U.S. presents transition plan for Venezuela (March 31, 2020)
The U.S. is expected to present a proposal for political power-sharing in Venezuela in return for easing sanctions. The plan, which is supposed to be presented today, would require that Nicolas Maduro step down, and that officials from his government collaborate with opposition forces to create a short-term government that would coordinate new presidential elections later this year, reports the New York Times.
"We present this framework as a path for Venezuela to emerge from years of repression and political conflict," writes Elliot Abrams, special representative for Venezuela at the U.S. State Department, in the Wall Street Journal. "It proposes that both Mr. Maduro, the former president who has clung to power, and Juan Guaidó, the interim president, step aside so that the elected members of the National Assembly from both sides can create a Council of State to serve as the transitional government, which would hold free and fair presidential elections." The plan builds on a proposal presented by Guaidó in negotiations with the Maduro government, last year, he says.
The council would be named by the opposition dominated National Assembly, but would require a two-thirds majority from lawmakers, reports the Associated Press.
The U.S. “Democratic Transition Framework” plan for Venezuela will be announced later today by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and represents an abrupt turnaround from more confrontational moves from the U.S., which last week accused Maduro of narco-terrorism. (Reuters)
Indeed, the contradiction makes for incoherence, argues U.S. Representative Eliot Engel on the House of Representative's Foreign Affairs Committee Twitter account. "Essentially, Maduro regime officials are being told on one hand that nothing they do will stop the US DOJ from pressing charges against them while on the other hand, they are being asked to agree to a transition government for unrelated sanctions relief."
And it is not clear whether the accusations are fully warranted, writes Jorge Castañeda in a New York Times op-ed. (See also Geoff Ramsey's take in yesterday's post.) Though the charges are likely substantiated, the U.S. move against Maduro "and his associates is essentially of a diplomatic and political nature."
It's hard to overstate Venezuela's particular vulnerability -- and the path to help stave off a health disaster that would certainly affect the rest of the region is international humanitarian aid, not more sanctions against the Maduro government, argue Cynthia Arnson and Oriana Van Praag in Americas Quarterly.
Poverty and Pandemic
Most experts predict a coronavirus economic crisis in the region (world), and a new report by Eurodad looks at the likely negative impacts on the poor and most vulnerable, particularly women. For those in precarious job situations -- the informal economy -- workers have no labor rights or social security to fall back on as those activities are affected by quarantines.
Informal workers make up a vast portion of Latin America's economy -- and they face a unique set of coronavirus challenges. They cannot afford to stop working, many of the quarantine measures set up in the region are preventing them from earning income, and they are the least covered by social services and thus the most vulnerable to adverse health effects during the pandemic. The impact could be particularly brutal and far-reaching in Mexico, where informal workers generate nearly a quarter of the economic output, reports the New York Times.
The problem exists in the U.S. too, where undocumented migrants face the added problem of losing their jobs combined with illegal status -- which exacerbates vulnerabilities and fear off accessing health services, reports The Nation.
In El Salvador thousands of citizens gathered to sign up for a $300 government subsidy around the country, yesterday, breaking the government's own quarantine protocols, reports El Faro. The offices were closed, prompting anger. Nine days into the obligatory lockdown, the gathered people made the desperate point that if they don't make their daily sales, they cannot eat. The episode points to implementation problems in the Bukele administration's announced subsidy package. (See also El Diario de Hoy)
Salvadoran gangs are backing up the government's coronavirus quarantine, by enforcing their own, violence-backed lockdown in territories under their control, reports El Faro. Gang rules implemented yesterday, and coordinated among the leadership of the country's three main criminal organizations, dictate that only one member of each household can go food shopping, and only in specific time frames, under the threat of beatings. The logic behind the move includes fears that gang members would be denied medical attention if contagion is widespread, or an effort to avoid greater police presence in their neighborhoods.
As Latin American countries struggle to respond to the devastating economic costs of quarantines and coronavirus, many economic ministries are headed by millennials, who are under intense pressure, reports Brendan O'Boyle at Americas Quarterly. The piece focuses particularly on the cases of Peru and Argentina, which have launched massive programs to offset the devastation wrought by restrictions.
Pandemic and Gender
"Women comprise 70% of the global healthcare workforce. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the most effective policy responses will be those that account for how the crisis is experienced by women and girls," write Susan Papp and Marcy Hersh of Women Deliver at Project Syndicate.
In Brazil the percentage of women carrying out care tasks is 85 percent, and they are overloaded and facing unique abuses in the times of coronavirus, reports Gênero e Número.
Another Eurodad report looks at the gendered dimension of health care challenges in Latin America.
A group of demographers, epidemiologists and social policy researchers from Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) are urging regional governments and international organizations to take immediate actions to drastically increase the availability and coverage of COVID-19 tests in the region.
A group of prominent leftist politicians called for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to resign, saying he has personally become a "public health problem" due to his ongoing resistance to quarantine measures fomented by his own health ministry. (Guardian)
Nicaragua's Ortega government is so determined to feign normalcy in the midst of Covid-19, that Sandinista mayors have organized religious activities cancelled by the Catholic Church, which called off full-attendance masses, reports Confidencial.
If authorities don't move to limit coronavirus contagion, Nicaragua's hospitals will be totally collapsed within 28 days, reports Confidencial.
New York's federal prosecutor asked for former Honduran lawmaker, Antonio Hernández (brother of Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández) to be sentenced in May to 40 years to life in jail for cocaine trafficking conspiracy. (ConfidencialHN)
Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado has pledged to protect indigenous land rights, in the wake of a wave of violence against native communities, reports the Guardian.