Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Ortega frees more political prisoners (May 21, 2019)

Nicaragua's government released 100 political prisoners from jail yesterday, and promised to release a total of 300 by June 18. The move came after government opponents decided to abandon negotiations aimed at resolving the country's political crisis and to call a general strike, reports Reuters. (See Confidencial on the strike.) Today Canada is presenting a resolution in the OAS that would require all political prisoners to be released by June 18. (Confidencial and Infobae)

A list of political prisoners accorded between the government, the opposition Civic Alliance and the Red Cross has a total of 238 people -- 138 remain in detention after yesterday's release, reports Confidencial. Most prisoners who have been released in recent months are placed under house arrest, and activists say about 500 people are currently out of jail but with pending judicial processes.

Last week one political prisoner on the list, Eddy Montes Praslin, was killed in La Modelo prison, with a bullet shot by a guard, reports Confidencial. Nicaraguan authorities said the guard acted in self defense. (Reuters)


Venezuela ...

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro challenged the political opposition to hold early elections for the National Assembly, led by presidential challenger Juan Guaidó. The Assembly is considered Venezuela's only democratically elected body by most Western countries, and Guaidó is recognized as Venezuela's interim leader by over 50 countries. Maduro has previously threatened to hold new elections for the National Assembly, and did not propose a date in yesterday's speech. Guaidó dismissed the proposal as a farce. (ReutersEfecto CocuyoBBC)

Despite Venezuela's humanitarian crisis, Maduro celebrated the anniversary yesterday of his electoral victory last year -- though the opposition and many members of the international community have refused to recognize its legitimacy. The election is at the heart of the legitimacy battle playing out between Maduro and Guaidó this year. (Associated Press)

Guaidó's representative in Washington, Carlos Vecchio met with U.S. military and state department representatives yesterday. Last week the opposition leader said he was reaching out to the Pentagon for "strategic and operational planning." (Financial Times)

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro criticized ongoing negotiations between Maduro and Guaidó mediated by Norway, saying the crisis is not a conflict between two sides but an attempt to escape dictatorship. (Infobae)

Spain is a reluctant voice regarding Venezuela, but has the potential to become a key mediator in the crisis, argue Irene Estefanía González and Ben Raderstorf in Americas Quarterly.

More from Venezuela
  • 73 percent of Venezuelans have a negative view of Maduro, according to a new poll by Washington based GBAO. His backing remains among most of the 28 percent of the population that identifies with the ruling PSUV party. 41 percent identify with opposition parties, while 31 percent have no party affinity or affiliation. (Efecto Cocuyo)
  • Images of a 2-year-old girl wasting away from malnutrition on Venezuela's Toas Island galvanized aid towards an island that has been virtually cut off from the mainland after the boats that served as public transport broke down for a lack of spare parts, reports the New York Times.
  • Venezuela’s opposition hired veteran debt lawyer Lee Buchheit to help restructure the country’s more than $150 billion debt burden. The move suggests a transitional government would take a tough approach to investors holding defaulted bonds, reports Reuters.
  • Maduro's ambassador to Italy has resigned, citing financial difficulties related to U.S. sanctions that make it impossible to pay employee's salaries and rent his office, reports the Guardian. (See also Efecto Cocuyo.)
News Briefs

  • A Guatemalan teen died in U.S. Border Patrol custody, the third migrant child to die in detention. (New York Times)
  • The United Nations’ Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) presented a plan to boost economic development in Central America's Northern Triangle Countries and southern Mexico. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the plan is the best option to stem immigrant flows to the U.S. Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard estimated the plan would require $10 billion in annual investment over a decade. (Associated Press)
  • The head of Mexico's social security institute resigned today, saying the economy ministry was exerting undue influence on the organism -- particularly with budget and staff cuts -- and that it was affecting health services. (Animal Político)
  • AMLO said that his two immediate predecessors used executive authority to write off more than $20 billion in taxes owed by large corporations, reports EFE.
  • The López Obrador administration promised to pursue cases of judicial collusion with drug cartels, after the U.S. sanctioned a Mexican judge and a former state governor, accusing them of taking bribes from drug traffickers, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • The Peruvian indigenous Fuerabamba community will restart a road blockad of the Las Bambas copper mine after talks with the company over compensation broke down, reports Reuters.
  • The conservative majority in Peru's congress means a gay marriage bill is unlikely to pass anytime soon, according to Reuters.
  • A trial against former Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, in which she is accused of kickbacks and corrupt public works contracts, started today. Fernández is running for vice president in October's elections, and supporters say the case is aimed at undermining her political power. (Reuters)
  • Former lawmaker Jean Wyllys has become the Brazil's most prominent political exile since its return to democratic rule three decades ago, reports the Huffington Post.
  • Brazilian vice president Hamilton Mourão is in China, where he will seek to smooth over diplomatic feathers ruffled by President Jair Bolsonaro's anti-China rhetoric, reports Bloomberg.
  • Crisis wracked democracies have allowed fascism to enter via populism, argues Federico Finchelstein in a New York Times Español op-ed that looks at the case of Bolsonaro's rise in Brazil.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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