Nicaragua talks proceeding (Feb. 28, 2019)
Nicaragua's government and representatives of an opposition coalition agreed to a negotiation framework consisting of nine -- unspecified -- points. The first day of discussion between the Ortega administration and the Alianza Cívica concluded, yesterday, without opening to questions from the press. The secrecy enshrouding the proceedings raised suspicions, according to Confidencial.
About a hundred political prisoners were released from jail yesterday, ahead of the talks. Most were apparently granted a form of house arrest or released to care of family, reports Confidencial. Human rights activists warned that their legal position is unclear and that the trials against them must be annulled. (Confidencial) Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (Cenidh) president Vilma Núñez de Escorcia warned against using political prisoners as bargaining chips, emphasizing that freedom for all the 770 estimated political prisoners should be a precondition to negotiations. (Confidencial)
The OAS could serve as a guarantor to talks, said Secretary General Luis Almagro yesterday. (Confidencial)
Yesterday the pro-Ortega National Assembly approved measures increasing taxes on big companies, a move likely to worsen the country's economic malaise said business lobbies. (Confidencial)
Venezuela at the U.N.
The U.S. proposed a U.N. Security Council resolution urging “the peaceful restoration of democracy” in Venezuela, free and fair presidential elections, unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid to all people in need. It is expected to be voted on this afternoon -- but would likely be vetoed by Russia. Russia was expected to propose a negotiated solution to Venezuela's crisis. (New York Times and Associated Press)
Venezuela's foreign minister suggested talks with U.S. government, which he accused of trying to overthrow Nicolás Maduro's government. Speaking at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Jorge Arreaza suggested Maduro and U.S. President Donald Trump meet to iron out their differences -- a proposal the U.S. immediately rejected. (Reuters)
National Assembly leader and presidential challenger Juan Guaidó is out of Venezuela at the moment, after crossing to Colombia over the weekend in an attempt to bring in U.S. donated aid supplies. Venezuela's opposition says he could likely be arrested if he returns to Venezuela -- though Guaidó promised yesterday on social media that he will return soon to Caracas. (Wall Street Journal) He's set to meet with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro today. (Reuters)
Guaidó isn't the only one left stranded -- Venezuela and Colombia broke relations over the weekend, and it's not clear when the border will reopen. Colombia's attempt yesterday was rebuffed, reports the Miami Herald.
The humanitarian crisis continues unabated in the meantime: Infant mortality in Venezuela has soared by roughly 50% during the prolonged political crisis in the country, said the UN’s political and peace building chief, Rosemary DiCarlo in a Security Council briefing yesterday. (Guardian)
More for Venezuela
An international military intervention in Venezuela appears to be off the table for the moment, notes the Venezuela Weekly. (See Tuesday's post.) Nonethless, the topic is somewhat of a constant lately. Adam Isacson susses out what a U.S. military intervention might look like. He argues "that it would probably last quite some time: perhaps first as intense hostilities, then as a drawn-out insurgency ..." Indeed, most likely scenarios involving a U.S. military invasion result in negative outcomes writes Jeremy McDermott in Semana. He particularly notes that invading forces would confront "a veritable plethora of armed and anti-American armed groups."
Venezuela's humanitarian crisis will only get worse if U.S. sanctions continue, argues Mark Weisbrot in The Nation. "There are no estimates of the death toll from the sanctions, but given the experience of countries in similar situations, it is likely in the thousands or tens of thousands so far. "
Venezuela's government has somewhat offset U.S. sanctions on its crude oil by shifting some exports to India and Europe, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The much photographed aid from the U.S. was blocked from entering Venezuela this weekend, but not all humanitarian assistance has been rejected -- BBC Reality Check has a roundup of the aid situation in Venezuela.
A musical news wrap-up from the Arepita -- Masita informativa by Ricardo del Búfalo.
Haiti's government cancelled Carnival celebrations this year, in the wake of violent protests that paralyzed the country earlier this month, in which at least seven people were killed, reports AFP.
The news comes as the country's tourism sector is already taking hits in the wake of political instability: JetBlue is reducing flights and Air Canada suspended service through April. Earlier this month travel site Expedia and its subsidiaries Travelocity, Orbitz, Hotwire and CheapTickets blocked travelers from booking flights to the island. (Miami Herald)
In the wake of a still unclear incident involving heavily armed U.S. citizens detained in Port-au-Prince (see last Friday's briefs), Haiti Libre reports that there were at least 250,000 illegal firearms in circulation in the country in 2015 (latest info available), including handguns and large caliber weapons.
Homicides dropped in Brazil last year -- 51,589 people were murdered in 2018, a 13 percent decrease over 2017. Nonetheless, the homicide rate remains high -- 24.7 per 100,000, reports Globo.
Police killed killed 160 people in Rio de Janeiro in January, an 82 percent increase over December. The alarming increase correlates with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s and Rio de Janeiro Governor Wilson Witzel’s first month in office. Police say the new administrations' support for hardline security policies has given them more freedom of action, reports InSight Crime.
Brazilians are not fans of pension reform, but generally approve of Bolsonaro thus far. (Reuters)
Thousands of immigrant children held at U.S. government-funded detention facilities complained of sexual abuse in recent years -- and complaints increased while the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the border was in place, reports the New York Times. Justice department records detailed allegations that included harassment and assault of children by adult staff members -- including rape -- and cases of suspected abuse of children by other minors.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador promised to increase safeguards for journalists -- but five have been killed so far this year, one despite participating in an official protection program. (BBC)
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández is implementing a hardline policy against gangs -- but is less eager to tackle drug trafficking cases involving his inner circle, including family members, reports InSight Crime.
An 11-year-old Argentine girl was forced to give birth, after authorities refused to allow her a legally permitted abortion. She underwent a c-section at 23 weeks of pregnancy, and the baby is unlikely to survive. "Lucia's" pregnancy resulted from sexual abuse from her grandmother's 65-year-old partner. The case demonstrates the pitfalls of last year's anti-abortion campaign aimed at pushing girls to carry pregnancies to term, say activists. (Guardian)
Greenpeace activists blocked access to a waste site used by companies that extract oil and gas from Argentina's Vaca Muerta shale formation. (Reuters)
Guatemala's indigenous Xinka are protesting against a Canadian owned silver mine and government agencies they accuse of ignoring a court order to suspend operations at the Escobal mine. (Al Jazeera)
Peru's government reached an agreement with members of the Mayuriaga indigenous community, allowing state-owned energy company Petroperu to repair an oil pipeline in the Amazon. (Reuters)
Latin American organized crime groups are shifting shipments of illegal drugs to Pacific Ocean routes, InSight Crime explains why.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...