but just 100 days into his mandate, Evangelicals are split in their evaluation of the leader, reports Americas Quarterly.
  • Bolsonaro's short tenure has proved that fears about his indigenous policies were well founded, argues Fiona Watson in the Independent. His government has launched "an unprecedented attack on Brazil’s indigenous peoples with the explicit aim of destroying them, forcibly assimilating them and plundering their land."
  • Switzerland said it gave Brazil $365 million seized in investigations of Petrobras and Odebrecht. (AFP)
  • A group of British parliamentarians, trade unionists, journalists and activists condemned Brazilian former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's imprisonment, calling him a political prisoner. (Guardian)
  • Former Argentine economy minister Ricardo Lavagna is increasingly positioned as a compromise candidate in the midst of Argentina's intensely polarized presidential election, reports Bloomberg. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Former Colombian senator Claudia López is in the running for Bogotá's mayorship, representing the Alianza Verde. (Semana)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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