Maduro courts Biden (April 27, 2021)
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s government is intensifying efforts to court the U.S. Biden administration, reports the Associated Press. A series of gestures, including allowing the World Food Program back into the country, come as senior U.S. officials are reviewing policy toward Venezuela.
“All this recent movement points to Maduro trying to get Washington’s attention,” said Geoffrey Ramsey, a Venezuela watcher at the Washington Office on Latin America. “The question is whether the White House is ready to commit to a full-fledged negotiations strategy, or whether it will continue to play it safe and keep the policy on the back burner.”
In the short-term, more gestures could include permitting opposition rectors on the National Electoral Council, which could pave the way for Maduro’s opponents to participate in mayoral and gubernatorial elections later this year, reports the Associated Press.
Last week after actors in the U.S. government spoke out in support of the deal reached between WFP and the Maduro government, Maduro’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza responded on Twitter demanding that the U.S. lift “criminal” sanctions on Venezuela. In response, Assistant Secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Julie Chung responded with a list of specific actions that the Maduro government must take for the U.S. to lift sanctions. These are: hold free and fair elections, respect human rights and a free press, release “all 323 political prisoners” (a reference to the Foro Penal list), stop persecuting the opposition, and stop harassing NGOs. (Venezuela Weekly)
Venezuela’s socialist-led National Assembly will ratify a law passed last year by the parallel National Constituent Assembly that let the government confidentially sign deals with private firms because of U.S. sanctions. (Reuters)
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned Colombian law enforcement several times that a Florida resident tangled up in last year’s failed Operation Gideon coup attempt in Venezuela may be part of an international arms smuggling ring, reports the Miami Herald.
The United States will give $310m in humanitarian relief to Central America, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said in a video call with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei. “The United States plans to increase relief to the region, strengthen our cooperation to manage migration in an effective, secure and humane manner,” Harris promised Giammattei. (Al Jazeera)
The U.S. will train members of a Guatemalan task force responsible for protecting the country’s borders and putting a brake on uncontrolled migration. The U.S. offer came during the video call between Harris and Giammattei, reports the Associated Press. The United States will also help Guatemala to build shelters for returned migrants and help the migrants transition back to life in their home communities.
There is unbearable heartbreak in "Identifying Features," a migrant drama from first-time Mexican film-maker Fernanda Valadez – and also a vision of real evil -- Guardian.
Salvadoran attorneys have accused a pupusera, a watchman and a farmer of organizing migrant caravans. The threehave been arrested on charges of promoting human trafficking, though there is no evidence they obtained any material benefit, reports El Faro.
Court hearings in the El Mozote massacre case will be happening all week, and are being broadcast live. (El Faro) The testimony this week is important for pinning responsibility on individual members of the high military command and their specific responsibility in the horrific 1981 massacre, in which soldiers killed nearly 1,000 villagers, including children and elderly people, explains Tim Muth at El Salvador Perspectives.
A U.S. military advisor was present at El Mozote and witnessed the bloodshed, Stanford University professor Terry Lynn Karl said during her testimony yesterday in court. Former Master Sergeant Bruce Hazelwood's presence on the ground was illegal, and he is the only U.S. person who can know the verbal orders given to security forces during the massacre, according to Karl. (EFE)
“The U.S.'s insistence on elections at all costs in Haiti” later this year risks exacerbating the country’s cycle of political instability and violence, warned 69 U.S. House Democrats in a letter to the Secretary of State, calling for “a significant review of U.S. policy in Haiti” by the Biden administration. The U.S. lawmakers said the administration of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, who has been ruling without a parliament for over 15 months, not only “lacks the credibility and legitimacy” to administer elections that are free and fair but also a constitutional referendum scheduled for June 27. (Miami Herald)
More than 27,000 people have been displaced in Colombia in the first quarter of 2021 in the midst of a surge in violence, according to the country’s human rights ombudsman. People have been forced from their homes amid threats, murders, forced recruitment by armed gangs and clashes between armed groups in rural areas, reports Al Jazeera.
A Congressional inquiry into Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's handling of the coronavirus pandemic probably won't oust the president before his term ends, though it could significantly harm his attempt at reelection next year, writes Oliver Stuenkel in Americas Quarterly.
Brazilian health regulator Anvisa rejected importing the Russian-made Sputnik vaccine requested by state governors battling a deadly second wave of the virus, saying technical staff had highlighted “inherent risks” and “serious” defects. Sputnik V's developers criticized the decision as politically motivated, reports Al Jazeera.
The small socialist-run Brazilian town of Marica, 60 km from Rio de Janeiro, is forging its own path in the midst of the country's pandemic chaos, reports Al Jazeera. "The recipe for Marica’s success story includes millions of dollars in oil revenues and the decision to invest part of that money in healthcare, education, social programmes and a virtual currency called mumbuca."
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador defended a vote by Mexico’s congress to extend the term of the Supreme Court chief justice, saying the judge needed more time to oversee reform of a compromised judiciary. (Reuters)
Mexico's Tren Maya project, that will connect different locations in Mexico’s touristic Yucatan Peninsula, was suspended in response to a judicial injunction requested by the Regional Indigenous and Popular Council of Xpujil (CRIPX). But the halt has caused a bitter fight in Xpujil – a town of 4,000 people with limited resources, reports Al Jazeera.
"Environment and development are not irreconciliable antagonisms, but do present a tension that must be confronted in order to achieve truly sustainable and inclusive development," writes Elizabeth Möhle in El Diplo.
The Inter-American Press Association signalled Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Nayib Bukele, Jair Bolsonaro and Alberto Fernández as the regional leaders most hostile to the press. (Univisión)
Former Bolivian president Evo Morales announced the creation of RUNASUR, a Bolivia-based integration mechanism for Indigenous peoples and social movements. (Telesur)
As Latin American governments struggle to address the public health and economic fallout from COVID-19, the United States and China are providing a range of assistance. The Wilson Center has a new tracker that summarizes their contributions to each country in the region, including grants and shipments of personal protective equipment, as Washington and Beijing compete for influence in the region.
The Real Academia Española added "covidiota" to its lexicon. (Telam)
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