Thursday, April 2, 2020

U.S. anti-narcotics military operation near Venezuela (April 2, 2020)

U.S. President Donald Trump announced a massive anti-narcotics Navy deployment in the Caribbean, near Venezuela. The move essentially doubles U.S. military resources in the region, reports Reuters

It is one of the largest U.S. military operations in the region since the 1989 invasion of Panama to remove Gen. Manuel Noriega from power and bring him to the U.S. to face drug charges, according to the Associated Press. It involves assets like Navy warships, AWACS surveillance aircraft and on-ground special forces seldom seen before in the region.

Trump's announcement, yesterday, comes the day after the U.S. presented a proposal for a power-sharing transition government in Venezuela, in which President Nicolás Maduro would step aside ahead of new elections. And a week after a U.S. indictment accused Maduro of narco-terrorism and put a $15 million bounty on his head. (See yesterday's post, and Monday's.)

“As governments and nations focus on the coronavirus there is a growing threat that cartels, criminals, terrorists and other malign actors will try to exploit the situation for their own gain,” said Trump. "We must not let that happen."

Maduro, in turn, accused Trump of grandstanding in order to distract the U.S. public from their own coronavirus crisis. (Efecto Cocuyo)

News Briefs

More Venezuela
  • Opposition leader Juan Guaidó has been ordered to give testimony today as part of a government investigation into an alleged coup attempt, some analysts say Trump's military operation could be a message of protection for Guaidó, who is considered Venezuela's legitimate leader by the U.S. and 60 other countries. (Associated Press)
  • The transition framework for Venezuela proposed by the U.S. this week, "is essentially the same proposal that was being discussed last summer as part of the Norwegian-mediated negotiations, with one big difference," write David Smilde and Dimitris Pantoulas in the Venezuela Weekly. "Coming less than a week after indicting the heads of every major branch of the Maduro government, it would seem the Trump Administration is trying to hard-wire who they think should not be part of a transition. This was a main point of contention during last summer’s negotiations with the U.S. reluctant to endorse any transition plan that allowed Maduro to preside over new elections." (See yesterday's post.)
  • They note another interesting issue raised by last week's indictment of Nicolás Maduro in the U.S. followed by the transition proposal: "the political costs of “negotiating with a drug trafficker” are high," noting the historical example of Panama's Manuel Noriega and the U.S. (Venezuela Weekly)
  • Covid-19 has turned into a migrant deterrent far more effective than the wall Donald Trump dreamed of, reports the Guardian. Lockdowns and border closures throughout Central America have disrupted the migrant trail, while migrants who had already begun the journey are exposed as shelters and humanitarian organizations shutdown due to coronavirus.
  • Immigrant advocates are concerned about coronavirus spread in U.S. detention centers -- several detained migrants and detention officers around the country have already tested positive. And migrants deported back to Central America are facing added complications in countries that have essentially shut-down. The Guardian follows the case of a recently deported Guatemalan migrant and her daughter.
  • As we all weary of lockdowns, Eduardo Levy Yeyati and Andrés Malamud explore how long they should be imposed on Latin America's informality plagued economies. "Lockdowns must be time limited and segmented in their implementation, or they will be broken." Instead they urge "context-sensitive" policy options, selective relaxation of lockdown conditions for specific sectors. (Americas Quarterly)
  • The Covid-19 crisis means countries in Latin America and the Caribbean need financial aid and fast -- emergency responses tend to come with a high risk of fraud and corruption, which can divert resources and undermine public trust in government, warn Roberto de Michele and Juan Cruz Vieryra in Americas Quarterly. Transparency measures, particularly those that use digital tools, can help mitigate this risk, they argue.
  • Sheltering-in-place has definite class connotations in Latin America, where wealthier populations have bunkered down, but poorer citizens face an impossible choice between affording food or quarantines. (Americas Quarterly)
  • A Brazilian indigenous woman in a remote Amazon village has contracted the novel coronavirus. The first case reported in the country's 300 tribes raises concern that the epidemic could devastate vulnerable indigenous communities, reports Reuters.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro relaxed the country's gun ownership laws, but he and supporters also "fueled a political and cultural debate over guns that was new to Brazil, but that in many ways mirrors the discussion in the United States," reports the New York Times.
  • The Mexican government's light-handed approach to coronavirus flies in the face of international recommendations, and means citizens themselves are responsible for trying to stem the spread of coronavirus in the country, writes Lucina Melesio in the Post Opinión.
  • Global tourism has been hit hard by coronavirus -- in the Caribbean the impact is severe, reports the New York Times.
  • A mercury spill 20 years ago in a Peruvian village has had long lasting health impact -- and villagers have few resources to respond. (Guardian)
  • LatAm Chequea unites 21 organizations from the region to check coronavirus misinformation -- also known as "infodemia."
I hope you're all staying safe and sane as possible, given the circumstances ... And in these times of coronavirus, when we're all feeling a little isolated, feel especially free to reach out and share.


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