Tuesday, May 5, 2020

U.S. citizens captured in Venezuela plot (May 5, 2020)

Venezuelan authorities say they arrested 13 people in relation to an attempted "invasion" ouster against Nicolás Maduro. (See yesterday's post.) Two are U.S. citizens, who allegedly worked with a U.S. veteran masterminding the plot. Reuters reports that the US citizens were captured yesterday in a second-day roundup of accomplices and were believed to be in the custody of Venezuelan military intelligence.

Yesterday Maduro decried an ongoing “terrorist” assault on Venezuela that he said had led him to dispatch 25,000 reservists to the coasts, reports the Washington Post.

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó rejected allegations that he had contracted a Florida-based security company called Silvercorp USA to remove Maduro. He said the Maduro administration is likely mis-portraying Sunday's incursion in order to distract from other problems.

The Latin America Risk Report's take is pretty good: "The details of the plot are confusing and illogical, yet compelling to read, research and debate." However, it is unlikely that whatever the plan was, that it would succeed in ousting Maduro nor in changing Venezuela's current course, notes James Bosworth. Instead food shortages will be a far more relevant issue for people on the ground.

More Venezuela
  • The uprising in which at least 47 people died and 75 were injured in Venezuela's Los Llanos prison is "an alarming reminder of the awful prison conditions that Venezuela has historically failed to address," warns Human Rights Watch's Tamara Taraciuk Broner.
  • Sanctions and international corruption investigations are keeping wealthy Maduro loyalists in Venezuela, where a growing number of them are building estates in protected national parks, reports the Wall Street Journal.
News Briefs

  • Coronavirus has drastically curbed migration around the world, particularly from poorer countries to richer. "In Latin America, once-crowded migratory routes that led from South America, through Central America and Mexico and to the United States have gone quiet," reports the New York Times.
  • The Colombian military intelligence unit accused of spying on political opponents, government officials, journalists and human-rights activists (see yesterday's post) used U.S. surveillance equipment provided to fight guerillas and drug traffickers, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Bolivia's interim government responded to the pandemic with strict and swift measures. Some -- like an indefinite postponement of presidential elections that were supposed to be held last weekend, and a broad decree permitting the government to prosecute "misinformation" -- have been criticized as more political than health related, reports the Financial Times
  • The actual vote date will be set by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, said authorities yesterday. (Nodal)
  • "Crime rates are climbing across Mexico, as cartels splinter into smaller groups competing ferociously for turf," according to a new International Crisis Group report that urges the government to adopt "a tailored approach for each region, focused on protecting the public and reforming the police."
  • Brazil has surpassed China both in number of confirmed Covid-19 cases and deaths -- but things are expected to continue getting far worst for the South American country, particularly in the densely populated favelas, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • One of the country's largest favelas, Paraisopolis, is using creativity and organization to combat the coronavirus, reports Bloomberge.
  • Brazilian civil groups are stepping up to the plate with aid to help struggling Brazilians in times of Covid-19. This piece in the Conversation documents how the Landless Workers Movement (MST) is doing even more:drawing on its vast network of farms, doctors, schools and restaurants to provide food, medical care and other pandemic support to hundreds of thousands of Brazilians nationwide.
  • Rioting inmates at a prison in the northern state of Amazonas held seven guards hostage for several hours Saturday, protesting against the suspension of all visits in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, reports the Associated Press.
  • Treatment of Brazilian domestic workers is often seen as a legacy of slavery and reflection of deep inequality. Millions of maids have been suddenly laid off by coronavirus, and the crisis has their families rallying to guarantee them rights: a "paid quarantine." (Guardian)
El Salvador
  • Domestic workers are an issue elsewhere in the region too, among other things, because they tend to be informally employed. In El Salvador the sector's workers are more marginalized than ever in the midst of the virus, and many have been offered the tough choice between staying at their employers' indefinitely or going home without wages, reports El Faro.
  • El Salvador's government's policies are more about accumulation and demonstration of power -- and progressively dismantling democracy -- than responding to the pandemic, according to El Faro. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Reporting on the pandemic has its risks for journalists -- in Guayaquil at least 12 reporters have died during the pandemic, and more than dozen have gotten sick, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Peru is rolling out an enormous stimulus package in response to the coronavirus pandemic -- and in the process the country's young finance minister has become a popular household name, reports the Wall Street Journal. (Or a "rockstar," as Bloomberg put it.)
  • Coronavirus has locked Chilean families down into the very problems that had many out protesting on the streets last year: inequality, particularly in terms of access to health care. (Guardian)
  • Chile ordered strict new quarantine measures on three districts in the capital Santiago after a sudden spike in coronavirus cases on Sunday, reports AFP. The setback follows criticism of the reopening of some commercial streets in Santiago after the government last week outlined "a return plan" for the economy.
  • Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel called a gun assault last week on its embassy in Washington a “terrorist attack”, while U.S. court papers said the suspected gunman was a psychotic Cuban emigre who heard voices, reports Reuters.
  • Lockdowns and floods of confusing information have reduced citizen voices on social media -- we must urgently recover spaces for debate, argues Alberto Barrera Tyszka in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • In Latin America the confinements of Covid-19 bring back memories of dictatorships for many -- in Nodal Carlos Schmerkin explores some of the more surprising parallels.
  • Latin America is on track for a 21 percent drop in remittances, down from $98 billion last year to $77 billion in 2020 -- which will have a huge impact on poverty in the region, reports the Miami Herald.
Critter Corner
I hope you're all staying safe and as 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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