Thursday, May 23, 2019

Diplomacy efforts for Venezuela (May 23, 2019)

Diplomatic efforts at finding a solution to the Venezuela crisis -- mainly the International Contact Group and talks conducted in Norway last week -- have both avoided falling into a "dialogue trap," in which the parts can posture and avoid advancing on real issues, write Geoff Ramsey and Kristen Martinez-Gugerli in the Venezuela Weekly.
Four people familiar with the Venezuela talks that took place in Oslo last week said representatives for President Nicolás Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó never met directly, but rather exchange communications through diplomatic intermediaries, reports the Washington Post. U.S. officials are skeptical of Maduro's good faith and that the talks will lead to his removal from office.

At least a portion of Chavismo is open to exit negotiations, amid increasing internal friction and recognition that the status quo is untenable, according to Alejandro Arreaza in Americas Quarterly.
In the ICG meeting with Maduro last week he apparently seemed doubtful about free elections, but the ICG remained firmly committed that elections are the only path forward. (Venezuela Weekly)

The U.S. is increasingly leaning towards diplomatic efforts as well. Yesterday the  the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved a bi-partisan bill supporting a strategy of nonviolent diplomatic pressure over the use of force. (Venezuela Weekly)

Though the goals are correct, the U.S. administration is mismanaging an international coalition seeking a democratic transition in Venezuela, argues Javier Corrales in a New York Times op-ed. He points to U.S. President Donald Trump's criticism of Colombia's drug strategies, hardened sanctions against Cuba, and failure to engage with Mexico as elements of the administration's alienation of key allies.

More from Venezuela
  • Maduro’s government is increasingly turning to allies Cuba, China and Russia to help offset a dire health crisis government authorities blame on U.S. sanctions, reports Reuters.
  • A deadly encounter between Venezuela's military and an indigenous Pemon tribe community on February 22 formed an under reported sub-story of the broader aid battle that took place between Venezuela's government and the opposition that week. Villagers intent on stopping troops on their way to block international aid clashed with the military. Dozens of villagers were wounded and three were killed by military shooting. A Reuters reconstruction of the day has surprising details: Pemon villagers held more than 40 members of the military hostage. Authorities detained 23 Pemon tribesmen, some of whom say they were beaten in custody. 
News Briefs

  • Mexican senators unanimously passed secondary legislation in support of the new National Guard project. It establishes rules of engagement for all of Mexico's security agents, including those participating in the new National Guard. But it does not address victims rights, as requested by international rights organizations, reports Animal Político.
  • Americas Quarterly looks at how lawmakers sought consensus on the law, compared to the contentious debate that characterized the original National Guard bill.
  • The National Guard is on the ground in eight of Mexico's most violent states, though secondary laws regulating their activity haven't been passed yet, reports Univisión.
  • Mexico's refugee agency is set to process 60,000 asylum applications this year -- double last year's number. Overwhelmed, and underfunded by a government with tight fiscal austerity goals, authorities have asked the United Nations Refugee Agency for help, reports Reuters.
  • A year after a young Guatemalan woman was shot in the head by U.S. Border Patrol, her family is still awaiting answers over who killed her and why, reports the Guardian.
  • Colombia's military commanders are attempting to identify the sources of a recent New York Times piece that revealed orders to boost army kill rates, according to El EspectadorHuman Rights Watch reacted with concern, saying retaliation against sources would be "grave." (See Monday's post.)
  • Photojournalist Federico Ríos said he was forced to flee his Colombia after being harassed online over comments by lawmakers in relation to the NYT piece, said the Committee to Protect Journalists. The author of the piece, Nicholas Casey also left the country. (See yesterday's briefs.) HRW and the Inter-American Press Association condemned possible retaliation against journalists. (Telam)
  • Brazil's judiciary has only recently started permitting media interviews with former president Luiz Inácio Lula de Silva -- jailed last year on a highly questioned corruption conviction. Glen Greenwald from The Intercept spoke to him for an hour, in which Lula said: "The only thing I really want, the only thing, is that my case be judged objectively. I don’t want anything else. I want the judges at some point to care about having hard evidence, either from the side of the prosecution or from the defendants."
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro backtracked on a portion of a gun ownership decree that would have allowed all people with gun licenses to carry semi-automatic weapons. However, the brunt of the loosened regulation remains in place, reports the Associated Press.
  • A case before Brazil's Supreme Court asks judges force lawmakers to criminalize violence against gay people, reports Reuters
  • Algeria and Argentina have been declared malaria-free by the World Health Organization, a "historic achievement." (Guardian)
  • An ultra-conservative anti-abortion bill under consideration by Guatemalan lawmakers threatens women suspected of having an abortion with prison sentences of six to twelve years -- which puts naturally occurring obstetric complications under suspicion, reports the Progressive. Furthermore, language aimed at defining families as heterosexual could also impact single-parent households, say activists. (See May 2's briefs on the bill.)
  • Guatemalan indigenous communities are doubling down to defend their right to consultation regarding development on their territories -- despite a government that has intensified attacks against environmental defenders and backed out of court-mandated consultations, reports Nacla.
  • Dream away Thursday afternoon with this account of Amazon eco-tourism in the New York Times.

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

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