Poor turnout in Venezuelan opposition march (Jan. 24, 2017)
Turnout at a march against the Venezuelan government was relatively small -- several thousand people -- a sign of how the political opposition is failing to build a united front, even as the national crisis worsens, according to the Washington Post. Political opposition leadership demanded new presidential elections, and a date for regional elections which are supposed to happen this year, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
Complaints about shortages were expressed creatively, with protesters throwing empty medicine cartons and proffering flour to police, reports Reuters.
Last year, about a million people turned out to demand a recall referendum against President Nicolás Maduro, and about 80 percent of the population has a negative view of the government. Polling firm Datanálisis head Luis Vicente León told the WP that "the protest is a measurement of the motivation" of Venezuelans. "Motivation has decreased because the opposition doesn’t have a common aim." A government crackdown on some members of opposition parties could have an additional chilling effect. (See yesterday's briefs.)
There are reports of police officers around the capital preventing marches, yesterday. Because of this, moving forward, the opposition will be carrying out "suprise mobilizations" rather than conventional protests, said opposition leader Henrique Capriles, according to Efecto Cocuyo.
Peña Nieto defends national sovereignty and promises dialogue with U.S.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto set out his country's baseline negotiating points ahead of high level meetings with the U.S., reports the Associated Press. Mexico will neither seek confrontation nor submission in the face of the new U.S. administration's bluster, said Peña Nieto in a foreign policy speech promising to defend free trade, respect for the rights of migrants and the remittances that are an important source of foreign revenue for the country, reports the Washington Post.
Mexico will seek to diversify its trade and political relations, even as the government promises to fight to protect NAFTA, reports the Wall Street Journal.
And any changes to NAFTA must form part of a broader package -- encompassing migration and security as well -- emphasized Peña Nieto, according to the New York Times. Security and migration issues give Mexico a form of leverage, as its increasingly cracked down on migration through its southern border, forming the first line of defense against migrants aiming for the U.S. The Mexican strategy, while maintaining a defense of the free trade agreement, would seek to ask for changes of its own, such as incorporating telecommunications, energy and electronic trade in a new agreement.
Coming after Trump's withdrawal from Trans-Pacific Partnership, Peña Nieto said in his speech that Mexico would seek to negotiate bilateral trade agreements with members of the TPP. Peña Nieto will travel to Washington next week, and members of his cabinet will be meeting with senior Trump administration officials tomorrow. (See yesterday's briefs.)
Yesterday Mexican officials made the case that the country serves a vital role for the U.S. economy as well, notes the WP. And today Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said Mexico could pull out of NAFTA if a renegotiation of its terms does not benefit it, reports the Associated Press separately.
Peña Nieto's speech emphasized national sovereignty, responding to citizen fears of a weak response to Trump, and could be a means of bolstering his low popularity ratings, according to the NYT.
In reference to Trump's key campaign promise to physically block transit between the two countries: "Mexico does not believe in walls,” Peña Nieto said yesterday. “Our country believes in bridges."
The Associated Press has a piece accompanying DACA recipients who took advantage of a provision to leave the U.S. for academic reasons or family emergencies and then legally return. Many used the opportunity to visit family and homes they left as children and were never able to return to due to their illegal status in the U.S. The Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals gave work permits to immigrants brought to the U.S as children and living in the country illegally.
A group of 91 Cubans stranded in Mexico after the U.S. suddenly changed its special immigration policy earlier this month were deported back to their country, reports the Miami Herald.
The abrupt end to the "wet foot, dry foot" policy that allowed Cubans to remain in the U.S. was aimed at solidifying the Obama policy of engagement with the island, whose government had long opposed the policy that promoted brain drain. But it also provided an escape valve for people dissatisfied with the Communist government, making it less clear that Cuba's leadership was the winner in this change, according to the Miami Herald. The piece has experts debating whether the tactic, portrayed as a way of forcing change on the island, will effectively do so.
The extradition of Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán might be a coup for the U.S. justice system, but it's unlikely to impact the international drug trade, reports the Guardian.
Ecuador is heading to presidential elections on Feb. 19. President Rafael Correa is not eligible to run, though his Alianza País coalition is seeking to stay in government through candidate Lenin Moreno. TeleSUR profiles the main candidates.
Peru's government announced that it will terminate a contract with a consortium led by Odebrecht SA to build a $7-billion natural-gas pipeline today, another blow to the Brazilian construction giant implicated in massive corruption scandals, reports the Wall Street Journal. The company has faced backlash around the region since admitting last month that it paid nearly $800 million in bribes, most of it in Latin America, to secure public works contracts.
Anti-bull fight protesters clashed with riot police yesterday in Bogotá, outside the city's first bullfight in four years, reports the Guardian. This week the country's highest court will debate whether the practise violates Colombian laws against mistreatment of animals. In 2015 constitutional court ruled that bullfighting was part of the country's cultural heritage and could not be banned.
Jailed former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega has been granted house arrest in order to prepare for brain surgery, reports the Associated Press.