Maduro promises crackdown against "terrorists" (March 25, 2019)
Venezuela's opposition is bracing for a severe crackdown, reports the Guardian. Government authorities, including Nicolás Maduro and his minister of information, Jorge Rodríguez, accuse the opposition of involvement with an alleged "terror cell" aimed at ousting Maduro's government. "In the coming days, we will certainly see more terrorists captured – whatever their names might be," Maduro said at a rally Saturday. Opposition leader and presidential challenger Juan Guaidó's chief of staff was arrested last week in relation to the supposed conspiracy. (See Friday's briefs.)
A move against Guaidó could come with serious international repercussions -- over 50 countries recognize him as Venezuela's legitimate leader and the U.S. has promised a strong response if he is detained. On Friday U.S. Trump administration announced tough new financial sanctions against Venezuela's government in retaliation for the detention of Guaidó's chief-of-staff, Roberto Marrero. (Miami Herald)
Speculation is rife after two Russian air force planes landed in Venezuela's main airport. The Russian embassy said it was part of a routine cooperation agreement. But El País notes that the arrival came shortly after Maduro said he had been forced to increase security in light of an assassination plot he accused Guaidó of leading, reports El País. Russia, along with China and Turkey, are Maduro's strongest international allies.
Guaidó's challenge to Maduro's leadership is entering it's third month -- so far Maduro is sticking to his long-term strategy of sticking out protests and discontent, reports the New York Times. "The government is doing everything it can to force a sense of exasperation with Guaidó and force people to lose faith in him," Geoff Ramsey, assistant director for Venezuela at the Washington Office on Latin America, told NYT. A New York Times video dispatch examines how Maduro maintains loyalty in a country wracked by shortages and dependent on the government for basics, including food.
More from Venezuela
Venezuela's legitimacy crisis continues to play out on an international level: the IADB cancelled it's China meeting this week, apparently in response to Beijing's refusal to allow Guaidó's representative to attend, reports Reuters. (See also Associated Press.)
A U.S. military intervention keeps popping up in the discourse -- U.S. force in Venezuela could take place as a precision bombing campaign, or a full-scale invasion. Both would quickly run up against complications in a heavily armed and large territory, warns Frank O. Mora in Foreign Affairs. "There’s no such thing as risk-free military action. But in this case, the social, economic, and security costs of intervening far outweigh the benefits."
The Trump administration's plan to pressure the armed forces into defecting from Maduro is flawed, "to make progress, the United States will have to work with its international partners to find a more moderate path forward," argues Christopher Sabatini in Foreign Affairs.
Venezuela's economic collapse is worst than that of the Soviet Union after its breakup, and comparable only to Zimbabwe’s in the late 1990s -- Wall Street Journal.
In the midst of the economic crisis, the inequality between those with access to U.S. dollars and those without is ever more pronounced, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Colombia's ELN army has grown exponentially over the past four years -- in Colombia and Venezuela. To the point where it "may now be described as a Colombo-Venezuelan force, with enormous implications for both countries," writes Jeremy McDermott at InSight Crime.
U.S. President Donald Trump met with leaders of five Caribbean countries sympathetic to his Venezuela policy -- the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and Saint Lucia. (Miami Herald)
Cuba would have to spend nearly $2 billion a year to meet its domestic oil needs if Venezuela's oil shipments to the island were halted by the opposition-led National Assembly. (Miami Herald)
Armed groups in Colombia's Tumaco region are perpetrating a rash of homicides and violent sexual attacks against residents, particularly in rural zones. Between January 2017 and Dec 2018, more than 70 people reported sexual abuses in relation to armed conflict -- but structural factors ensure virtual impunity for these crimes, writes Human Rights Watch Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco in La Silla Vacía. He calls for increased protection of women who suffer sexual abuse from armed groups, including establishing a shelter system that can accommodate families.
Former Brazilian president Michel Temer's detention on corruption charges last week shows that Operation Car Wash continues to have extensive impact on the country's politics. It also counters accusations that the sweeping corruption investigation is politically motivated, say some. (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, see Friday's briefs.)
Brazilian mining giant Vale raised the risk level at its Barão de Cocais mining waste dam, and communities in the area have been told to evacuate as a rupture could be imminent. (Associated Press)
Gun advocates and opponents in Brazil are both pointing to a recent, rare school shooting episode as proof that arms ownership in the country should be loosened or tightened. (Washington Post)
The head of Guatemala's Supreme Court denounced two human rights defenders who had presented a complaint against him in January. Magistrate Néster Vásquez Pimentel presented a report against Claudia Samayoa of the Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos (Udefegua) and José Manuel Martínez of Justicia Ya. (PubliNews)
Human rights defenders in Guatemala are increasingly criminalized and persecuted. Last year 26 defenders were killed, and so far three have been assassinated this year, reports Nómada.
Presidential candidate Sandra Torres has been accused by the Public Ministry and the CICIG of illicit campaign financing in her 2015 presidential run -- the accusation came the same week her candidacy was confirmed, conferring her with immunity until the election, reports Martín Rodríguez Pellecer in Nómada.
Presidential candidate and former attorney general Thelma Aldana spoke with El Faro.
Peru's government has committed to eradicating illicit gold mining in the Madre de Dios Amazon region -- Operation Mercurio 2019 last month involved hundreds of army commandos and more than 1,200 police officers who targeted an illicit mining city. A newly created Amazon Protection Force will help monitor the area. (Guardian)
A Honduran military police officer was detained on murder charges, in relation to political protests in Dec. 2017 -- it's only the second arrest in relation to at least 23 deaths in security force repression after President Juan Orlando Hernández's controversial reelection, reports Criterio. (See post for Dec. 5, 2017, for example.)
The Honduran government is expanding the military police force in response to popular acclaim, according to the national secretary of defense. (Confidencial HN)
A newly identified species of baleen whales appears to be widespread around the tropical world's seas. (New York Times)
Major League Baseball has systematized its recruiting and developmental programs in the Caribbean over the last 25 years -- but few Dominican players actually make it to the big leagues, and are left with little to fallback on when baseball doesn't pan out, writes "Raceball" author Rob Ruck in the Conversation.
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