Wednesday, May 15, 2019

U.S. and Russia keep disagreeing on Venezuela (May 15, 2019)

A meeting between the U.S. and Russia's foreign ministers failed to find common ground on Venezuela. After the meeting in Sochi yesterday, both sides repeated previously held stances on Venezuela's ongoing crisis. 

U.S. Secretary of State reiterated a call for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to step down. He also repeated an ongoing appeal for (other) countries to cease interfering in Venezuela. "We hope that Russia’s support for Maduro will end," he said. "We want Venezuela to get their democracy back." 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said U.S. pressure against Maduro is undemocratic, and called for Venezuelans to be allowed to "define their own future." Lavrov suggested Maduro is open to talks with the opposition. He criticized opposition leader Juan Guaidó -- considered interim-president by the U.S. and 50 other countries -- for inviting U.S. intervention.

More on Venezuela diplomacy
  • Latin American countries -- on both sides of the Venezuela divide -- should push for a negotiated settlement to the Venezuelan crisis, argues the International Crisis Group. A new report warns that political polarization and deadlock, coupled with growing international tensions, "raise the real danger of worsening unrest in Venezuela, cross-border instability and military escalation."
  • Though April 30's failed uprising against President Nicolás Maduro initially gave momentum to the International Contact Group's diplomatic efforts, the negotiation oriented push was undermined by the arrest last week of opposition lawmaker Edgar Zambrano, writes David Smilde in the latest Venezuela Weekly. (See last Thursday's post.)
  • Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó asked the International Contact Group to grant him participation -- as Venezuela's interim president -- in the European Union backed efforts to negotiate a political settlement to the crisis. David Smilde notes that "the move highlights the contrasting logics of the Lima Group and the ICG." (Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights
  • An ICG mission to Venezuela is supposed to arrive in Caracas today or tomorrow, Guaidó said. (Efecto CocuyoEFE)
More on Venezuela
  • The National Constituent Assembly stripped five more opposition lawmakers of parliamentary immunity, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
  • Venezuela's intelligence security agents took over the National Assembly building yesterday, alleging a bomb threat. (Efecto Cocuyo and Efecto Cocuyo)
  • Colombia presented a plan to shelter 1,400 Venezuelan military deserters and their families, currently in the country. (Efecto Cocuyo)
News Briefs

  • Guatemala's Constitutional Court rejected Zury Rios Sosa's presidential candidacy this week. Guatemala's constitution prohibits offspring of former dictators to run for president or vice president -- a 1986 rule that sought to shield a fragile democracy, said judges. (Nómada and Al Jazeera)
  • The Constitutional Court is expected to rule today on former attorney general Thelma Aldana's candidacy. The well known anti-corruption crusader is herself accused of graft. But, supporters say charges against her are trumped up by opponents in order to defend a political system known for entrenched corruption, reports the Washington Post. Aldana has promised to maintain the U.N. backed international anti-corruption commission, the CICIG. Guatemalans vote next month, and so far the presidential race has been defined by judicial cases more than campaign platforms. 
  • Entrenched patronage networks and weak institutions of accountability in Panama could complicate president-elect Laurentino Cortizo's promise to target corruption in the country, according to World Politics Review.
  • The U.S. government said it will provide $160 million in funding to Colombia to help implement the 2016 FARC peace agreement. (AFP)
  • A series of recent free speech cases in Brazil have drawn attention to ambiguities in the country's expression protections, reports the Washington Post. The case of a right-wing comedian who has been sentenced to jail has brought together strange bedfellows: Human Rights Watch and President Jair Bolsonaro. But critics also voiced concern over a recent Supreme Court attempt to censor two news outlets. (See April 22's post.)
  • Feminists are increasingly organized socially and politically in Brazil, and they're leading opposition to Bolsonaro's misogynist and sexist policies, argue Adriana Guimarães and Ana Cernov in Nueva Sociedad.
  • A Brazilian court ordered former president Michel Temer's release from pre-trial detention yesterday -- just a week after he was detained for a second time as part of a investigation into alleged bribery. (AFP)
  • Social democracy could take root in Latin America, if progressives tackle issues the region's leftists have shied away from: security, corruption, migration and Venezuela, argues Tomás Allan in Nueva Sociedad.
  • Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández's brother has admitted in U.S. court to knowing and interacting with several notorious drug traffickers and being offered bribes by such individuals. The detailed testimony makes it increasingly difficult for JOH to deny knowledge of these acts, according to InSight Crime.
  • Violence is not just homicides in Honduras -- the Associated Press looks at how death threats, extortions, forced gang recruitments, attacks against property, and street gang territorial control contribute to insecurity in San Pedro Sula.
  • Former Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has a real shot at winning October's presidential elections -- despite ten indictments in cases accusing her of corruption. A Kirchner victory would cause damaging tension with the judicial power, which would lose autonomy and credibility if the investigations against the former president are dismissed, argues Hugo Alconada Mon in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez has overcome internal party divisions with a strong-right wing agenda, aided by economic tailwinds, according to Magdalena López in Nueva Sociedad.
  • Mexican lawmakers voted to give domestic workers basic labor rights yesterday. The new law will will grant more than two million people — most of them women living in poverty -- with benefits like limited work hours and paid vacations. The bill passed both chambers of Congress unanimously. (New York Times)
  • Seventeen state legislatures ratified Mexico's new education reform, which overturns the previous administration's education law. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's reform requires the government to guarantee adequate school infrastructure and educational materials. It rolls back the previous government's signature regulations regarding adjudication of teaching posts. (ExelsiorEl FinancieroAnimal Político)
  • Wildfires pushed Mexico City's air pollution to levels considered harmful for human health -- authorities restricted vehicle circulation for today. (Reuters and Animal Político)
  • A new airport near Macchu Pichu would cause destruction to Inca ruins and put strain on archeological sites and ecosystems that are already suffering from huge amounts of tourism, reports the Guardian.
  • Former Lima mayor Susana Villaran was ordered to 18 months in pre-trial detention in connection with alleged bribes from Brazilian construction companies Odebrecht and OAS. (Reuters)

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

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