Thursday, January 9, 2020

Maduro's confusing National Assembly intervention (Jan. 9, 2020)

News Briefs

  • In the short-term, Nicolás Maduro's ham-fisted attempt to subvert the National Assembly, the last remaining bastion of opposition power in Venezuela, seems to have backfired -- uniting opponents locally and strengthening the resolve of international allies. But in the medium-term, the move makes an eventual negotiation between the two sides more difficult, argues Bloomberg columnist Mac Margolis. (The piece has views from several different Venezuela experts.)
  • But the Maduro move also undermines an electoral exit to the Venezuelan crisis, notes Geoff Ramsey in the Latin America Advisor. "By sidelining the mainstream opposition majority, Maduro has dealt a near-fatal blow to efforts at negotiating a new National Electoral Council (CNE) that could organize trustworthy elections. Without an electoral authority deal, it will be impossible for Venezuelan elites to escape their current predicament."
  • The Venezuelan Episcopal Conference joined the chorus of condemnation against Maduro's National Assembly move on Sunday, calling it a hard blow against Venezuelan institutionality. (Efecto Cocuyo)
  • The U.S. Trump administration is considering sanctions against some of the Venezuelan lawmakers who took part in Maduro's attempt to intervene the National Assembly, reports Reuters.
  • Luis Parra, the lawmaker Maduro loyalists say is the legitimate leader of the National Assembly, told EFE he was elected by 81 lawmakers on Sunday, but refused to reveal the vote roll call.
  • National Assembly lawmaker Juan Requesens, who has been detained since August 2018, was permitted to speak in his trial last night. "You are hitmen of justice who remain in power by force," he told the tribunal. Requesens' family has denounced a judicial process "plagued by irregularities," reports Efecto Cocuyo.
  • President Nicolás Maduro announced military exercises to be held on February, to practise "defending the cities", reports Efecto Cocuyo.
  • Venezuela’s oil exports plummeted 32% last year to 1.001 million barrels per day, as a lack of staff and capital drove output to its lowest level in almost 75 years and U.S. sanctions shrank exports markets, reports Reuters.
  • Cuba is in the midst of harsh economic circumstances -- due to a combination of U.S. sanctions and Venezuela's downturn. Nonetheless, the government is not threatened by significant social unrest, and the greatest losers are the small private-sector businesses — B&Bs, restaurants, and entrepreneurs — providing services to U.S. visitors, write Eric Hershberg, William M. LeoGrande, and Max Paul Friedman at the AULA Blog.
Regional Relations
  • Argentina de-recognized Guaidó's ambassador to the country, perhaps seeking to balance its condemnation of Maduro's grab for the National Assembly earlier this week. (Clarín, Reuters)
  • Ronald Sanders, Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to the United States and the Organization of American States, analyzes the upcoming OAS Secretary General election from a Caribbean perspective. (Kaieteur News)
  • Mexico assumed the pro-tempore presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and announced a slate of 14 projects that include cooperation with China. (Nodal)
  • The number of Salvadorans deported from Mexico and the United States back to their home country increased more than 40 percent in 2019 compared to a year earlier, according to El Salvador's official statistics. (Reuters)
  • Mexico's government expressed displeasure with a U.S. plan to deport Mexican asylum seekers to Guatemala (see Tuesday's briefs). Mexico's foreign ministry estimated the measure it could affect 900 Mexicans next month, reports the Associated Press.
  • Nonetheless, Mexico and the United States are increasingly in agreement on the need to lift economic development of Central America in order to curb illegal immigration from the region, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said earlier this week in a speech to diplomats in Mexico City. (Reuters)
  • The 26-year-old Ejercito Zapatista de Liberación Nacional is gearing up to be a major adversary of the Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's planned megaprojects. The group has also become a consolidated voice of opposition to the government, and has been particularly critical of increased rates of violence against indigenous land defenders and women, writes Laura Castellanos in a Post Opinión piece.
  • After a historic decade of advances against corruption, Guatemalan institutions are at risk of total cooptation by criminal groups, warn Adeline Hite y Álvaro Montenegro in a WOLA analysis. The piece looks at risks to ongoing corruption cases, institutional weakining of anti-corruption mechanisms after the end of the CICIG, and increased risks for human rights defenders and anti-corruption activists.
  • The U.S. Trump administration is exploring possible resumption of foreign aid following the November ouster of President Evo Morales, reports the Associated Press. A USAID team is looking to assist Bolivia's interim government with presidential elections scheduled for May 3, and will also discuss longer-term areas of cooperation.
  • But the U.S. State Department move ignores a legal regulation prohibiting U.S. financial aid to governments that have taken power via military coup, argues CEPR.
  • The Vice-President of the Confederation of Coca Growers in the Cochabamba Tropics, Andronico Rodriguez, who is also the possible presidential candidate of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), denounced that Bolivia’s interim-government has falsely painting him as a security threat in an attempt to discredit him, reports Telesur.
  • Colombia’s Ministry of Justice issued a draft decree on Dec. 30 that would allow it to re-start a U.S.-backed program of aerial herbicide fumigation in coca-growing zones. Adam Isacson analyzes the 20-page decree that was immediately celebrated by the U.S. State Department.
  • Colombia's military announced that it would investigate possible ties between the National Army and paramilitary group AGC in the west of the country, according to Colombia Reports.
  • Ten years after a disastrous earthquake in 2010, Haiti can point to a few signs of successful rebuilding, but "a decade of political and economic aftershocks and billions of dollars in mismanaged and unaccounted-for aid have left the country struggling with its recovery, and no more ready today to withstand another massive tremor than it was the day the 7.0 magnitude quake struck," writes the Miami Herald's Jacqueline Charles.
  • Survivors feel forgotten, in the midst of ambitious reconstruction plans gone awry and plagued with corruption, reports AFP.
  • A Brazilian judge ordered Netflix to remove a film portraying a tongue-in-cheek gay Jesus from its streaming service, part of an ongoing polemic over the production in Brazil. (Washington Post)
  • Anti-mining advocates in southern Ecuador are pushing for a referendum on banning mining in certain jurisdictions, reports EFE.
  • Guyana has entered the new decade as an oil producer with a total of 18 discoveries made since 2015, and the potential for more offshore discoveries -- OilNow.
Broader Picture
  • Unfavorable results in Latin American countries that chose right-wing presidents hailing from the business sector should help topple the permanent president-manager myth, argues Alberto Vergara in a New York Times Español op-ed.
I'm trying to solve some glitches that make some people see the briefing in intolerably large font on their phone -- how does this work? Is it too big? ...


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