Monday, August 30, 2021

Venezuela talks to start (Aug. 30, 2021)

Venezuela’s opposition is set to announce it will break a three-year boycott of elections and register candidates for November’s municipal and state elections, reports Bloomberg. The move would be a sign of progress in a topic that is a key issue in upcoming talks between Venezuela's Maduro government and opposition parties. The negotiations are set to resume next week in Mexico City, and participation in November's elections are a central issue. The Maduro government is reportedly allowing exiled opposition representatives to return to the country to participate in upcoming elections in November. (Venezuela Weekly)

Human Rights Watch called for President Nicolás Maduro’s representatives to commit to taking basic steps to restore respect for human rights and to holding free and fair elections when negotiations kick off next week. "“For this type of negotiation to be a success, it needs to include tangible results that will restore the rule of law and the exercise of fundamental rights in Venezuela," said José Miguel Vivanco, HRW's Americas director.

On a broader level, while "there is good reason to be sceptical about the prospects of success for this round" of negotiations between Venezuela's government and opposition parties, "negotiations remain the only reasonable route to ending the political showdown and then overcoming [Venezuela's] economic and humanitarian crisis" according to a new Crisis Group report. A key reason for guarded optimism, is that the opposition "appears willing to at least contemplate reaching partial agreements during the talks ... potentially allowing the process to gain more adherents if negotiators can demonstrate concrete progress in the early stages."

More Venezuela
  • A new report by the Centro para los Defensores y la Justicia found that a total of 140 individuals and organizations working in the defense of human rights in Venezuela were subject to threats, attacks, and social control by the Maduro government in July. The number represents a significant increase from previous months, and compares to 35 such attacks in the month of June. (Venezuela Weekly)
News Briefs

El Salvador
  • El Salvador's Bukele administration has forcefully denied new evidence of its negotiations with gangs. "While gang negotiations have become common practice for politicians in El Salvador, broad public hostility toward such talks incentivizes secrecy," explains El Faro English. (See last Tuesday's briefs.)
  • Governments from across the political spectrum have negotiated with gangs -- and sought to hide their talks. But President Nayib Bukele is uniquely poised to formalize negotiations and turn them into a valid public policy, writes Carlos Martínez in the Post Opinión.
  • El Salvador will become the first to adopt cryptocurrency as legal tender next month – but economists are sounding warnings over risks. And a host of challenges – technological, financial and criminal – threaten to sink the plan, reports the Guardian. There is concern about cryptocurrency volatility, and the potential for criminal actors to launder gains. Some economists also say the hypothetical cheaper costs of sending remittances are overhyped.
  • The first cryptocurrency ATM in Honduras opened last week, the machine allows users to acquire bitcoin and ethereum using the local lempira currency. The entrepreneur behind the effort echoed Salvadoran arguments that the cryptocurrency could permit people to send remittances to Honduras at a lower cost. Some analysts think there could be a spillover effect from El Salvador's Bitcoin adoption: there haven't been official announcements, but cryptocurrency billionaire Brock Pierce recently met with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández. (ReutersBitcoin.comReuters)
  • Honduran authorities detained nine former government officials and entrepreneurs for their involvement in fraudulent contracts used to steal $6.6 million from the country's Social Security Institute (IHSS) between 2020 and 2013. (Telesur)
  • A group of about 150 indigenous people protested in front of Brazil's presidential palace on Friday, setting fire to a giant coffin that had been carried in a demonstration ahead of a landmark Supreme Court ruling over their ancestral lands. (Reuters) The top court in Brasilia is set to decide whether to recognise Indigenous rights to land occupied prior to 1988, a legal cut-off date sought by Brazilian state governments and agricultural sectors that are seeking to limit Indigenous claims. (Al Jazeera)
  • A heavily armed group of bank robbers wreaked havoc across the Brazilian city of Araçatuba today, striking several banks, setting fire to vehicles and tying hostages to their getaway cars. At least three people were killed, in the latest in a series of increasingly violent bank heists in Brazil. Video shared on social media showed a booming shootout and men dressed in black marching hostages down a street. (Washington Post, Guardian)
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has said he sees only three possibilities for his future: death, prison or winning the 2022 presidential elections. (CNN)
  • Peru's Congress greenlighted President Pedro Castillo's cabinet, 73 to 50, on Friday, reports Reuters. (See Friday's briefs.)
  • Colombia will have presidential elections next year, and popular discontent against current President Iván Duque could push the country leftward, reports the New York Times
  • The United States announced, last week, that it’s providing an additional $32 million in humanitarian assistance to Haiti, part of a broader response to the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that devastated the country's south earlier this month. (Miami Herald
  • A crowded criminal landscape is contributing to more frequent, high-profile violence in Mexico’s Tamaulipas state, explains the Latin America Risk Report.
  • Paraguay's fast growing economy has permitted the government to reduce pandemic stimulus, including the temporary pandemic cash transfers to informal sector workers, reports Bloomberg.
  • The Chilean Constitutional Convention's Human Rights commission approved a reform to substitute the country's Carabineros with a new security force, commanded by civilians and with a policing mission guided by human rights doctrine. (CNN Chile)
  • This year could be one of the driest on record in Chile, part of an ongoing megadrought that has affected the country for a decade. While shortages are likely related to climate change, Chile's current constitution, in which access to water is privatized, also plays a role. Al Jazeera explores the water crisis and how the new constitution could affect access.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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