Sebin detains journalist Luis Carlos Díaz (March 12, 2019)
Venezuela's feared intelligence service agents detained a prominent journalist, Luis Carlos Díaz, who has been reporting on the country's political crisis and prolonged electrical outages. He is being held in the infamous Helicoide political prison, reports Efecto Cocuyo. Venezuela’s National Press Workers Union said agents raided Díaz’s home shortly before dawn, seizing computers and pen drives as the handcuffed journalist looked on. Luz Mely Reyes, said repression against the press by embattled leader Nicolás Maduro has been growing, in the midst of an acute legitimacy crisis. “I think one of the things [Maduro] is trying to achieve is to intimidate [journalists] and ensure the stories about what is going on in Venezuela are not told,” Reyes told the Guardian.
Tensions between the Maduro administration and the U.S. continue to increase. Maduro accused the U.S. of sabotaging the country's electricity production with an imperialist “electromagnetic attack," reports the Guardian. (Most experts say the blackout is the fault of aging infrastructure, but a cyberattack is not so far fetched according to this analysis in Forbes.)
Yesterday U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said U.S. embassy in Caracas will be vacated, due to safety concerns and because diplomats' presence "has become a constraint on US policy." Venezuelan authorities said they had informed U.S. personnel yesterday that their diplomatic privileges would be revoked. The Washington Post reports that fears of a failed state scenario are growing. (State Department protocol mandates that classified documents and special equipment are to be destroyed or taken out of the country, reports the Washington Post separately.) The move is a setback for the U.S. Trump administration which kept diplomats in the country in a bid to strengthen presidential challenger, National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó, reports the New York Times.
Well into the fifth day of power outages in some areas, Venezuelans are developing new survival strategies to living without electricity -- areas of particular concern are food and medicine, which were already scarce and are spoiling without refrigeration, reports the Guardian. Water in particular is scarce and has some Venezuelan's turning to contaminated sources such as the river Guaire, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
As Maduro remains in power, questions are mounting over the human toll of international sanctions against the government, mostly put in place by the U.S., reports the Miami Herald.
More from Venezuela
The story of aid trucks supposedly set on fire by Maduro's security forces last month is a classic example of incendiary (literally) fake news used to fan potential bellic action, writes Glenn Greenwald in The Intercept. The story was debunked by the New York Times, which analyzed video footage and found that the truck was likely set on fire by an anti-government protester's molotov cocktail. (See yesterday's post.) But independent journalists made the same point at the time, and were ignored by mainstream media criticizes Greenwald.
Guaidó's vision of Venezuela to come is more of a throwback to an elite dominated past, according to NACLA.
It's very possible to criticize Maduro without subscribing to U.S. backed regime change, writes Alejandro Velasco for In These Times. "For progressives abroad, solidarity with Venezuelans requires embracing rather than eliding a complex and fast-moving political landscape—a multi-pronged approach aimed at addressing both the immediate threat and the longer-term barriers to social justice in the country, foreign and domestic. That begins by loudly and unequivocally rejecting U.S. intervention."
Two former police officers were arrested and accused of killing Rio de Janeiro councillor Marielle Franco and her driver, Anderson Gomes a year ago. Prosecutors say Franco was summarily executed in retaliation for her political activity and that the assassination was meticulously planned for three months. Friends and family say the investigation has taken too long and still has no answers to the critical question of who ordered the killing. While the hashtage "WhoKilledMarielle" has been used to demand justice for the past year on social media, this morning users were instead tweeting: “#WhoOrderedMarielle’sMurder.” (Guardian, Associated Press)
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is in a "fake news" mess of his own making. He's been lambasted by that country's bar association and top investigative journalism group, Abraji, for misleading tweets about a journalist . On Sunday Bolsonaro tweeted that Constanca Rezende of the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo had been caught on tape saying that she wanted to aid in his impeachment and “ruin the life” of his son Flavio, a senator under investigation for money laundering. Instead the audios show an interview in English with Rezende explaining how corruption cases have put Bolsonaro in a bind and could lead to his impeachment. Abraji and the OAB bar association said in a joint statement on Monday that Bolsonaro was trying to “intimidate media outlets and journalists.” (Reuters, Guardian, Associated Press)
Bolsonaro will visit the White House on March 19 and is expected to discuss subjects including the situation in Venezuela with U.S. President Donald Trump, reports Reuters.
The OAS might mediate in stalled negotiations between Nicaragua's Ortega administration and the opposition Alianza Cívica, reports Confidencial. (See yesterday's briefs.)
Colombian President Iván Duque’s partial veto of a transitional justice bill could undermine and delay progress toward justice for wartime atrocities, according to Human Rights Watch. (See yesterday's briefs.)
The U.S. backed Duque's move against the transitional justice bill, reports BLU radio.
Duque has permitted generals accused of grave human rights crimes to serve in top positions, raising concerns that he is whitewashing the past to serve a hardline national security strategy, reports InSight Crime. (See Feb. 27's briefs.)
Guatemalan lawmakers are set to vote tomorrow on an amnesty bill that would ree more than 30 former army officers, soldiers and civil defense patrolmen within 24 hours and halt investigations into thousands of cases of war crimes committed during the country's 36-year civil war. (New York Times)
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is going strong 100 days in office -- with stratospherically high approval ratings and promises that his revolutionary transformation is underway. His first few months have combined symbolic alterations of presidential action and a plethora of policy proposals. (New York Times, Associated Press)
AMLO's promises have generated great expectations, but he hasn't actually achieved much yet -- and the country's realities might force a reckoning sooner rather than later, writes Jorge Castañeda in a New York Times Español op-ed.
AMLO is wooing residents of traditional cartel fiefdoms, such as Sinaloa state. (Guardian)
Salvador del Solar, actor and former culture minister, is Peru's new prime minister, a bid by President Martín Vizcarra to shore up slipping approval ratings, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's briefs.)
Peruvian authorities sent troops to stop illegal mining in the Madre de Dios region -- but it's just the latest in a string of ill-fated attempts according to InSight Crime. (See March 6's briefs.)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...
Latin America Daily Briefing