Monday, July 8, 2019

Dialogues move forward Venezuela, Nicaragua (July 8, 2019)

Venezuela's political opposition will meet with President Nicolás Maduro's representatives in Barbados for talks mediated by Norway. (Reuters) The talks had been discussed for last week, but were suspended after the torture-related death of navy captain Rafael Acosta Arévalo in government custody. (See last Tuesday's post.) According to some reports they will start today.

It will be the third-round of talks that started in Oslo in May. (See post for May 27.) The opposition, led by Juan Guaidó have emphasized that discussions must not serve as a stalling instrument for Maduro's government. "We don’t have unlimited time, every day our situation is becoming worse," Guaidó said in a written statement yesterday. (Bloomberg)

Negotiations are key to ensuring a democratic transition in Venezuela, precisely because there are hard-line, authoritarian actors in Maduro’s coalition, argued Abraham Lowenthal and David Smilde in The Hill last week.

More Venezuela
  • A sixteen-year-old Venezuelan who was blinded in police repression of a protest has become a rallying point for human rights activists. "How many young Venezuelans will have to be mutilated and assassinated for real justice to be carried out for once and for all?" asks Zoé Valdés in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • Venezuelan authorities released 22 prisoners, including high-profile judge Maria Afiuni and journalist Braulio Jatar last week, in the wake of a scathing U.N. human rights report. U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet had separately asked President Nicolás Maduro to release the prisoners, reports BBC.
  • Fuel shortages are pushing Venezuela's already struggling agricultural sector to the brink of collapse, reports the New York Times.

More revelations incriminate Moro

Brazilian Justice Minister Sergio Moro is under increasing pressure to resign amid mounting evidence of irregularities in the Lava Jato anti-corruption investigation he presided over as judge, reports the Guardian. The latest revelations were published by Veja magazine, a conservative weekly that has for year's supported the anti-corruption crusade that put former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva behind bars. 

Veja's newest cover features Moro tipping the scales of justice to the right and "reveals how Moro abused his judicial function as part of a cabal, commanding the actions of the prosecutors of Car Wash." The report is part of a partnership between the magazine and The Intercept, which has been reporting on a trove of secret communications that show Moro advising and directing the prosecutorial team.

The Intercept partnered with mainstream journalistic outlets -- Veja and previously by Folha de S. Paulo -- in order undermine the government's argument that the revelations are part of a left-wing assault aimed at liberating Lula. In its editorial, Veja shows previous covers over the years that celebrated Moro's anti-corruption efforts as proof that their editorial line is neither against the judge nor in favor of freeing Lula. "We will never be condescending when legal boundaries are broken (even in the fight against crime). Otherwise, we would also be in favor of death squads and vigilantes." Their own painstaking review of the material shows: "that the orders of the then judge were strictly followed by the Public Prosecutor's Office and that he behaved as part of the investigative team, a sort of team coach - not as an impartial magistrate."

The leaks demonstrate a slew of apparent irregularities and likely legal violations -- tarring the anti-graft operation that was supposed to be the pride of Brazilian democracy, sums up Vanessa Barbara in a New York Times op-ed.

News Briefs

  • Nicaragua's opposition Alianza Cívica said it would be willing to sit down for talks with President Daniel Ortega's government. In a letter to the Organization of American States on Friday, the alliance offered its full cooperation to facilitate a recent general assembly resolution that gave Ortega 75 days to fulfill agreements from previous talks and return to the table. (ConfidencialLa PrensaAssociated Press, see July 2's briefs.)
  • Thirty-eight people died in security force attacks against protesters in Nicaragua on July 8 last year. Confidencial reports the step-by-step of Operación Limpieza against the barricades in the Diriamba and Jinotepe municipalities. At least 2,500 troops, including paramilitaries, participated in the July 8 operation, former military officer Roberto Samcam told Carlos Chamorro on Esta Semana.
  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) announced that Latin American and Caribbean countries had adopted a road map to facilitate integration of refugees and migrants from Venezuela. In a joint declaration, the governments agreed to reinforce cooperation, communication and coordination between the countries of transit and destination of Venezuelans, strengthening measures against transnational crimes, such as people smuggling and trafficking, as well as against sexual and gender-based violence and different forms of discrimination and xenophobia to ensure the protection of the most vulnerable.
El Salvador
  • A Salvadoran court absolved former presidents Antonio Saca and Francisco Flores of criminal responsibility in the alleged diversion of $10 million donated by Taiwan to help victims of 2001 earthquakes, reports the Associated Press.
  • A Mexican judge issued arrest warrants for the former chief executive of state oil firm Pemex, Emilio Lozoya, three of his family members and one other person, in a graft case involving Odebrecht on Friday, reports Reuters. He is accused of taking $10m in bribes from the Brazilian construction giant, reports the BBC. Mexico's attorney general announced in May that the initial results of potential Pemex corruption would be sent to judges within two months, reports Animal Político. An initial arrest warrant for Lozoya, a member of former president Enrique Peña Nieto's inner circle, was suspended in May. The advance of the case is considered a strike against endemic corruption in Mexico by current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. (See May 29's post.)
  • AMLO paid lip service to ending Mexico's neoliberal economic agenda, but his actual policies show little commitment to creating an alternative economic paradigm, writes Rafael Lemus in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • An unexpected driver of Mexican migration? The drop in opium prices, reports the New York Times.
  • Ecuador will likely become a member of the market-friendly regional trade bloc the Pacific Alliance next year, according to Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra. (Reuters)
Bossa Nova

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