Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Cuban activists forced to stay inside -- Human Rights Day (Dec. 11, 2019)

Many Cuban political dissidents and independent journalists said police stopped them from leaving their houses yesterday, on international Human Rights Day. Some activists had planned to publicly call for the liberation of opposition leaders Jose Daniel Ferrer, who was arrested two months ago, reports Reuters. Human rights groups have pointed to a broader crack-down against dissent in the one-party country. (See Dec. 3's briefs.)

“‘Go back up to your flat because today you cannot go out’ said a state security official guarding the entrance of my building,” wrote Luz Escobar, a reporter for the alternative news website 14ymedio, on Twitter. Online news magazine El Estornudo reported that its director, Abraham Jiménez Enoa, was similarly prevented from leaving his home, yesterday. And Cuba.net journalists were also affected, reports the Nuevo Herald.


See, also, Havana Times and 14yMedio for more context.

More Cuba
  • The U.S. Trump administration chose yesterday to implement flight cuts from the U.S. to nine Cuban destinations. (CNN)
News Briefs

Regional Relations
  • A final copy of "“NAFTA 2.0." hasn't yet been released, but generally speaking the deal updates the previous 1994 free trade pact. The Washington Post has a rundown on changes. The new and old deals are more alike than different, according to CNN.
  • And Politico has the inside story of the intense international negotiations that went on behind the scenes to get unions, House Democrats and the Trump administration all on board. "The deal didn’t come easy — and it was on the brink of death multiple times over the past year."
  • In Mexico business leaders "emerged bruised and resigned to a new stricter trade deal with the United States and Canada that could usher in more intrusive enforcement of labor rules in Mexico," according to Reuters.
Mexico
  • A former Mexican public security secretary was arrested in Texas yesterday, on charges of accepting bribes in exchange for has permitting the Sinaloa cartel to operate with impunity. Genaro García Luna is considered the architect of Mexico's war on drugs, and oversaw the creation of Mexico’s federal police during his tenure in Felipe Calderón's government. According to a New York indictment against him unsealed yesterday, García Luna “received millions of dollars in bribes from the Sinaloa cartel in exchange for providing protection for its drug trafficking activities," reports the Guardian. He is also accused of lying to American investigators and taking part in a conspiracy to traffic cocaine, reports the New York Times. The news was stunning "even in a country that has struggled with profound drug corruption for years," reports the Washington Post.
  • During his time as Mexico’s security minister, García Luna worked closely with the DEA, and oversaw the Sensitive Investigative Units program, tweeted reporter Ginger Thompson yesterday. "Those units were notoriously leaky ... and one leak triggered a massacre." (See post for June 13, 2017, on her investigative report on the 2011 Allende Massacre.)
Argentina
  • Argentine President Alberto Fernández swore-in yesterday, with a speech in which he promised policies prioritizing the country's poorest, in the midst of sky-high inflation, economic recession and the highest poverty rate in a decade. He emphasized a unity message in an intensely politically polarized country, but also spoke out against politically motivated judicial cases. He also promised to restructure the country's scandal-ridden spy agency and eliminate its "discretional funding" that will instead be directed towards an anti-hunger plan. The Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales celebrated the move as a fundamental step towards democratizing the political system. (Ámbito, Página 12)
  • In a day charged with symbolism, some analysts (Buenos Aires Times) focused on his hug with former president Mauricio Macri -- a nod towards healing divisions? -- while others (La Nación) were more skeptical. He said the right things, but was joined by the wrong people, according to Miami Herald columnist Andrés Oppenheimer.
  • Fernández joins the ranks of personally austere leaders from Uruguay's José Mujica to Mexican AMLO: he drove himself to the ceremony, yesterday, in his own second-hand Toyota, notes the Guardian.
  • Beyond politics, the central problem is that Fernández doesn't have the funding to deliver the relief he promised, warns the Economist. Indeed, Fernández warned creditors that the country has the will to pay sovereign debt, but not the resources. (El País, Página 12)
  • Thousands of people defied oven-like temperatures to celebrate on the streets of Buenos Aires -- El País.
  • U.S. presidential advisor Mauricio Claver-Carone flew to Buenos Aires for the swearing in, but skipped the ceremony because Venezuelan communication minister Jorge Rodríguez -- who is sanctioned by the U.S. and a dozen Latin American nations -- was present. (Bloomberg, La Nación)
Venezuela
  • The combined collapse of the Norway-mediated dialogue process in Venezuela, together with regional powers’ decision to define Venezuela as a threat to hemispheric security, could complicate resolution of the country's drawn out crisis, according to a new International Crisis Group report. "Allies of the two sides should press them to overcome their reluctance and return to the negotiating table, possibly under a new format, where they should show the necessary flexibility to reach a workable agreement."
  • Sanctions can be counter-productive, writes Francisco Toro in a Post Opinión piece. Currently Venezuelans live in the worst-case scenario: governed by a dictatorship in a sanctioned economy. He calls on the U.S. to recalibrate its sanctions regime to adapt to a realist scenario of prolonged confrontation between the Maduro government and the political opposition.
  • It's an issue that also confront's Venezuela's opposition, according to last week's Venezuela Weekly. They are at a "conjuncture in which they need to decide, on multiple fronts, whether they are a temporary parallel government that seeks to dislodge Maduro through maximum pressure in the short-term, despite the costs on the Venezuelan people and the inevitable scandals involved in working through improvised institutions; or whether they are going to seek sustainability and prioritize the well-being of the Venezuelan people by reaching some sort of modus vivendi with the Maduro government, despite the costs of tacitly recognizing it," wrote David Smilde and Dimitris Pantoulas.
  • It's not easy being in Venezuela's political opposition -- largely because of the absolute enmity of the government, significant persecution, and a hugely distorted playing field. But also because opposition leaders live in a perpetual state of infighting, writes Alberto Barrera Tyszka in a New York Times Español op-ed.
Nicaragua
  • Nicaraguan human rights activists demanded freedom for political prisoners yesterday -- Human Rights Day -- and said torture and repression of opponents form a structural part of the Ortega government's imposed "normalcy." (Confidencial)

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

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