Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Maduro militarized the pandemic (Aug. 19, 2020)

News Briefs

  • Venezuela's Maduro government has essentially criminalized people who have (or might have) Covid-19. Security forces have detained and intimidated doctors who question the government's epidemic policies. And thousands of Venezuelans returning to the country have been corralled into makeshift containment centers where they are held with limited food, water or masks, under military guard for weeks or months, reports the New York Times.
  • More than 4,000 soldiers are on the streets of seven of Caracas' most coronavirus infected parishes, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
  • U.S. customs officers seized a Venezuela-bound private jet in south Florida on Saturday loaded with 82 firearms, including a sniper rifle, plus 63,000 rounds of ammunition, reports the Associated Press.Two Venezuelan pilots — Luis Alberto Patino and Gregori Mendez — were arrested and charged with smuggling bulk cash and goods from the U.S. and illegally possessing firearms as aliens, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said yesterday.
  • Venezuelan Constitutional and legal scholar Claudia Nikken analyzes the constitutional basis for recognizing the existing Venezuelan National Assembly’s mandate past its expiration on January 5, 2021 -- Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights.
  • A group of 85 national and international human rights organizations called on the UN Human Rights Council to renew and strengthen the mandate of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela during the upcoming Council session in September. (Human Rights Watch)
  • Mexico and Argentina formally announced their production plans for the AstraZeneca/Oxford University Covid-19 vaccine, currently still in testing, at a virtual ECLAC meeting on Monday. Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard spoke of equitable distribution in Latin America. La Política Online hazards that Mexico and Argentina will leverage the vaccine to help postpone the IDB vote scheduled for next month. (See yesterday's post.)
  • So far Argentina, Mexico, Chile and Costa Rica have called to the delay the IDB vote in which the U.S. candidate, Mauricio Claver-Carone is expected to win.  Peru, Canada and some European governments that have shares in the IDB may follow suit. " What binds the diverse group is an interest in defending Latin American interests and autonomy against an overzealous White House and a desire to avoid regional polarization. It remains unclear if the gambit will work, but the likelihood of postponement is increasing by the day," write Michael Shifter and Bruno Binetti in Foreign Policy.
  • The pandemic is exposing how legislative powers in Latin America are outdated and poorly prepared for the 21st century -- they will have to adapt to avoid irrelevance, argue María Barón and Cristiano Ferri in Americas Quarterly.
  • Brazil's Pantanal tropical wetland, straddling the border with Bolivia and Paraguay, is currently suffering its worst fires in more than two decades, with nearly 12 percent of its vegetation reportedly already lost, reports the Guardian. Environmentalists point to drought, humans intentionally clearing land, and government hostility towards preservation as key causes.
  • Colombia is mounting a last minute campaign to block former paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso's deportation to Italy from the U.S., after Colombia bungled its original extradition request. Colombian courts have judged Mancuso responsible for more than 1,500 acts of murder or forced disappearance and President Iván Duque called for Mancuso’s return and immediate imprisonment for “crimes against humanity," reports the Associated Press. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Former president Álvaro Uribe's detention in Colombia is a chance for the country to shake off an atavistic personalism, argues Sinar Alvarado in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • A number of Mexican states are moving to ban the sale of junk food to children, reports the Washington Post. Officials are motivated by the coronavirus pandemic, and growing evidence that being overweight increases the risk of serious illness with Covid-19 infection.
  • The investigation into claims that former Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto funneled Odebrecht funds into his successful 2012 presidential campaign (see last Wednesday's briefs) was a longtime coming. Three years ago, a 2017 investigation from the watchdog group Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity (Mexicanos Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad — MCCI) revealed that a subsidiary of Odebrecht had provided funds to Peña Nieto’s campaign, reports InSight Crime.
  • Two tropical waves have increasing odds of developing into storms, and experts say end of August into early September may be extremely active. (Washington Post)
I hope you're all staying safe and as sane as possible, given the circumstances ... Comments and critiques welcome, always.


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