Thursday, April 4, 2019

Venezuela undergoing complex humanitarian emergency - HRW (April 4, 2019)

  • "The combination of severe medicine and food shortages within Venezuela, together with the spread of disease across the country’s borders, amounts to a complex humanitarian emergency that requires a full-scale response by the United Nations secretary-general," researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Human Rights Watch said in a new report. The report "documents increased numbers of maternal and infant deaths; the unchecked spread of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles and diphtheria; and sharp increases in the transmission of infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis in Venezuela. Available data shows high levels of food insecurity and child malnutrition, as well as of hospital admissions of malnourished children."
  • Though much of the commentary on the Venezuelan crisis focuses on the potential for armed conflict -- the current situation will likely result in "a prolonged deadlock – and deeper human suffering," argues David Smilde in the Conversation. U.S. military intervention would likely come at too high a cost -- even more now with Russian troops in the country. And U.S. sanctions appear to be having more of an effect on a suffering population than the entrenched Maduro administration -- which makes a democratic transition harder, Smilde argues, since "Venezuelans, who in their vast majority oppose Maduro, will be concentrating on survival rather than protest."
  • Russian troops in Venezuela will increase shortly -- all part of military cooperation, according to government officials. (Efecto Cocuyo)
  • Nicolás Maduro's government asked for Russian cooperation to fix the country's ailing electrical grid, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
  • The Red Cross recently announced a massive aid initiative -- that both the government and the opposition agreed to. (See Monday's briefs.) The announcement is significant and shows the potential power of "satellite diplomacy" -- "negotiations that engage with rival factions independently rather than requiring them to meet face to face," writes Smilde in the Conversation piece.
  • The U.S. is putting together a financial rescue package for Venezuela -- to be implemented in the event of Maduro's ouster -- that would include temporary dollarization, reports Efecto Cocuyo. (See also yesterday's briefs.)
News Briefs

Regional Relations
  • The U.S. is considering fully implementing the Helms-Burton act -- which allows Americans to file lawsuits in U.S. courts to seek compensation for property that was confiscated by the Cuban government after Fidel Castro seized power in 1959. It would intensify the U.S. embargo against Cuba. The move would be retaliation for Cuban support for Maduro in Venezuela, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Media coverage of a potential border shutdown between the U.S. and Mexico focused a lot on avocados. (See Tuesday's post.) The example is not meant to be flippant, say experts, but rather drive home the potential impact of Trump's threat. "We need to make U.S.-Mexico trade and trade policy and border management tangible,” said Christopher Wilson, deputy director of the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, told the Washington Post.
  • Already delays at ports of entry are causing tens of millions of dollars in losses for shippers and logistics companies, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • In the midst of the border war, a New York Times photo-essay looks revisits the contemporary site of the old border, before the Mexican-American War.
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador invited El Salvador's president-elect, Nayib Bukele, to tour Chiapas with him. They will look at an ongoing reforestation and development program -- "Sembrando Vida -- that AMLO says could be implemented in Central America. (La Prensa Gráfica)
  • Mexican development policy is undermined by elite corporate influence on the government, argues Laura Dowley in Nueva Sociedad.
  • An Honduran migrant who fled gang violence at home tells how her toddler was literally ripped from her husbands arms by U.S. immigration officials and kept in government care for a month, leaving the baby with lingering psychological impact -- New York Times op-ed.
  • The latest negotiations between Nicaragua's Ortega administration and an opposition civil society alliance fell apart yesterday without concrete agreements, reports Confidencial. Dialogue foundered on opposition demands for international guarantors and early elections, reports Confidencial separately. The Alianza Cívica said there was no will to dialogue on the part of the government, and that it would focus on implementing partial agreements regarding political prisoner releases.
  • Juan Francisco Sandoval, Guatemala's lead anti-corruption prosecutor, told the Associated Press that the government has blocked his investigations in every way possible, and that he fears for his personal safety. 
  • Sandoval's position is complicated by attorney general Consuelo Porra's management of ongoing corruption investigations, particularly the timing of one accusing presidential candidate Sandra Torres of illicit financing in 2015, reports Nómada.
  • Trouble implementing electoral reform related to campaign media ads means social media -- and dirty campaigning -- will be more relevant than ever in Guatemala's upcoming presidential elections, reports No-Ficción.
  • Hundreds of indigenous Achi Mayan survivors, forced to leave their homes by the construction of Chixoy hydroelectric dam in the 1980s, are asking the government to comply with a 2014 agreement to pay reparations for their displacement, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Argentines are known for taking to the streets -- often with explosive results. In the midst of rising costs, strong austerity policies, and rising poverty and unemployment, many are wondering why there hasn't been more upheaval. In part the answer lies in the legacy of social organization and programs developed over the past 20 years, since the 2001 crisis, according to a thoughtful piece by Tali Goldman in Anfibia. In an electoral year, many activists are also betting on a political solution.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's glorification of the country's 1964 military coup has shown the world that the leader lives in a parallel universe -- but that fact is also becoming more clear with his every appearance on the international stage, argues Sylvia Colombo in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • Brazilian military officers -- though mostly retired -- have returned to the country's political scene via the ballot box last year. But though their influence on the Bolsonaro administration has been a moderating force in several key instances -- including Venezuela -- in general the politicization of the armed forces represents a threat to the country's democracy, writes Ignacio Pirotta in Nueva Sociedad.
  • A Brazilian judge took a salomonic decision in a paternity case: faced with identical twins, neither of whom would admit paternity, he ordered them both to pay child support. (New York Times)

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

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