Wednesday, April 1, 2020

U.S. proposes power-sharing transition for Venezuela (April 1, 2020)

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo presented a proposal to guide Venezuela out of its prolonged political crisis, yesterday. The “Democratic Transition Framework” aims to bring government officials to the table with the political opposition and call new presidential elections this year. The U.S. offers to progressively lift sanctions against Maduro administration officials as they buy into the scheme, which would create a five member council of state chosen by Venezuela's National Assembly. (See yesterday's post.)

Neither President Nicolás Maduro nor opposition leader Juan Guaidó would be permitted to participate in the council, according to the plan presented by Pompeo yesterday. The state council members would not be permitted to run in new elections, but the U.S. proposal contemplates that Guaidó, who is recognized as the country's interim leader by over 60 countries, could run. Indeed, U.S. officials are confident that Guaidó could win a free and fair election, reports the Washington Post

Pompeo said, yesterday, that Guaidó worked closely with the U.S. in drafting the plan. (Miami Herald) Over the weekend, Guaidó had proposed an emergency power-sharing government in Venezuela, and said he could bring in $1.2 billion in international aid.

Interestingly, U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams told Reuters that while the proposal forces Maduro to step aside, it does not require he go into exile, and could "theoretically" run in the election.

The military high command, including the current defense minister, Vladimir Padrino López, would remain in place until the new elections, reports the Miami Herald. The proposal also includes key opposition demands, such as the release of all political prisoners, and accelerated efforts to bring humanitarian aid to Venezuelans. It would require an overhaul of the supreme court and electoral council, both of which Maduro now controls.

In addition to sanctions relief -- which would come only once the transitional government was established -- the U.S. promised substantial humanitarian aid, including medical supplies, and help restoring Venezuela's critically broken power and water grids.

Sceptics of the plan said it provided few incentives for the incumbent officials to give up power, notes the Guardian.

Yesterday Venezuelan foreign minister Jorge Arreaza rejected the proposal, though analysts say that doesn't mean it is definitely off the table. That the proposal requires Maduro to leave power ahead of elections will complicate its acceptance, WOLA's Geoff Ramsey told the Washington Post. The proposal is also six months late, he notes, after negotiations last year were derailed due to the U.S. tightening sanctions.

Yesterday Maduro called for a new dialogue with a faction of the opposition, and rejected U.S. interference in Venezuelan affairs. He also called a state of emergency, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, reports Efecto Cocuyo.

News Briefs

  • The Covid-19 virus is poised to explode in the global south, where it will collide with "fraying health-care systems, fragile governments and impoverished populations for whom social distancing can be practically impossible," reports the Washington Post.
  • There is also concern over increasingly abusive repression tactics around the world to enforce quarantines, reports the Guardian.
  • Around the region, criminal groups are enforcing quarantines and health recommendations -- highlighting the state void that these organizations have long filled in many places, notes InSight Crime.
  • Ecuador has one of Latin America's highest Covid-19 rates, similar to that of Chile and ahead of Brazil. But "the surge of cases in Ecuador seems to be more bad luck than poor government policy," according to the Latin America Risk Report. The situation will be made worst by the country's negative economic situation, and it's dollarized economy, which limit how the government can mitigate coronavirus impact, writes James Bosworth. 
  • There were reports this week that corpse collection was complicated by quarantine measures, leaving dead in the homes of their families for days in some cases. (Reuters)
  • The first wave of favela Covid-19 cases is expected this week, but so far Brazil's government has no specific plan for the 13 million residents of informal neighborhoods whose living conditions make basic recommendations -- such as distancing, isolation of the infected, and constant hand-washing -- impossible, writes Carol Pires in New York Times Español. Favela residents are often part of the informal economy, and cannot afford to stay home. Their neighborhoods suffer from a government power vacuum that is often filled by criminal organizations, many of which have, paradoxically, been stricter about coronavirus than the government. But the government must step up and put lives before the economy, she argues.
  • Brazilian state governors -- and a significant portion of the country's population -- appear to simply be ignoring President Jair Bolsonaro's exhortations to carry on normal life in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic, reports the Guardian.
  • Bolivian demonstrators broke the national quarantine to protest lack of food. (Telesur)
  • "The consequences of war and lack of government resources continue to disproportionately affect Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, many of whom reside in the Colombian department of Chocó," according to a new photo-essay by Latin America Reports.
  • Quarantines in Latin America have disproportionately affected all of the populations living on the economic edge. Venezuelan migrants in Colombia are feeling the pain on multiple levels -- they are having trouble raising money for food since the country entered lockdown, and many of the institutions that help them are shuttered due to coronavirus, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Guatemala's government asked the U.S. to suspend deportations to prevent coronavirus spread, after a deportee tested positive for Covid-19, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Haiti's government authorized the reopening of seven factories that will be making protective medical gear, in an attempt to keep the country's textile industry afloat in the midst of quarantine. (Miami Herald)
  • Authorities suspect that a large, hired mob looted and torched a million dollar beach resort in northern Haiti owned by a Haitian-American engineer and his wife. (Miami Herald)
  • Mexican journalist María Elena Ferral was shot dead in a Veracruz state attack in broad daylight earlier this week, reports the Guardian.
  • Argentina will continue talks this week and next with creditors over restructuring its $83 billion in foreign debt, Economy Minister Martin Guzman said yesterday. (Reuters)
  • It's not AmLat specific, but if you, like everybody else, are noticing a quarantine-induced digital-creep in your life (my child is now being raised by an iPad, for example), then this New York Times Español piece by Jorge Carrión might be interesting.
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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