Uprising quashed in Venezuela, tensions rise (Jan. 22, 2019)
Venezuelan authorities arrested 27 members of the National Guard, accused of participating in a pre-dawn uprising yesterday in the Caracas neighborhood of Cotiza. The military said they kidnapped two officers and stole a cache of weapons, which have been recovered. The uprising, accompanied by videos of heavily armed guardsmen saying they do not recognize the government of President Nicolás Maduro and urging citizens to take to the streets. (Associated Press and Associated Press)
Sounds of gunfire in Cotiza yesterday spurred citizens in the neighborhood to protest in support of the rebellion and against ongoing shortages of basic goods and services. Some banged pots and pans, while others created a flaming barricade. The protesters were contained by security troops who fired tear gas at them. (Efecto Cocuyo, Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, Guardian, and New York Times) Efecto Cocuyo reports that pot banging, street protests, and repression continued throughout yesterday night in poor neighborhoods around Caracas. (More from Efecto Cocuyo.)
The Venezuelan opposition, which doesn't recognize the legitimacy of Maduro's second term which began earlier this month, hopes to turn the military against the government. Last week opposition lawmakers offered amnesty to soldiers who support a transitional government. And yesterday National Assembly President Juan Guaidó called the soldiers’ actions "a show of the generalized feeling" in the armed forces and promised troops they would have "necessary guarantees" if they act in defense of the Constitution. The opposition led by Guaidó has called on citizens to protest massively tomorrow -- a date that commemorates the end of a military dictatorship in 1958.
But some experts questioned the uprising narrative yesterday, arguing the clash might have been staged by the government to justify extreme security measures ahead of tomorrow's protests. They point to the rather hopeless nature of the small uprising, and authorities' swift response as dubious elements, reports the New York Times.
The Miami Herald reported yesterday that dissatisfaction with the government is widespread among the armed forces, but most officers are disinclined to support an insurrection. Officers in exile said the armed forces would be unlikely to repress demonstrations, however. (See yesterday's briefs.)
Yesterday Guaidó appealed to the military along these lines, saying he asked not for a coup, but that troops not fire on protesters and defend their right to be heard. A video released late last night by a Colombian news channel shows about two dozen unarmed men wearing combat fatigues and promising to support Guaidó. Guaidó's wife made a social media appeal to military families, asking them to not shoot at demonstrators.
Also yesterday, the Supreme Court, which is loyal to Maduro, issued a ruling that called the opposition-led National Assembly illegitimate, and warned that recent measures such as the amnesty law, are unconstitutional. Efecto Cocuyo notes that the move was not unexpected. (Legal analysis from Efecto Cocuyo.)
Xenophobic attacks against Venezuelans in Ecuador
The killing of a pregnant Ecuadorean woman by her Venezuelan immigrant boyfriend over the weekend triggered outrage and xenophobic attacks Sunday. President Lenín Moreno said he would immediately tighten immigration controls for Venezuelans and also announced that the government might create a special permit for Venezuelans to enter the country. (Guardian) Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner said Venezuelans would be required to show criminal records to enter the country in the future. But obtaining even basic documents like passports is already nearly impossible in Venezuela, making the requirement difficult for most migrants to fulfill. (El Comercio, Associated Press, and Reuters)
Human rights groups criticized Moreno's decision to send special forces to the streets to conduct checks on Venezuelans' immigration status and demand more documentation. Human Rights Watch Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco said the move would only increase xenophobia. "The government cannot spread collective hysteria," he tweeted. Amnesty International called on the government to respect the rights of asylum seekers and respond to violence without xenophobia.
Videos on social media show mobs harassing Venezuelans in Ecuador, breaking into their homes, and burning their possessions. (El Comercio) Ecuador's government offered Venezuelan immigrants flights back home yesterday in the midst of the attacks. (El Universal)
The United Nations estimates at least 221,000 Venezuelans are now residing in Ecuador, and thousands more have travelled through on their way to other countries, especially Peru.
Venezuela's government accused Ecuador's of stoking xenophobia.
Police in the locality of Ibarra where the femicide took place have also been strongly criticized for not intervening in the episode -- in which the killer held the victim at knifepoint on a street for over an hour.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador insists victims of a pipeline explosion last Friday were pushed to gather gasoline gushing out of an illegal tap because of poverty and previous governments' abandonment. (See yesterday's post.) Yesterday he announced social development programs for 91 municipalities with the most incidents of fuel pipeline theft, reports Animal Político.
According to the New York Times, his response demonstrates a central tension of the new government: a commitment to be tough on crime and corruption, and sympathy for the country's poor and marginalized. He has been applauded for quickly assuming leadership in the wake of the tragedy.
Rafael Murua is the first Mexican journalist killed this year. The country had record homicide rates last year and has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world for the press. (AFP)
Nicaraguan journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro said he has gone into exile in Costa Rica after receiving government threats, but will continue his reporting from San José. (Guardian, Reuters, and see yesterday's briefs.)
Last week La Prensa, Nicaragua’s oldest and most-widely read newspaper, published a paper with a blank front page, in protest of government withholding of material needed for printing. (Reuters)
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales' actions against the CICIG will clear the way for corruption and impunity. "... his intentional sabotaging of the rule of law could never succeed without the seemingly unconditional support of the Trump administration and Republicans in the United States Congress," writes Francisco Goldman in a New York Times op-ed.
Six witnesses tied a former special operations police officer with criminal ties to the killing of Rio de Janeiro councillor Marielle Franco last year, reports The Intercept.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will sell a "new Brazil" at the Davos World Economic Forum, reports AFP. But potential investors should be wary of the contradiction between Bolsonaro's market friendly economy minister, "Chicago Boy" Paul Guedes, and populist conservative commitments to his base, writes Brian Winter at Americas Quarterly.
One of Bolsonaro's sons is under investigation for financial irregularities, a case that threatens to cast a cloud over the new president, elected on a strong anti-corruption platform, reports the Associated Press.
Colombia's ELN guerrillas asked the government to permit their 10-person negotiation delegation to return to Colombia from Cuba. They maintain a deadly attack on a police academy that killed 20 people last week was a legitimate response to government attacks, reports AFP. (See yesterday's briefs and last Friday's post.)
Colombia's government repeated its request for Cuba's government to hand over the delegates, saying there are no agreements to protect terrorists. (EFE)
Chilean President Sebastian Piñera announced tougher fines and jail time for environmental violations. (Reuters)
Americas Quarterly on Mexico's second "golden age."
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...
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