Guaidó at the State of the Union (Feb. 5, 2020)
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó was a surprise guest at the U.S. presidential State of the Union speech last night. His presence reversed earlier analyses of a snub by U.S. President Donald Trump, who did not attend a Guaidó rally in Miami on Saturday. Trump referred to Venezuela's legitimacy-challenged leader, Nicolás Maduro, as a "socialist dictator," and promised that "Maduro’s grip of tyranny will be smashed and broken." It was a rare moment of bipartisan enthusiasm in the speech, with applause from both Republican and Democratic leaders, reports the Miami Herald.
The speech was a symbolic victory for Guaidó, whose leadership claim is faltering back at home. “Here this evening is a man who carries with him the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of all Venezuelans,” Trump said. “Joining us in the gallery is the true and legitimate president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó. Mr. President, please take this message back to your homeland. All Americans are united with the Venezuelan people in their righteous struggle for freedom. Socialism destroys nations. But always remember, freedom unifies the soul.”
Pretty much everybody agrees that Trump's move is mostly about domestic politics, and aims at U.S. voters in an electoral year, rather than actually altering Venezuela's political stalemate. (Vox)
But, the bipartisan reaction, and Trump's speech, do mean U.S. prestige is now on the line, according to Eric Farnsworth, a former State Department official who is now a vice president of the Council of the Americas. “That could lead to some interesting decisions during this election year. Concrete follow up actions are required to support the interim govt,” he tweeted.
Several analysts note that one area in which the U.S. could unilaterally help Venezuelans would be to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Venezuelans fleeing the country -- something prominent Republicans have called for.
In terms of Venezuelan politics, the White House invite is relevant in that it burnishes Guaidó's relevance within the opposition as an international figure, Benjamin Gedan told NPR.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit Venezuela on Friday in a show of support for Maduro, reports Reuters.
Maduro's government blocked members of an Inter-American Commission on Human Rights delegation from boarding a plane for Venezuela, where they planned to investigate alleged abuses, reports the Associated Press.
Venezuela closed 2019 with 9,585.5% inflation, a sharp fall from 130,060% in 2018, according to its central bank. (Reuters)
The United States government is deporting Salvadorans to face risk of murder and other serious abuse, Human Rights Watch said in a new report that identifies cases of 138 Salvadorans who, since 2013, were killed after deportation from the United States, and more than 70 others who were beaten, sexually assaulted, extorted, or tortured. The majority were killed within two years of deportation by the same perpetrators they had tried to escape by seeking safety in the U.S. (Guardian)
A recently passed "Special Law for the Aid and Integral Protection of Persons in a Condition of Internal Forced Displacement" mandates the creation of a registry of displaced persons and the establishment of a National System with the same name in El Salvador. It's an important step in a country where the government had, up until now, refused to even acknowledge the reality of forced displacement, reports Nacla. However significant obstacles mean the actual impact might be modest.
Economist Ricardo Hausmann, of the Harvard Growth Lab, will team up with Salvadoran experts to design a development agency for El Salvador's government, announced Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele yesterday. (El Diario de Hoy)
Trump undermined anti-impunity efforts in Guatemala -- essentially greenlighting corruption -- in exchange for an asylum cooperation agreement in keeping with the U.S. anti-immigration policies, argues a Nómada piece that compares the case with Trump's Ukraine policy.
The murder of 200 former FARC fighters is a challenge for the implementation of a peace deal with the former guerrilla force, admitted Colombian presidential advisor Emilio Archila this week. Nonetheless, he said at least some of the criticism lobbed against the government over security failures is political. (Reuters)
He spoke in response to former FARC leader, Rodrigo Londoño, who questioned President Iván Duque's commitment to implementing the 2016 peace accord, reports El Tiempo.
The former FARC leader who took up arms again last year, Iván Márquez, sent a high level emissary to Cauca region dissident groups with a unity message, and was rebuffed, reports La Silla Vacía.
The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience suspended membership of Colombia's National Center of Historical Memory in its global network of 275 historic sites, museums and memory initiatives. The move was taken in response to the Center's current director, who has refused to recognize the existence of Colombia's 50 year internal armed conflict, reports El Tiempo. (See also this piece in Al Día News)
Bolivia's MAS party is in the lead for May 3's presidential elections and faces a fractured opposition. But early polls suggest the party of ousted president Evo Morales does not have enough support to win outright, and would likely have to head to a second-round, reports the Associated Press. (See yesterday's post.)
Morales' plan to run for senator, though he is living in Argentina and faces an arrest warrant issued by Bolivia’s interim government, is likely to heighten tensions in the electoral campaign, reports the New York Times.
Morales' participation, and interim-president Jeanine Áñez's decision to throw her hat into the presidential ring increase uncertainty ahead of the elections, according to the Latin America Risk Report. Morales opponents want the election to be about rejecting the former president, while his supporters want to make it about rejecting the coup against him. "This polarization also represents a challenge for the international community," notes James Bosworth. "If one side refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the other’s win, the hemisphere could end up divided over yet another critical democracy question."
Nine people, including three children aged 12, 13 and 14, were killed when gunmen opened fire in a video game arcade in Mexico's Michoacan state, reports the Associated Press.
The U.S. prosecution of Mexican politicians for drug trafficking could help President López Obrador fight corruption, but he’s failing to build on it, argues Ioan Grillo in a New York Times op-ed.
Latin America is the region with the highest number of press killings, according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), with 18 confirmed cases in 2019. (Euronews)
Economy and racial tensions dominate electoral races in at least three countries in the Caribbean super election year, reports Caribbean Life News. Voting along ethnic lines has traditionally been a key factor in Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, according to the piece.
Brazilian government officials, including President Jair Bolsonaro's son Eduardo, lashed out at Academy Award-nominated documentary director Petra Costa, branding her “an anti-Brazil activist” who had “tarnished the country’s image abroad." (Guardian)
A former trader at oil firm Petrobras has signed a plea bargain agreement with Brazilian prosecutors investigating bribery allegations, defense lawyers and prosecutors said. It's a potential breakthrough in a case involving some of the world’s top commodity trading houses, reports Reuters.
Argentina’s Buenos Aires province said it would make a $250 million bond payment after failing to reach a deal with enough creditors to accept a delay. The announcement surprised investors who feared a default, and could affect talks to restructure more than $100 billion in sovereign debt issued by Argentina’s central government, reports the Wall Street Journal.
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva met with Argentine Economy Minister Martín Guzmán yesterday at a Vatican conference on economic solidarity. Georgieva told Reuters that now was a “very important moment for Argentina” to enact policies for successful debt restructuring. The policies must stabilize the Argentine economy and ensure that the most vulnerable in society are not left out, she said.
Argentine judge Claudio Bonadio died yesterday. Bonadio presided over the vast majority of corruption cases against former president, now vice president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and has been a darling of her opponents. But, his own questionable history and penchant for playing by his own rules also make him a symbol of the Argentine judiciary's tendency towards political persecution -- "far from the ideal of the blind and impartial justice Argentine society so needs," writes Hugo Alconada Mon in a New York Times Español op-ed.
This piece in Nuestras Voces delves more deeply into Bonadio's troubled legacy, which has broader implications for the country's fight against political corruption and desperately-needed judicial reform.
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