Friday, May 3, 2019

Venezuela protests fizzle (May 3, 2019)

Venezuela returned to a semblance of frustrated normalcy yesterday, after two days of protests and clashes with security forces. Four people died and dozens were wounded in a quashed attempt to oust President Nicolás Maduro that started Tuesday. Opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for ongoing protests and civil disobedience, but efforts fizzled, reports the Washington Post. Yesterday he called for further action -- a strike, street mobilizations, and envoys to convince military troops to switch sides -- on Twitter, reports Efecto Cocuyo.

Maduro mustered troops in a televised act yesterday, an event apparently designed to further undermine Guaidó's claim to a military revolt against the government, reports the New York Times. “How many would die if there is a civil war here because of their insanity?” Maduro said in his remarks to the troops, in which he framed the ouster as a U.S. backed-coup and prelude to U.S. invasion.

The pro-Maduro Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant for opposition leader Leopoldo López, who escaped from house arrest on Tuesday and has taken refuge in the Caracas Spanish Embassy. (López held a press conference in the embassy yesterday, Efecto Cocuyo reports.) However, the court did not issue a warrant for Guaidó's arrest, notes the Washington Post. (See yesterday's and Wednesday's posts.) 

The Supreme Court also accepted treason charges against the National Assembly vice president, Edgar Zambrano, reports Efecto Cocuyo.

At least 20 National Guard members who participated in the coup attempt sought asylum in the Brazilian Embassy in Caracas.

Operación Libertad 

Operación Libertad's plan involved a comprehensive route for a transitional government, according to the U.S. special envoy for Venezuela, Elliot Abrams. He said failed plan to oust President Nicolás Maduro involved an agreement for Guaidó to be interim president, the current Supreme Court president and Defense Minister to keep their posts, and new elections within a year, reports the Guardian. (See yesterday's and Wednesday's posts.) Specifically the plan called for Venezuela's Supreme Court to declare Maduro's National Constituent Assembly illegitimate, underlining the opposition-led National Assembly's position as the country's strongest democratically elected organ, according to U.S. national security adviser John Bolton.

Guaidó moved the plan up by a day on Tuesday after Maduro reportedly caught wind of the plot. This possibly contributed to its failure as the military was not covered by a Supreme Court decision as was supposedly planned. Others speculate that Venezuelan defense minister Vladimir Padrino tricked the opposition into believing they had a deal. (Guardian)

Nonetheless, the participation of the Sebin intelligence agency head, who subsequently fled the country, indicates that a broader plot with military participation was organized, reports Efecto Cocuyo.

A coup is a game of confidence, and Guaidó failed on several fronts to create a sense of inevitability and secure support of the country's power brokers, according to a New York Times Interpreter column.

Operación Libertad's ultimate failure raises questions about whether the U.S. had faulty intelligence about the opposition's likelihood of successfully convincing Maduro officials to switch sides, reports the New York Times. (Fulton Armstrong's take on the U.S. intelligence failures regarding the episode at Consortium News.)

The uprising and its repression ultimately demonstrate "that the country's main political factions are stagnant and have exhausted tactics and strategies that prioritize political negotiation over use of force. This catastrophic tie impedes governability and generates chaos and instability at any minimum fluctuation between the forces in conflict, which worsens the Venezuelan's tragic situation even more," writes Dimitris Pantoulas in a New York Times Español op-ed.

News Briefs

  • Several journalists covering May Day protests in Tegucigalpa were attacked, reports Tiempo. (See Tuesday's post on repression of protests earlier this week in Honduras.)
Regional Relations
  • U.S. President Donald Trump nominated a controversial career diplomat to become the country's new ambassador to Colombia. Philip Goldberg was expelled from Bolivia, where he served as ambassador, by President Evo Morales, after the diplomat allegedly met with members of the right-wing opposition. (Guardian)
  • Colombia's attorney general said a criminal network angled to intercept Constitutional Court magistrates' communications, with the goal of discrediting and extorting some of the judges. Judge  Jorge Enrique Ibáñez, who is investigating Odebrecht corruption said earlier this week that he and a fellow member of the court gathered evidence that they were being illicitly monitored. (SemanaCaracol)
  • More than 1.2 million Venezuelans are now living in Colombia, a figure that could hit 2 million by the end of 2019, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Moving to the U.S. comes with a series of application and processing fees -- asylum application traditionally hasn't. A new Trump administration policy seeks to impose a processing fee, that undermines the very nature of humanitarian asylum seeking, argues the Washington Post.
  • At least two suits have already been filed against Carnival in Miami, part of the Trump administration's new policy allowing people to seek compensation against companies that do business with properties confiscated in Cuba sixty years ago, reports the New York Times. (See April 18's post.)
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador promised to help a murdered journalist's son at yesterday's daily press conference. Carlos Dominguez asked the president for help at the briefing -- López Obrador said his administration would ask the federal Attorney General’s Office to take over the case from state prosecutors. (Associated Press)
  • Brazil's government is experimenting with school's co-run by police, an attempt to model the country's well-regarded military colleges. Under the model, teaching remains in the hands of the Education Ministry, while police officers oversee discipline and enforce a new code of conduct, reports the Associated Press.
  • Women funkeiras have brought a feminist perspective to Brazilian funk, a hip-hop derived music genre criticized for promoting violence -- they're no less rude, but they espouse women's rights, reports the Economist's Sarah Maslin.
  • A number of companies have cancelled their sponsorship of an event honoring Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in New York, a sign of how his environmental policies and derogatory statements about LGBT people are controversial abroad as well as at home. The Financial Times, Bain & Company and Delta Airlines have pulled out of the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce event scheduled for later this month. It was to be held in the American Museum of Natural history, but the venue had to be changed following a public outcry, that included Mayor Bill de Blasio. (Guardian)
  • Haitian authorities said the suspected Savane Pistache gang leader was killed in a gunfight with police. The gang is suspected of fatally shooting five people and injuring seven others last week, reports the Associated Press. (See last Friday's brief.)
  • An embattled worker-occupied printing press in Buenos Aires is strongly influenced by it's women's committee, which has led workers to radically rethink sexist divisions and implement policies such as a day off for menstruation, six month paid maternity leave, wage gender parity, and a sick day for children. (NACLA)
St. Lucia
  • A cruise ship operated by the Church of Scientology has been quarantined off the coast of St Lucia following a confirmed case of measles onboard. (Guardian)

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

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