Venezuelan talks restart (Aug. 13, 2021)
Talks between Venezuela's government and the opposition start today in Mexico City -- the fourth time in five years that the opposition has sought a deal with President Nicolás Maduro. The negotiations are being brokered by Norway, which has mediated in past efforts to reach an agreement aimed at restoring democracy and easing Venezuela's acute humanitarian crisis. Representatives are expected to define an agenda and schedule for the dialogue process to begin in earnest in September.
However, this time there will be a greater international presence at the table: Russia will accompany Maduro's camp, while the Netherlands will sit with the opposition. A broader group of about 10 other nations, including the United States, Canada, Britain, Turkey and Bolivia, will be designated as key actors, reports the Washington Post.
Maduro is demanding the “lifting of all sanctions,” which have exacerbated the country’s punishing economic crisis, the “recognition of legitimate and constitutional authorities,” and that the opposition “renounce the violence.” Opposition demands include an electoral schedule, a massive plan to import Covid-19 vaccines and the guarantee of transparent elections, reports the Associated Press.
Maduro emphasized that the government would go to the talks "autonomously and independently and does not submit to blackmail or threats from the United States government." He spoke after the U.S. urged him to make serious efforts toward holding elections if he wants sanctions relief, reports AFP.
Maduro comes to the negotiations with more strength than in previous instances, and his stepping down is no longer a condition for an agreement. A positive outcome might be incremental agreements on access to coronavirus vaccines, the release of political prisoners and a more level playing field for local and regional elections in November, reports the Washington Post.
Talks won't "provide a “big bang” moment that will dislodge chavismo from the presidential palace and immediately restore democracy," warns Maryhen Jiménez Morales in Americas Quarterly. "Instead, demands in Mexico should center around humanitarian and institutional factors that can help build, brick by brick, a new inclusive political system." She suggests looking at how Mexican opposition parties challenged the PRI's 71-year rule. "Democratization takes time, even decades, and that those processes are not linear."
Venezuelans are skeptical of a political resolution: “The polls demonstrate that there is a deep desire for change, but there’s also deep fatigue for two reasons, not only the daily struggle for survival, but also the inability of politicians up until now to make any difference in their daily lives,” Cynthia Arnson, director of the Wilson Center’s Latin American Program, told the Associated Press.
International support for negotiations will be key. "Success in this round of negotiations will require robust and clear backing from international stakeholders, most notably the United States, as well as realistic expectations, write David Smilde, Geoff Ramsey, Keith Mines and Steve Hege in The Hill. They write about the lessons gleaned from the past failed negotiations, and emphasize that "this time around, the negotiations will need clear support from the U.S. and a willingness to follow the opposition negotiators’ desires to use sanctions as a bargaining chip." They also urge that civil society voices form part of the negotiating process.
Venezuela’s partial dollarization has allowed for tenuous economic growth, but isn't enough to ensure recovery from years of hyperinflation, the president of business chamber Fedecamaras told Reuters in an interview.
Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Alexandre Moraes opened an investigation into right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro for posting documents to social media from a sealed police investigation into the hacking of a federal election court. Moraes ruled that Bolsonaro's posts must immediately be removed from social media and that the police officer leading the inquiry be removed. (Reuters)
Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon may have surpassed 10,000 square kilometres for the third straight year, continuing an increase since Bolsonaro assumed office in 2019. The area deforested from August to July was 8,793 square kilometres, just below last year’s record, according to daily alerts compiled by the government's National Institute for Space Research’s Deter monitoring system. (Associated Press)
Brazilian police are cracking down on a longstanding practice: illegal pesticide smuggling in from China, reports InSight Crime.
The Covid-19 pandemic created an e-commerce boom that "has been stronger in Latin America than in most other regions, presenting profound consequences for traditional informal economies as well as for citizens previously disconnected from formalized economic and financial networks," writes Alexander Borushek at the Aula Blog.
Colombia urgently needs help with the economic integration of Venezuelan immigrants, write Sergio Guzmán and Ivonne Marmolejo at Global Americans.
The UN refugee agency has expressed concern about a new US practice of transferring asylum seekers and migrants expelled under public health orders by plane to southern Mexico, reports AFP. (See Wednesday's briefs.)
InSight Crime profiles the most important newer criminal actors in Mexico.
Societal indifference over forced sterilization carried out by Peruvian dictator Alberto Fujimori's government between 1990-2000 has left thousands of alleged victims waiting a quarter-century for justice and reparations, reports EFE.
A photograph of a birthday gathering for Argentina's first lady, held at the president's official residence last July while the country was under strict lockdown, has spurred condemnation and opposition calls to impeach President Alberto Fernández. (Ámbito)
Fernández called for an "honest debate" on legalizing marijuana in an interview, comparing cannabis to alcohol and tobacco. (Infobae)
The 500-year anniversary of the 1521 fall of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlán, now the site of Mexico City, has spurred new narratives regarding what was, by any account, a global turning point. "Was the 1521 surrender of the great Indigenous empire to the Spanish crown a triumphant conquest, an existential tragedy—or even a genocide?" asks National Geographic, while the Los Angeles Times delves into the revisions and the revisions of the revisions.
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