Friday, April 19, 2019

García's suicide puts pre-trial detention in spotlight (April 19, 2019)

News Briefs

  • Former Peruvian president Alan García's suicide this week as he was being detained as part of a corruption probe has raised questions over whether Odebrecht investigators in the country have been too aggressive, report the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press. Prosecutors have made use of preventive detention for three former presidents, an attempt to keep influential suspects from interfering or fleeing. And the corruption investigations are popular among Peruvians. But now critics say the mechanism, which allows suspects to be jailed for up to three years without charges, has been abused. (See yesterday's briefs, and Wednesday's.)
  • The Inter-American Development Bank is secretly circulating a four-year plan to open the country’s economy to foreign corporations through privatization, reports The Intercept. The analysis predicts an infusion of up to $48 billion of capital into the Venezuelan economy should President Nicolás Maduro be removed from office.
  • Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó is considered the country's legitimate leader by dozens of foreign countries, but, three months into the country's legitimacy crisis, he's still on the sidelines of actual governance. As a result, he's carrying out an extensive electoral-style campaign in a country with no elections in sight, reports the Washington Post.
  • Maduro is funneling proceeds from Venezuelan oil sales through Russian state energy giant Rosneft, in an attempt to evade U.S. sanctions, reports Reuters.
  • Russia's Caracas ambassador pushed back against U.S. invocation of the Monroe doctrine to justify intervention in Latin America, reports the Associated Press.
  • A Venezuelan journalist was detained and later freed by police yesterday while covering Red Cross aid distribution, reports Efecto Cocuyo. Union representatives said Venepress journalist Frank Thomas was forced to erase material documenting complaints over aid.
Regional Relations
  • The new U.S. Trump administration sanctions against Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua are ideological, but also electorally motivated. Florida has at least a half-million voters who were born in Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia or Nicaragua — and more with ancestral roots in those countries — and could prove pivotal in November 2020, reports Politico. (See yesterday's post.)
  • The European Union will consider options to protect its interests after the U.S. gave citizens permission to file lawsuits against foreign companies operating in Cuba, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's post.)
  • A group of 12 Bolivian lawmakers asked U.S. President Donald Trump to intervene in their country's upcoming presidential elections, to somehow block President Evo Morales from running for a fourth term. Though Washington has been active in the region, it appears unlikely to respond to this particular plea, reports Newsweek
  • A U.S. government report concluded that the re-negotiated NAFTA deal -- known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement -- offers only modest benefits to to the U.S. economy. (New York Times)
  • A surge in Central American migrants, and U.S. pressure, has forced Mexico's government to backpedal on promises of more human treatment for migrants, reports Reuters. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's administration has stopped its liberal humanitarian visa policy and increased detentions of migrants heading north. Hundreds have been stranded in unsanitary camps near Mexico's southern border.
  • AMLO declared an end to the country's drug war in February -- but for communities living in fear of criminal cartels, it remains to be seen what policy changes are implemented and how they work, reports The Nation. Experts say the government must take a harm reduction approach rather than criminalizing narcotics.
  • AMLO has touted his administration as Mexico's Fourth Transformation -- that should be understood as an attempt to solve the problems that the Mexican Revolution —the Third Transformation—left unresolved, reports NACLA.
  • Jamaican authorities seek to cash in on cannabis without angering the U.S. -- the risk of miscalculation is high, according to the Economist.
  • Jhon Jader Cayapu, a community leader from the Cauca province, was found dead on Monday -- the third indigenous leader killed in a week since a failed meeting with President Iván Duque, according to Colombia Reports. (See April 10's briefs.)
  • A Colombian lawmaker believes his U.S. tourist visa was revoked in retaliation for leaked information regarding a meeting between Colombian politicians and the U.S. ambassador to Colombia, reports El Espectador. (See Tuesday's briefs.)
  • Colombian same-sex couples staged a kiss-a-thon in a Bogota shopping mall after two gay men were harassed in the shopping center. (Associated Press)
  • An Ecuadorean judge ordered former foreign minister Ricardo Patiño be held in pre-trial detention on a so-called instigation charge. Patiño's whereabouts are currently unknown, he left the country by road on Wednesday. The attorney general's office accused him of "giving a speech in which he instigated people to take over public institutions and close roads." Prosecutors said Patiño is also under investigation for having supposed ties to alleged Swedish hacker Ola Bini, who was arrested last week. (Reuters)
  • Amazon the retailer is fighting with South American countries over the domain name .amazon. (New York Times)
  • Funding is being cut from scientific research programs on a large scale in Brazil, which is putting natural wonders like the Amazon at risk, reports National Geographic.
  • Argentina's government is desperately trying to shore up the economy ahead of presidential elections this year. With IMF endorsement, it is using loan dollars to stabilize the peso, a very poor choice according to former IMF official Hector Torres. (Project Syndicate)
  • "In practice, this unprecedented arrangement is an invitation to speculators to test the bank’s resolve," write economists Miguel Kiguel and Eduardo Levy Yeyati in the Financial Times.
  • Price controls announced this week are another misguided policy -- which has worked poorly in the past to contain inflation, according to the Economist.
  • Argentina's gauchos -- a Guardian photo-essay.
  • Colombian photographer Andres Cardona confronts his family's tragic past as part of Colombia's war. (New York Times)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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