Guaidó representatives signed agreement with Goudreau (May 7, 2020)
Representatives of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó signed an agreement last year with a U.S. security firm that promised to forcibly oust Nicolás Maduro. Guaidó's representatives say the plan was never actually approved or fully funded, reports the Washington Post.
But this weekend the same firm, headed by former U.S. Army Green Beret Jordan Goudreau took credit for an aborted operation aimed at overturning the Maduro government in Venezuela. (See Monday's post, Tuesday's post and yesterday's briefs.) Goudreau said he sought backing of the U.S. government, but officials -- including U.S. President Donald Trump -- have denied knowledge. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that “there was no United States government direct involvement.”
Yesterday Venezuelan state television broadcast a video of captured American Luke Denman, in which he said he was instructed to seize control of Caracas’ airport and bring in a plane to fly Maduro to the United States, reports Reuters.
The Washington Post piece reveals details about a “Strategic Committee” created by Guaidó last August, whose full membership remains secret, and which led negotiations with Goudreau. The committee was headed by Juan José Rendón, who sought Goudreau's services to effectively kidnap Maduro.
Now there are concerns that Maduro will leverage the failed operation to arrest Guaidó.
(See also Efecto Cocuyo.)
Goudreau is under federal investigation for arms trafficking, according to current and former U.S. law enforcement officials. (Associated Press)
El Salvador's government further tightened its quarantine measures, already among the harshest in the region: public transportation is suspended for 15 days starting today, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's briefs.)
Honduras' militarized police force is enforcing the country's coronavirus quarantine -- despite a history of human rights violations, reports InSight Crime. In one episode in late April military police agents reportedly severely beat and shot two brothers who flouted lockdown rules to sell bread. One was left in critical condition from a gunshot wound and later died in a hospital in the nearby city of Puerto Cortés.
Mexico has enough medical capacity to respond to the coronavirus peak this week, though the number of deaths linked to the disease is likely higher than official data reflects, according to the country's "coronavirus Czar". (Reuters)
Mexico received 211 ventilators purchased from the U.S. -- part of a potential purchase of 1,000 discussed between U.S. President Donald Trump and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in April. (BBC)
Trump and AMLO could meet next month with the potential agenda of discussing reopening of key sectors of the economy from the coronavirus lockdown such as carmaking and tourism, according to the Mexican president. (Reuters)
Colombian President Iván Duque declared a second state of emergency to support sectors of the economy that will remain shut down due to coronavirus, reports Reuters. The state of economic emergency allows the president to issue decrees without prior authorization from congress and will allow the government to subsidize workers’ pay in companies affected by shutdown.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro suggested that the Covid-19 peak has passed, in the same week the country saw its highest-ever daily death toll -- 633 on Tuesday. (Guardian)
Brazil's government is using the coronavirus pandemic as a cover to dismantle Amazon protection regulations -- advocates say a presidential decree awaiting congressional approval and new rules at the indigenous agency Funai effectively legalize land grabbing in protected forests and indigenous reserves, reports the Guardian.
Brazilian officials expect the coronavirus outbreak to spark a rise in global agricultural protectionism, reports Reuters.
How Covid-19 and social campaigns combined to force Brazil's government into paying basic income to the country's poorest families -- Alessandra Orofino, Piauí
Aesthetics: U.S. President Donald Trump is determined to paint his border wall black, a design choice that is projected to add at least $500 million in costs without really adding anything in terms of functionality, reports the Washington Post.
The U.S. has declared "illegal" farmworkers "essential," a hypocrisy that Alfredo Corchado calls out in a New York Times op-ed.
Iquitos in Peru is physically isolated and increasingly out of medical supplies, reports the Guardian.
Peru named a third new police chief in just 10 days in the midst of an corruption investigation into the over-pricing of health supplies. Local media claim the case involves more than two million dollars in purchases of masks, alcohol, gloves and other supplies, reports AFP.
A public hospital in Guayaquil is under investigation after purchasing body bags at more than 12 times the market price. (EFE)
Two years after an uprising against Nicaragua's Ortega government gained significant traction, the question is: why has the regime survived? Factors that help explain Daniel Ortega's resilience include security forces' loyalty, opposition fragmentation, and an economy that did not collapse, argued Mateo Jarquín and Kai M. Thaler in a recent Washington Post Monkey Cage piece.
Guayana started its vote recount for the March 2 general elections yesterday. (Stabroek)
A group of 138 economists from around the world -- including Nobel laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Edmund Phelps -- urged Argentine bondholders to take a "constructive approach" to the Argentine government's debt restructuring proposal. "The onus is on private creditors to act," said the open letter whose signatories also include Jeffrey Sachs, Carmen Reinhart and Thomas Piketty. Bondholders had until tomorrow to respond to a proposal that would impose big cuts and postpone payments, but the Argentine government extended the deadline to May 22. Several groups have said they would reject the plan. The economists' letter pointed out that creditors knew they were making a risky investment when they bought Argentine paper, which is why the country was paying higher than normal interest rates, reports Reuters. The Argentine government said it would be willing to negotiate, reports Bloomberg.
The stakes are high not only for Argentina -- which risks its ninth sovereign debt default -- write Stiglitz, Phelps and Reinhart in Project Syndicate. "Argentina's creditors are being asked to accept a proposal that would reduce their revenue stream but make it sustainable. A responsible resolution will set a positive precedent, not only for Argentina, but for the international financial system as a whole."
In Americas Quarterly, Arturo Porzecanski urges looking at the IMF as a way to avoid default: "Argentina could break the impasse with its private creditors by deciding to seek a refinancing of its outsize debt-service payments to the IMF. "
Cosecha Roja reports on how transgender people in jail for small-time dealing in Argentina can't access house arrest measures because they don't have homes.
Prison gangs in the region are drawing strength from the pandemic, writes Stephen Dudley in Foreign Affairs.
The pandemic is pushing progressive tax reform plans across the region, from Guatemala to Argentina, reports Americas Quarterly.
Quarantines are exacerbating gender inequalities and domestic violence across the region, reports Americas Quarterly.
Lockdowns are affecting production of cigarettes in Argentina and beer in Mexico -- ¡help!
What would Gabo think, asks Rodrigo García in a New York Times Español letter to his deceased father, Gabriel García Márquez. The author's plague references in his novels have been latched on by everybody, but García Márquez himself was influenced by earlier works such as Oedipus Rex, in which a king seeks to end a plague afflicting his people. "You said once that what torments us about epidemics are that they are reminder of personal destiny," writes García.
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.