Tuesday, August 6, 2019

U.S. hardens sanctions against Venezuela, Lima conference begins (Aug. 6, 2019)

U.S President Donald Trump slapped new economic sanctions on Venezuela yesterday -- the measure freezes the property and assets of the Venezuelan government and those of any individuals who assist Venezuelan officials affected by the order. 

The U.S. executive order cited "the continued usurpation of power" by President Nicolás Maduro as well as "human rights abuses, including arbitrary or unlawful arrest and detention of Venezuelan citizens, interference with freedom of expression, including for members of the media, and ongoing attempts to undermine Interim President Juan Guaidó and the Venezuelan National Assembly’s exercise of legitimate authority in Venezuela," reports the New York Times. Exemptions include official business of the federal government and transactions related to the provision of humanitarian aid, reports CNN.

The new sanctions were described by some news outlets as a total embargo, though other articles said it falls just short of that. "Notably, it spares Venezuela’s still sizable private sector," explains the Associated Press. Nonetheless, they "mark a significant escalation of pressure," according to the Wall Street Journal.

Experts differed on the real impact they'll have. Some predicted moderate effects, given existing sanctions, while economist Francisco Rodríguez said the move could harm the country’s surviving private firms. WOLA researcher Geoff Ramsey, told the AP that the measures would aggravate a humanitarian crisis even with the exceptions in place aimed at shielding the country's most vulnerable. Venezuelans today were bracing for more hardship, but were not optimistic that the measures will hasten Maduro's departure, reports the Washington Post.

It is the first time in 30 years that the U.S. has frozen the assets of a western nation, according to El País, which said more sanctions could be announced today. The action puts Venezuela on par with Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria, the only other countries under a similar full embargo, reports the Washington Post.

Guaidó celebrated the new sanctions as a protection of Venezuelan assets from the Maduro regime. (Tal Cual)

The new U.S. onslaught against Maduro comes as representatives for more than 60 countries and international organisms are in Peru for the International Conference for Democracy in Venezuela, organized by the Lima Group. Notably absent are representatives of Maduro, and Russia and China who declined to attend. Bolivia, Turkey and Cuba are also skipping. Most of those participating have recognized Guaidó as Venezuela's legitimate interim president. Though the initial plan was to not invite opposition representatives in order to avoid polarization, Julio Borges, the opposition-led National Assembly's representative to the Grupo Lima, will participate, according to Infobae.

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton on Monday warned China and Russia that Venezuela's ability to pay back its considerable debt to them could be compromised if they continue to support President Nicolás Maduro. Bolton spoke from Lima, on the eve of the summit. Bolton said he would give a speech at the summit that outlines a new U.S. initiative to find a peaceful transfer of power in Venezuela.(Reuters)

Venezuelan government representatives continued meetings with the political opposition in Barbados last week, according to a Friday statement by mediator Norway's foreign ministry. (Reuters) Bolton belittled the ongoing talks, saying they are "not serious" and their continuation favors Maduro.

Indeed, Trump's new sanctions against Venezuela could impact the talks, considered a last chance for a political transition in Venezuela. According to the New York Times, Maduro's negotiators offered presidential elections in exchange for lifting of U.S. sanctions. 

News Briefs

Gun Control
  • The El Paso shooting that killed 26 people -- eight of them Mexican citizens -- revived Mexican calls for more gun control. "In Mexico, there’s control over guns. In other countries, it’s like buying any merchandise. There’s no control," said President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Sunday. (See yesterday's post.) Roughly 70 percent of guns seized in Mexico and submitted for tracing originated in the U.S., reports Vice News.
  • Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard announced a joint operation with the U.S. at five border crossings, aimed at preventing weapons from entering Mexico illicitly. (Proceso)
  • Venezuela and Uruguay issued warnings to citizens traveling to the United States in the wake of this weekend's two mass shootings that killed a total of 31 people. (Washington PostReuters.
  • On the other side of the divide, gun control won't stop mass shootings, said Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, arguing in favor of his relaxation of ownership regulations. (AFP)
  • Bolsonaro and his administration have threatened journalist Glenn Greenwald and The Intercept, after it published leaked material that appears to show significant improprieties in an anti-corruption investigation. Greenwald has stood by his defense of leakers, reports Columbia Journalism Review.
  • Bolsonaro also hopes his new security proposals result in criminals dying "in the street like cockroaches," reports the Guardian. Legislation proposed by the government aims to give legal cover to cops who use lethal force in the line of duty, but activists fear it will create a bloodbath.
  • Honduran social organizations and former President Mel Zelaya's Partido Libertad y Refundación joined a hunger strike carried out by three Honduran political prisoners, who are detained in relation to protests against President Juan Orlando Hernández. The three, Edwin Espinal, Raúl Álvarez and Rommel Baldemar Herrera Portillo are in a maximum security facility and have complained of inhumane and degrading treatment, including death threats. (Criterio)
  • JOH was accused by U.S. prosecutors of using $1.5 million in drug proceeds for his 2013 presidential campaign. He was identified by prosecutors as a co-conspirator in a drug trafficking and money laundering case against his brother, reports Univisión. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Fighting corruption in Central America -- particularly Guatemala -- is key to defending U.S interests, argues U.S. Representative Norma Torres in a Washington Post opinion piece.
  • Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra authorized the military to secure the Matarani Port Terminal ahead of protests against Southern Copper Corp’s $1.4-billion proposed Tia Maria mine, reports Reuters.
  • Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno is cracking down on illicit miners encroaching on an Australian mining company's territory, but the crackdown has generated backlash against locals who benefit from wildcatting, reports Reuters.
  • Argentines head to the ballot box on Sunday in the first of several electoral rounds this year -- the open, obligatory primaries that effectively serve as a massive preference poll since major coalitions are only fielding a single presidential candidate each. Polls show leftist opposition candidate Alberto Fernández is slightly in the lead over incumbent Mauricio Macri, but the current president could easily pull ahead for a potential November run-off. The general election will be held in October. (Bloomberg)
  • The real impact of the new EU-Mercosur trade pact won't be felt for years -- if ever, writes Thomas Andrew O’Keefe at the AULA blog.

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

No comments:

Post a Comment