Venezuela flickering (March 27, 2019)
Parts of Venezuela, including Caracas neighborhoods, have been without power since Monday afternoon -- just two weeks after a massive power outage caused chaos in much of the country. (See yesterday's post.)
The government has opened a criminal investigation into alleged sabotage of the Guri hydroelectric station. Authorities claim a fire that led to electrical outages was part of a terrorist attack. (Efecto Cocuyo and Efecto Cocuyo)
At least one hospital patient in Caracas died in direct relation to the power failures, according to Médicos por la Salud. (Efecto Cocuyo)
International Contact Group meets today
Sixteen countries will participate in the second International Contact Group meeting to be held in Quito today. The effort is led by the European Union and aims to bring about new elections in Venezuela within a few months. (See Feb. 7's post.) Ecuador, will co-chair the meeting. The Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, as well as Caricom's head will partiicpate, along with foreign ministers from Spain, Portugal, Costa Rica, Uruguay, and Chile. Germany, France, Italy, The Netherlands, the UK, and Sweden will also have representatives at the meeting. (EFE)
In a new twist, several members of the regional 14-country Lima Group are considering allying with the ICG in order to carry out negotiations with the Maduro administration to hold foreign-supervised free elections this year, according to the Miami Herald's Andrés Oppenheimer. The change in strategy comes three months into Venezuela's legitimacy crisis -- in which much of the international community does not recognize President Nicolás Maduro's legitimacy in office -- as the massive military uprising the opposition hoped would oust the government seems increasingly unlikely.
Indeed, a power-sharing agreement of some sort between Chavistas and the opposition, along with electoral reform, represent the best chance for Venezuela to escape its hyper-polarized crisis, argues Dimitri Pantalous in must-read NACLA piece. A shared transition government could prove a crucial step towards reestablishing a stable democratic order he writes.
The EU announced an additional €50 million in emergency assistance to Venezuela, as part of its commitment from February when the ICG was created in Montevideo.
More from Venezuela
Venezuela's opposition-led National Assembly criticized Russian military presence in the country. Opposition leader and presidential challenger Juan Guaidó claims it is the government's response to restlessness within Venezuela's armed forces, reports Efecto Cocuyo. (See yesterday's post.)
The U.S. House of Representatives approved three bills aimed at increasing pressure on Maduro's government on Monday. One would increase restrictions on the export of crime control tools such as tear gas and riot gear. Another asks the Trump administration to provide $150 million in humanitarian aid. And the third would require the State Department and intelligence agencies to provide an assessment about the threat from Russian influence in Venezuela, reports the Associated Press. (See yesterday's post.)
A Venezuelan counterintelligence officer who defected from Maduro's government said Venezuelan state agents are running clandestine detention centers on properties seized from drug groups, where anti-government soldiers and citizens are tortured under the supervision of Cuban agents. These are new, and grave allegations, reports InSight Crime.
Peer into the increasingly small world of Venezuela's remaining elite in this Associated Press coverage of a wealthy wedding celebration.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's directive for the country's armed forces to celebrate the anniversary of a military coup has enraged victims of the dictatorship and human rights activists. It's part of a growing campaign to portray the 1964 military coup as a "democratic revolution" that saved Brazil from communism -- a whitewashing of a regime that tortured and imprisoned thousands akin to Holocaust denial, say critics. (Guardian, see yesterday's briefs.)
Brazil's controversial pension reform plan hit its latest obstacles yesterday -- Economy Minister Paulo Guedes skipped the first congressional hearing on the proposals, and a bloc of 11 political parties demanded that changes to rural and disabled workers' benefits be withdrawn, reports Reuters.
The timing of corruption accusations against presidential candidate and former Guatemalan attorney general Thelma Aldana lend weight to her claim that they are politically motivated, reports InSight Crime. (See last Wednesday's post.)
A group of civil society organizations in Guatemala has joined to monitor electoral proposals. They hope to build on the popular anti-corruption movements that started in 2015, and are calling themselves Pacto Ciudadano. (Nómada)
Another migrant caravan -- comprised of about 2,500 Central Americans -- is traveling through southern Mexico towards the U.S. border. They are receiving a more hostile welcome from local officials than last year's groups, and activists say the Mexican government is trying to wear migrants out before they reach the border. Authorities have stopped issuing humanitarian visas at the Guatemalan border, which granted migrants legal status, reports the Associated Press.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the government would reactivate the National Missing Persons Search System as part of efforts to address the country's enforced disappearance problem. More than 40,000 people are listed as missing in Mexico, there are 26,000 unidentified bodies at morgues and at least 1,300 clandestine graves across the country, reports EFE. (See yesterday's briefs.)
Mexican marines have drastically increased their use of lethal force in clashes with armed gangs, raising important human rights questions ahead of a new National Guard that would draw troops from the armed forces, reports InSight Crime.
Indeed, the new force will be aided by Army and Marines, reports Reforma.
Mexican writers and creative industry workers have started reporting widespread sexual harassment on social media. The local outburst of #MeToo started on Saturday, when female writers shared incidents of sexual harassment, physical attacks and psychological bullying on Twitter. A recent survey commissioned by a journalist collective found that 73% of female media workers have suffered sexual harassment -- many from their direct supervisor or sources for a story. (Guardian)
Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán asked a U.S. judge to grant him a new trial, saying juror misconduct -- following the media coverage of the judicial process -- deprived him of his constitutional right to a fair trial, reports Reuters.
Many former coca growers in Colombia say substitution programs -- in which producers are paid to grow licit crops instead -- have been poorly implemented and left many farmers in financial ruin and contemplating a return to coca, reports AFP.
El Salvador's judiciary could set a historic human rights precedent if it chooses to try people accused of ordering the 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests and two other people at the Central American University (UCA), reports EFE.
Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno talks progressive, but acts conservative, according to the Real News Network.
Residents of a remote Amazonian region seized a small oil installation operated by a Canadian energy company. They are demanding electricity and other government services, reports Reuters.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...
Latin America Daily Briefing