Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Rio Treaty agrees to sanctions, no military force -- for now (Sept. 24, 2019)

Sixteen Rio Treaty countries agreed to impose sanctions against the Maduro administration in Venezuela, but refused to consider using military force for the moment. The majority of the 18 countries that participated in the New York meeting yesterday approved  a resolution permitting member countries to sanction and extradite members of the Maduro government who participate in drug trafficking, terrorist activities, organized crime and human rights violations, as well as freeze their assets. Uruguay voted against, and Trinidad and Tobago abstained. The resolution adopted Monday establishes that member countries will share a list of people who would be sanctioned. They also agreed to set up teams of financial crime investigators.(Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times)

Use of force is permitted under the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, better known as the Rio Treaty, but was not discussed at the meeting, due to opposition from Latin American countries. (Uruguay said it will withdraw from the treaty if it is used to approve military action in Venezuela, reports El Observador.)

Invoking the treaty had caused speculation of a military option, and some signatories had called for the insertion of language explicitly ruling out military action -- which the U.S. resisted. European governments are concerned that the invocation of the treaty could push Venezuela's neighbors to consider military interventions—potentially with U.S. approval, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Rio Treaty was created as a means of mutual defense for Western Hemisphere countries and was last employed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. It was invoked now by countries in the region arguing that Venezuela's crisis threatens the security of the entire region and requires a collective response, reports the Wall Street Journal. (See Sept. 16's post.) 

More Venezuela diplomacy
  • U.S. officials lambasted Europe's response to the Venezuelan crisis at an Atlantic Council forum in New York yesterday. And U.S. President Donald Trump will will lead a meeting on Venezuela at the United Nations tomorrow, part of the push to convince world leaders to increase pressure against Nicolás Maduro's government, reports the New York Times.
  • The International Contact Group met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, and urged Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó to resume negotiations, reports EFE.
  • Maduro arrived in Russia today to discuss bilateral and international issues with President Vladimir Putin -- including interference by third countries in Latin American affairs, reports EFE.

U.S.-El Salvador agreement text is very broad

The new migration agreement between El Salvador and the U.S. contains sweeping language that could potentially allow U.S. officials to send any asylum seeker -- except those from El Salvador -- to seek refuge in the Central American country. (See yesterday's post.) Though officials said the agreement would apply to migrants who crossed through El Salvador en route to the U.S., the text of the agreement obtained by The Intercept makes no such distinction. Though the agreement claims to uphold international and domestic obligations “to provide protection for eligible refugees,” experts say it is undermining those very goals, part of a broader U.S. push to reshape its response to refugees. 

It is not yet clear what El Salvador will obtain from the deal -- press reports and officials spoke of investments and negotiations to extend Temporary Protected Status for 200,000 Salvadorans living in the U.S., but neither is part of the agreement signed on Friday.

El Salvador said President Nayib Bukele is scheduled to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump tomorrow in New York, where both are attending the United Nations General Assembly -- migration is on the agenda, as well regional security and investment. "President Bukele has suggested that the United States could contribute by promoting investment and job creation, so that fewer Salvadorans see the possibility of emigrating to that country as the only way out of their economic problems and lack of opportunities," the statement said. (Reuters, La Prensa Gráfica)

News Briefs

More Migration
  • The Trump administration's broad asylum ban "will likely result in the death, kidnapping and torture of individuals seeking safety from persecution and torture in their home countries," writes immigration law expert Sarah F. Rogerson in the Conversation.
  • Despite -- or possibly because of -- the U.S. push to shut off migration flows, the number of family units and unaccompanied minors -- mostly Central American -- apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol has spiked this year, reports USA Today.
  • Central American migrants pay approximately $11,500 to reach the U.S. through Mexico, according to a study by BBVA and the Mexican government. Migrants, mostly from Northern Triangle countries, pay about $6,500 to cross Mexico, and an additional $5,000 to cross the U.S. border. (EFE)
  • Poverty and food insecurity -- in part fueled by climate change -- are major push factors for Central American migrants, particularly from Guatemala. NBC reports that the Trump administration has ignored its own research demonstrating the link between climate change and migration.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro opened up the U.N. General Assembly with a speech celebrating his fight against socialism in Latin America. On environmental issues, he criticized international response to Amazon fires as "colonialist" and said the rainforest must be open for economic development. "The Amazon is not being devastated, nor is it being consumed by fire, as the media says." He ended by thanking the “grace and glory of God.” (Guardian, New York Times)
  • Trump and Bolsonaro's penchant for looking to the past has both the U.S. and Brazil on the wrong track for facing present economic, environmental and security challenges, argues Albert Fishlow in Americas Quarterly.
  • Venezuelan pro-government lawmakers rejoined the opposition-dominated National Assembly today after a two-year boycott this morning, reports Efecto Cocuyo. The move is part of an agreement between Maduro's government and a minority group of opposition parties, reports Al Jazeera. (See last Wednesday's briefs.)
  • The U.N. human rights office signed an agreement with Maduro's government to maintain continuous dialogue and work towards establishing a permanent human rights office in Venezuela, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
  • Cuba has become a nation of entrepreneurship, democratic aspiration, even pro-Americanism -- "Anti-Americanism is still official Cuba policy. But now, for the first time in Cuba’s modern history, some people openly disagree," writes Joseph J. Gonzalez in the Conversation.
  • Twitter has taken down 1,019 accounts in Ecuador, saying they’re mostly fake and aimed at undermining President Lenín Moreno, reports the Associated Press.

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


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