Prince's secret Caracas meeting (Dec. 16, 2019)
A controversial security executive and prominent Trump supporter -- Blackwater founder Eric Prince -- made a secret visit to Caracas last month, where he met with Venezuelan vice-president Delcy Rodríguez. He proposed a business deal and urged freedom for six imprisoned Citgo executives in the meeting, reports Bloomberg, which broke the story on Friday.
Prince made the trip on his own initiative. He notified at least one senior Trump administration official, but it was not known whether he asked for approval or advice. It's not clear whether he was carrying an official message or aiming for private contracts. One Reuters source described the meeting as “outreach” by Prince to Maduro’s government.
Bloomberg sources believe Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was later briefed on the meeting, and that it is a potential backchannel between Maduro and U.S. President Donald Trump.
Elliott Abrams, the State Department special envoy on Venezuela, denied any knowledge of Prince’s meeting. “Neither the meeting nor any offers made were on behalf of the United States Government and on their face such offers would appear to violate U.S. sanctions,” he said.
A meeting with Rodríguez, who is under U.S. sanctions, could raise questions about whether Prince might have run afoul of US law, which prohibits Americans from virtually any business dealings with sanctioned individuals and specifically with the Venezuelan government, reports the Guardian.
In any case, it's a 180 degree turn from Prince's push to send a private army of 5,000 mercenaries to topple President Nicolás Maduro in April of this year. At the time he sought investment and political support from influential Trump supporters and wealthy Venezuelan exiles, according to Reuters.
At the November dinner meeting with Rodríguez Prince is believed to have urged the release of six employees of Houston-based Citgo -- who were granted house arrest two weeks later. They have been held for more than two years on charges of embezzlement, reports the Associated Press.
On the side of the Maduro government, opposition leader Juan Guaidó believes the meeting shows the impact of financial sanctions. “Those secret meetings are part of the desperation,” Guaido said Saturday during a Caracas news conference.
USMCA -- Not so fast
Mexican officials expressed outrage at U.S. plans to send foreign labor inspectors to monitor compliance with local labor reform. Mexican officials say the U.S. unilaterally included the clause in an implementation bill sent to U.S. lawmakers on Friday, and that they were blindsided. Such monitoring would be a violation of Mexican sovereignty, they told the press vehemently overt the weekend.
Mexican lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to approve the revamped treaty last week, but the labor issue has become a controversy at home. Some analysts blame Mexico's negotiators of carelessness. The Foreign Ministry noted in a communique that Mexico could reject any such diplomats the United States sought to post in the country.
(Reuters, Washington Post, Politico)
Chilean police and army personnel violated international human rights norms during massive protests in Chile, and should be prosecuted, according to a new report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The 30-page report based on research during the first three weeks of November, extensively details multiple allegations, including torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence by the police against people held in detention. Overall management of demonstrations by the police “was carried out in a fundamentally repressive manner," mission head Imma Guerras-Delgado told journalists.
Police brutality is pushing calls for sweeping reform of the security force, reports the New York Times.
Chile is in a lot more trouble than foreign observers realize, writes Oliver Stuenkel in Americas Quarterly. He compares the situation to that of Brazil in 2013, and warns centrists to be wary of growing extremist appeal.
A 15-year-old indigenous boy was murdered on the edge of a heavily deforested indigenous reserve in Brazil's Maranhão state. The murder is the fourth from the Guajajara tribe in recent weeks, reports the Guardian. It ocurred in the midst of a wave of racist abuse against indigenous people on local social media.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's son said the country will move its Israel embassy to Jerusalem. Brazilian lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro spoke yesterday at the inauguration of a Brazilian trade mission in Jerusalem, and said "we want to move to Jerusalem not just for Brazil, but to set an example for all of Latin America." (Jerusalem Post)
Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon jumped to the highest level for the month of November since record-keeping began in 2015, reports Reuters.
Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez met with Trump in Washington last Friday. Private talks focused largely on the fight against corruption and organized crime, reports the Associated Press. The White House announced after the meeting that the United States will offer two Special Forces training events in Paraguay in 2020 and 2021. It also said the U.S. Southern Command will condut a regional crisis response exercise in Paraguay in 2021.
Nicaragua's main opposition movements -- Alianza Cívica por la Justicia and Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco -- will present a unified electoral reform proposal, with freedom for all political prisoners as the starting point -- Carlos Chamorro, Confidencial.
New U.S. sanctions against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's eldest son -- Rafael Ortega Murillo -- is part of an ongoing policy of "drip irrigation" pressure against the regime, argues Ivette Munguía in Confidencial. (See Friday's post and briefs.)
French authorities extradited an Argentine security expert who is accused of crimes against humanity, including torture, committed during the country’s last dictatorship. The question for many French people is why it took so long, reports the New York Times. (See also Guardian)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...
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