Trump's threats strengthen Venezuelan government's hand (Aug. 15, 2017)
Though few expect an actual military operation against Venezuela, the threat has hit hard in a region with a bloody history of U.S. intervention, reports the New York Times. A fragile regional alliance against authoritarianism in Venezuela has been imperiled by Trump's tempestuous threat -- and countries that last week were condemning President Nicolás Maduro's government (see last Wednesday's post) are now warning against military solutions.
The threat has also permitted Maduro to frame the debate in terms of pro and anti imperialism, asking the national political opposition whether they support U.S. intervention, notes the BBC. It's pure propaganda gold for the regime, which could use the threats to rationalize a greater crackdown on political dissent, according to the Miami Herald. Anti-imperialist rallies were held across the country yesterday.
Yesterday, Maduro asked the polemic pro-government constitutional assembly to investigate the opposition for allegedly supporting Trump's remarks, reports the Associated Press.
This weekend, 33 Venezuelan human rights organizations signed a joint statement rejecting Trump’s threat of a possible "military option" to address the situation in Venezuela, reports Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights. A military intervention would likely aggravate human suffering at a time when the country is already grappling with a severe economic crisis, note the signing organizations, which reject economic sanctions on the same grounds. They urged the international community to respond with diplomatic efforts in support of a "peaceful, negotiated solution."
The remarks were also poorly received in Washington, where where members of Congress from both parties who have backed sanctions on Venezuela said they would not support going to war there, reports the Los Angeles Times.
U.S. intelligence sources received uncorroborated information that Maduro hired a hitman to kill Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a high-profile critic of the government. While the threat is not corroborated, it was enough to warrant a security detail for several weeks, reports the Miami Herald.
Emilio Lozoya, the former chief executive of Pemex, received about $10 million in bribes allege former Odebrecht SA executives. The accusations were made to Brazilian prosecutors, and involve the head of Mexico's state run oil company at a time when he was a top campaign official for current President Enrique Peña Nieto, reports the Wall Street Journal.
When Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was elected in 2012, he announced education reforms intended to be his administration's flagship policies. They included efforts to eradicate corruption from the country's main teachers' union, improve teaching standards, and create a modernized education model, reports the Guardian. Some progress has been made, but millions of dollars are still misspent -- including salaries to teachers who never set foot in the classroom according to analysis by Mexico Evalúa watchdog and Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education. In the meantime, demonized teachers are working in situations of rampant poverty in which many children go to school hungry.
"... Institutionalized public malfeasance is pretty old news in Mexico," writes Luis Gómez Romero in the Conversation. "And yet, by any measure, graft in Mexico has reached stunning new highs this year. Over the past five months, three state governors have been arrested abroad while trying to escape justice, and fully eleven of the country’s 32 total governors are currently under investigation or fighting prosecution for corruption." The salacious tales are yet another blow to Peña Nieto's legacy and his promises to combat graft. "... Political analysts in Mexico are now considering the current political class a lost generation of public servants."
Mexico's ruling PRI party has been heavily hit by Peña Nieto's flagging popularity ratings, and recently implemented rules allowing nonmembers to run for president on the party ticket. (See last Friday's briefs.) The PRI's president said the changes are necessary to stop leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador from winning office next year, reports Reuters.
Nafta renegotiation talks begin tomorrow in Washington. While Mexico will bear the brunt of the U.S. administration's reform efforts, Canada is concerned that it's neighbor to the south will attempt to gain concessions in such politically contentious sectors as lumber, dairy and wine, reports the Washington Post. All three countries seek to modernize the agreement to deal more adequately with trade in services and the digital economy.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is in Argentina today, where he is expected to praise the government's economic reforms, reports the Associated Press.
Argentina's Buenos Aires province senatorial primary remains undetermined -- 4.31 percent of polling booths remain uncounted, and could throw the results in favor of former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, reports La Nación. (See yesterday's briefs.)
Bolivia's President Evo Morales approved a controversial highway that would cut through an Amazon biodiversity hotspot that is home to 14,000 mostly indigenous people, reports the Guardian. The 300 km road will cut through the Isiboro Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park and strip it of the protections won in 2011. The legislation passed through Bolivia’s Senate last week where Morales’ governing Movement Toward Socialism party holds a two-thirds majority, and was enacted on Sunday. Rival political parties and the Catholic church opposed the law, joining activists and indigenous groups who marched in several cities across the country. Opponents of the road say it will open up the park to mining and oil and gas exploration, as well as loggers and coca farmers.
Finding ways to reduce illicit coca cultivation is a key challenge for Colombia's government. In some areas, like Putumayo, that will mean rethinking the entire local economy, reports the BBC. (See yesterday's briefs.)
Colombian authorities discovered an arms cache belonging to members of the FARC rebel group who reject the peace accord, reports EFE.
Another 24 former agents of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship have been sentenced by the Court of Appeal of Santiago in Chile after being proven guilty in two criminal cases, reports TeleSUR.
Archbishop Óscar Romero was born 100 years ago this day, on August 15th 1917. He was murdered by El Salvador’s state forces on March 24th, 1980, reports the Irish Times.