Monday, April 15, 2019

Former Venezuela spy chief arrested in Spain (April 15, 2019)

Former Venezuelan spy-chief and lawmaker, Hugo Carvajal, was detained in Spain on a U.S. extradition request. Carvajal broke with the Maduro government in February, and urged the military to turn against the administration. Carvajal told the New York Times he had witnessed numerous government officials engaged in drug trafficking. He is wanted by the U.S. for similar crimes. 

U.S. officials believe he will be a source of extensive information about the Maduro government, reports Reuters. Indeed, Carvajal said the charges are trumped up and aim at obtaining information from him, reports Efecto Cocuyo.

The U.S. unsealed the indictment against Carvajal on Friday, part of an attempt to push European allies to raise pressure on Venezuela's Maduro administration, reports the Wall Street Journal. Nonetheless, Carvajal's arrest could undermine hopes of a broad military defection from Maduro's ranks. "It’s logical to fear that now if you break from the regime, you’ll end up in a prison cell in Miami," WOLA's Geoff Ramsey told the WSJ. "Rather than incentivizing a break, instead they only provide incentives for people to stay and go down with the ship." (See briefs below.)

News Briefs

More from Venezuela
  • The Lima Group meets today in Chile, and plans to focus on concrete, non-violent measures to reestablish democracy in Venezuela, reports EFE.
  • Politically motivated arrests are on the rise in Venezuela. More than 900 political detainees are being held around the country, according to Foro Penal -- and they are being held longer, under worst conditions, and under increasingly flimsy pretenses. (Washington Post)
  • In the midst of Venezuela's collapse -- and the ongoing political stalemate -- people are increasingly turning to religion for comfort. Traditionally one of the region's least religious country's, experts are watching to see if growing sectors of faithful become a political force, reports the Washington Post.
  • Venezuela's military remains largely Maduro loyal, and months into the political stalemate over who is the country's legitimate leader, the trickle of defectors to Colombia has largely stopped, reports the Washington Post.
  • Canada imposed sanctions on 43 more individuals affiliated with the Maduro goverment, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
  • Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez accused the U.S., Brazil and Colombia of planning military aggression against Venezuela, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
  • There are five national elections coming up in the region -- Panama next month, Guatemala in June, and Bolivia, Argentina and Uruguay in October. Americas Quarterly profiles each of the leading candidates -- along with a graph plotting where they fall on the ideological spectrum (left-right, and nationalist-globalist).
  • Five Brazilian political parties, including President Jair Bolsonaro's, are under investigation for enlisting obscure female candidates in last year's election, in order to use public funds earmarked to increase women's political participation. Party leaders are accused of then asking the women to kickback the money which was funneled into male candidates' campaigns, reports the New York Times.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has had a rocky start, and used up much of his political capital in his first hundred days in office, reports the New York Times. He has the lowest popularity rating of any president at this point in his tenure since the return of democracy. His latest gaffe: saying Holocaust crimes can be forgiven, reports the New York Times separately.
  • Brazilian Vice President  Hamilton Mourão and Finance Minister Paulo Guedes are attempting to temper Bolsonaro's firebrand style -- no easy task, notes the Washington Post.
  • In the meantime, advances in the Operation Car Wash investigation against corruption might hinder Bolsonaro's attempt to reform the national pension system, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • In New York the Museum of Natural History is trying to wiggle out of a privately booked gala dinner honoring Bolsonaro, who is criticized by environmentalists for weakening rainforest protections, reports the New York Times. (See last Friday's briefs)
  • Last week Bolsonaro said the country could open a vast reserve in the Amazon rainforest to mining, reports Reuters.
  • At least six people have been killed in Amazon land conflicts since Bolsonaro took office, raising fears of rising violence, reports Al Jazeera.
  • The Associated Press reports that the Bolsonaro government plans to auction seven offshore oil fields in the northeast, contrary to advice from the country's environmental body. 
  • Scientific experts, farmers, and government officials in Honduras have all noted the increasing role climate change plays in pushing people to emigrate from the country. Changing weather conditions are affecting crops in Central America, and adding to the woes that make people take the perilous journey to try to get into the U.S., reports the New York Times. (See last Monday's post.)
  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lauded Peru's welcome of Venezuelan refugees, and was irritated when a reporter asked if that contradicted USPresident Donald Trump’s harsh immigration policy at home, reports AFP.
  • The U.N. voted to renew its peace-keeping mission in Haiti for a final six months. After October the U.N. will only have a special political mission in the country. The Dominican Republic expressed concern over the withdrawal and called it premature, reports the Miami Herald.
Regional Relations
  • U.S. and Mexican business leaders urged Trump to drop steel tariffs that are hindering trade between the two countries. (Reuters)
  • The U.N. envoy to Colombia warned the government against reopening the 2016 peace treaty with the FARC, reports the AFP.
  • WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange tried to use Ecuador's London embassy as a spying center, and repeatedly violated his asylum conditions, said Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno in an interview with the Guardian. Moreno also said he had been given written undertakings from Britain that Assange’s fundamental rights would be respected and that he wouldn't be sent anywhere to face the death penalty. (Guardian)
  • In Ecuador, a Swedish software developer -- believed to be close to Assange -- was jailed and charged with attempting to destabilize the government through hacking. (Guardian, see last Friday's briefs)
  • Copper transports to Peru's Las Bambas mine resumed Saturday, after a prolonged blockade by indigenous communities sought payment for transit through their farmland, reports Reuters
  • Leatherback sea turtles haven't nested this year in Nicaragua's Río Escalante Chacocente wildlife reserve, part of a worrisome decline trend say experts. (Guardian)
  • Newly declassified U.S. government documents shed new light on the repressive tactics South America's military regimes and of U.S. awareness of their actions. The U.S. formally delivered 7,500 records to the Argentine government on Friday, one  of the largest transfers of declassified documents from one government to another, and part of a deal struck by the Obama administration, reports the New York Times. The documents reveal information about a previously unknown special assassination squad created by the region's military dictatorships to kill dissidents abroad, known as Teseo, reports McClatchy.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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