Friday, April 30, 2021

Revisiting the Venezuelan opposition's 2019 efforts (April 30, 2021)

 The Venezuelan opposition dramatically fell from grace in recent years, from a high point in 2019 when Juan Guaidó challenged Nicolás Maduro's legitimacy as president, to the current situation in which they have been pushed off the main scenery. 

Two new articles take a new look at emblematic episodes in the Venezuelan opposition's struggle to oust Maduro in recent years -- the 2019 aid standoff at the Colombian-Venezuela border, and the failed April uprising that same year.

In February 2019, Guaidó, at the time recently recognized as Venezuela's legitimate leader by a significant portion of the international community, attempted to lead caravans loaded with U.S. aid into Venezuela, but was blocked by security forces. (Travel in time with this post from Feb. 25, 2019.) The standoff was an early harbinger that Maduro wouldn't topple as easily as the opposition sometimes predicted. 

A new report by the inspector general at the U.S. Agency for International Development raises doubts about whether the deployment of aid was driven more by the U.S. pursuit of regime change than by technical analysis of needs and the best ways to help Venezuelans, reports the Associated Press. While international aid workers at the time issued similar warnings about the risks of assistance being politicized the findings of a U.S. agency tasked with auditing how U.S. tax dollars are spent carries additional weight.

And another piece, by Axios, looks back at the failed April uprising of 2019. At dawn of April 30, opposition leader Leopoldo López sprung out of house arrest and appeared with Guaidó and called on citizens to come out on the streets in a show of non-violent force against the regime. The plot involved the U.S., high level Maduro officials, and supposedly counted on military support to topple the government. But several steps failed, the military remained loyal to Maduro and protests were violently repressed. (See posts for May 1 and May 2, 2019.)

Two years later, even those close to the effort to oust Maduro remain unsure whether the would-be turncoats double crossed them, hedged their bets, or simply got cold feet, reports Axios. Then-national security adviser John Bolton partly blames Trump, who he says was ready to rally behind Guaidó one moment and abandon him the next, affecting U.S. efforts.

The piece also cites Carlos Sandoval, a writer and literature professor at the Central University of Venezuela, who points to the day as a turning point in the opposition's credibility. 

"From that day on, I felt cheated," Sandoval said. "I felt like I was just another one of the bunch, another Venezuelan that wrongly believed in the opposition ... Now, for someone to convince me to go to a march, to listen to some politician, it's almost impossible. You can't even pay me to do that because I don't believe in anything anymore."

News Briefs

  • The coronavirus crisis in Latin America — and in South America in particular — is taking an alarming turn for the worse, potentially threatening the progress made well beyond its borders, reports the New York Times. The region, already one of the hardest hit by Covid-19, accounted for 35 percent of all coronavirus deaths in the world, despite having just 8 percent of the global population.
  • The crisis partly responds to predictable forces, including limited vaccine supplies, weak health systems, and poverty that makes staying at home inviable. But Brazil's laissez faire approach to the pandemic has added significantly to the region's woes, according to the New York Times.
  • The international community has taken few steps to help Brazil, a sign of the Bolsonaro administration's diplomatic missteps and also a criticism of his approach to the pandemic, reports the Washington Post. "Still mired in the deadliest days of its outbreak ... a country that has long prided itself on being friends with almost everyone finds itself largely friendless."
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has both international and domestic reasons to embrace environmental policies, writes Brian Winter in Foreign Affairs, though Bolsonaro's track record until now has been one of wanton destruction of the Amazon and conservation efforts. "But even if Bolsonaro sincerely wants to reduce deforestation, it seems highly questionable that he can." The annual fire season begins in July, and Bolsonaro will face significant pressure within Brazil and from the U.S. to meet his recent promises to tackle deforestation, writes Winter. 
  • Latin American leaders raised a lack of financing as a major hurdle to combat climate change and curb deforestation at last week's Leaders Summit on Climate. A financial tool -- launched at the conference by a public-private coalition called Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest finance (LEAF), created with the goal to end tropical deforestation by 2030 -- could significantly help translate promises into effective initiatives when it comes to tropical forests, reports Americas Quarterly
  • Ecuador's Constitutional Court decriminalized abortion in cases where the pregnancy results from rape. They responded to a claim of unconstitutionality brought by women's rights groups. (El UniversalThe ruling makes abortions marginally more accessible, in a country where they are currently allowed only when a woman’s life or health is at risk or if a pregnancy is the result of the rape of a woman with a mental disability.
  • Ombudsman Freddy Carrion announced the court’s decision on Twitter, and said the ruling “was possible thanks to the women and feminist groups who have consistently battled for a more fair and egalitarian society," reports Al Jazeera.

Dominican Republic
  • Dominican Republic lawmakers took the first step in permitting abortion under certain, limited circumstances. In the Dominican Republic abortion is currently forbidden in all circumstances. The Chamber of Deputies voted on a penal code reform on Wednesday that would allow abortion when the woman's life is in danger. Lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected feminist demands that rape, incest and fetal inviability also be circumstances in which abortion would be permitted. (EFE, see last Thursday's briefs)
  • The United States will not provide financial support for a constitutional referendum in Haiti, the U.S. State Department told reporters yesterday. (Reuters
  • A boat carrying 24 Venezuelans capsized en route to Trinidad and Tobago, last week. At least two people died, and 15 are still unaccounted for. The tragedy is the latest of several incidents involving the capsizing of boats carrying Venezuelan refugees and migrants towards Caribbean islands. (United Nations)
  • All signs point to Latin America’s start-up ecosystem continuing its steady growth of the past few years, writes Catherine Osborn in Foreign Policy's Latin America Brief.
  • Colombian protests against a tax reform this week could derail an ambitious effort to expand and make permanent a basic income support program introduced during the pandemic, known as Ingreso Solidario, writes Leonie Rauls in Americas Quarterly. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Colombia is an early example of the fiscal dilemmas Latin American governments will soon face in the midst of the worsening pandemic crisis, reports the Economist.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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