Argentina Green-lights Pro Business Shift

By Ronald J. Morgan

Argentina’s recent Oct. 22, midterm elections have reshaped the Argentine congress and made the conservative Cambiemos Party the major power in the land. Winning more than 40 percent of the votes nation wide, the coalition of Cambiemos, Union Civica Radical and Coalicion Civica ARI, has achieved a landslide victory. 1. 2.

Cristina Kirchner, and her Unidad Ciudadana, were defeated in all but two of the country’s 23 provinces — Formosa and Rio Negro. And while former President Kirchner (2007-2013) will be in the senate as the head of the party, she lost to Cambiemos member Esteban Bullrich, Minister of Education, by about 400,000 votes according to EL PAIS.  It was a symbolic face off in Buenos Aires province, and for some, it showed the declining power of Kirchernism. The opposition Peronist Party (Justicialista Party), also suffered a severe set back; losing 75 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 11 in the Senate. 3, 4

In addition to the Bullrich victory, Cambiemos candidate Elisa Carrio scored a powerful win in the Chamber of Deputies taking 50.93% of the votes for the Buenos Aires seat. The win  could propel her toward a major political role in the future.

SEE: Argentina Votes Ahead of Radical Neoliberal Reforms

The victory for Macri’s party has fueled a powerful advance for radical neoliberal reforms. A convert to the beliefs of the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, (OECD), Marci has vowed his economic program wIll change Argentina forever and reduce poverty through its pro business reforms which will ensure increases in investment and GDP growth. 5, 6, 7. 7a, 7b.

“Today the certainty that we can change history forever won,” President Macri said on election night. “We want to achieve something big, a country that has decided to do things well.”

Who wouldn’t be a bit overly ambitious after defeating one  of Argentina’s most powerful political machines so soundly. But the new neoliberal dogma seems mostly aimed at  making life easier for Argentina’s business sector and foreign investors. 

As Christmas and summer vacation approach, the effects will be further price hikes and the dismal prospect of major government worker job cuts next year. And added to that, will be dramatic labor reforms which will cut into job benefits and legal rights.  Argentina retirees will see a scaling back of the formula for cost of living increases.

For the business sector it will be a good Christmas for Scrooge indeed. Macri plans a major tax cut and overhaul of the tax system. Argentina’s investment and money market laws will also be liberalized. 8, 9, 10

Power will be in the hands of the Argentine rich more than at anytime since the President Carlos Menem (1989-1999) era. For instance, shortly after the election results were in, Macri appointed the head of Argentina’s Rural Society, Luis Miguel Etchevehere, to the post of Agriculture Minister. Macri has told the foremost representative of the agricultural sector to draw up a series of reforms likeable to the Argentina agricultural interests.

Kirchner has suffered a severe defeat in the Congress and is awash in legal prosecutions. Nevertheless, she has vowed to fight the growing neoliberal advance. “This is just the beginning” she said, of the fight ahead for the Left.

Argentina’s powerful labor sector has begun meeting to draw up a plan to stop Macri efforts to change major components of Argentina’s labor law.

“This will not pass congress,” said Hector Daer of the CGT labor confederation. 11, 12.,13

A major component of the Macri agenda is aimed at reducing Argentina’s government deficit. As a result, Macri plans to reign in both central government and state government expenditures. Macri has spoken out about too many employees in state universities, health institutions and libraries not to mention the glut of congressional assistants. Government para-state companies also will suffer budget slashing and employee reductions.14,15,16

Even with the strong electoral mandate. Macri may find that the neoliberal program is more than Argentina can handle. Carrio, has  been rumored to have some ability to check Macri proposals. Her big win could also set up a run at the presidency in two years.

For certain, strikes and street protests are up ahead.

Despite all the talk about austerity, the Macri economic strategy is relying on heavy foreign borrowing, which is being used to stimulate the economy through infrastructure projects. La Republica of Uruguay reported that the Macri government will have borrowed $125 billion by 2018. The amount of debt being accumulated is raising concerns of a disaster down the road. Macri has said the borrowing will continue until the austerity cuts take hold.17, 18, 19.

Macri hopes to have the economy back up and running next year. The growth with lower inflation, could propel Marci to reelection in two years.


ELECTION RESULTS, WIKIPEDIA 

Chamber of Deputies: Up for vote, 127 seats out of 257

Cambiemos 61 seats won, total seats 109, up 19.

Unidad Ciudadana 28 seats won, 30 seats total. up 25.

Justicialista Party (Peronist Party) 18 won, 23 seats total, down 75.

Unido Por una Nueva Alternativa 4 seats won, 19 seats total, down 17.

Frente Civico Por Santiago 3 seats won, 6 total,  even.

Union por Cordoba 3 seats won, 5 seats total, even.

Frente Renovador de la Concordia 2 seats won,4 four total down 1.

Evolucion 2 seats won, 2 seats total.  2 up (new party).

Chubut para Todos 1 seat won, 2 seats total, 1 down.

Frente Pro Civica y Social  1 seat won, 1 seat total, 2 down.

Movimiento Popular Neuquino |1 seat won, 1 seat total, 1 seat down.

Partido Instransiente 1 seat won, 1 seat total, 1 up. (new party).

Salta Somos Todos 0 seats won, 1 seats total,  no change.

Proyecto Sur 0 seats won, 0 seats total, 1 down.

ARGENTINE SENATE RESULTS 24 of 72 seats.

Cambiemos 12sets won ,26 seats total, 9 up.

Unidad Ciudadana 6 seats won, 6 seats total, 3 up.

Partido Justicialista (Peronist Party) 4 seats won, 28 seats total, down 11.

Frente Renovador de la Concordia 2 seats won, 2 seats total,  even.

Unido Para una Nueva Alternativa 9 seats won, 4 seats total, 1 seat down.

Other Parties: 6 seats.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentine_legislative_election,_2017


SOURCES:

1. Mauricio Macri logra una victoria aplastante en las Elecciones de Argentina El presidente derrota a Cristina Kirchner en Buenos Aires y arrasa en casi todo el paíshttps://elpais.com/internacional/2017/10/22/argentina/1508700266_925755.html?id_externo_rsoc=TW_CC

2. Argentine legislative election, 2017 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentine_legislative_election,_2017

3. Cambiemos se impuso en los distritos más grandes del país y venció a Cristina Kirchner https://www.clarin.com/politica/cambiemos-impuso-distritos-grandes-pais-vencio-cristina-kirchner_0_HJ1gXJip-.html

4. El Triunfor de Elisa Carrio https://www.infobae.com/politica/2017/08/14/el-triunfo-de-elisa-carrio-un-arma-de-doble-filo-para-el-gobierno-proyecta-su-figura-nacional-y-gana-terreno-para-la-critica-interna/

5. Macri tiene un apoyo muy fuerte de la opinion publica http://www.lanacion.com.ar/2078587-alejandro-catterberg-director-de-poliarquia-macri-tiene-un-apoyo-muy-fuerte-de-la-opinion-publica

6.. El presidente Mauricio Macri presentó las propuestas para consensuar políticas públicas

7. Los 5 desafíos económicos que enfrenta el Gobierno tras las elecciones https://www.clarin.com/economia/desafios-economicos-enfrenta-gobierno-elecciones_0_HJbfeLq6Z.html

7a. Mauricio Macri y sus diez definiciones más fuertes https://www.clarin.com/politica/mauricio-macri-definiciones-fuertes_0_SJ8Jx1BRW.html

7b. El guion del FMI https://www.pagina12.com.ar/72763-el-guion-del-fmi

8. las naftas comienza la temporada de aumentoshttps://www.pagina12.com.ar/71053-con-las-naftas-comienza-la-temporada-de-aumentos

9. Marci planea un fuerte achicamiento de cargos http://www.lanacion.com.ar/2079551-macri-planea-un-fuerte-achicamiento-de-cargos-y-estructuras

10. Marci impulsara una profunda reforma laboral http://www.republica.com.uy/mauricio-macri-impulsara-una-profunda-reforma-laboral/

11. El Plan para el future es volver al pasado https://www.pagina12.com.ar/73485-el-plan-para-el-futuro-es-volver-al-pasado

12. Fue escrito por empresarios https://www.pagina12.com.ar/73483-fue-escrito-por-empresarios

13. Elecciones y después https://www.pagina12.com.ar/71724-elecciones-y-despues

14. Para garantizar la injusticia social https://www.pagina12.com.ar/73943-para-garantizar-la-injusticia-social

15. Reforma de Macri viola derechos de trabajadores https://www.telesurtv.net/news/Reforma-de-Macri-viola-derechos-de-trabajadores-en-Argentina-20171103-0030.html

16. El proyecto no pasa https://www.pagina12.com.ar/73944-el-proyecto-no-pasa

17. Para garantizar la injusticia social https://www.pagina12.com.ar/73943-para-garantizar-la-injusticia-social

18. JUBILADOS, DEVALUADOS

https://www.pagina12.com.ar/73945-movilidad-social-descendente

19. Mauricio Macri seguira tomando deuda deficit https://www.clarin.com/economia/economia/mauricio-macri-seguira-tomando-deuda-deficit_0_BJfb7Os6b.html

 

 

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Venezuela Opposition Opts Out of Municipal Elections

By Ronald J. Morgan

In a surprising turnabout, the Venezuela opposition is in tumult following a dispute over the legitimacy of the Venezuelan Constitutional Assembly. As a result of a feeling that the Venezuelan electoral system should be declared fraudulent and the assembly discredited as well, the opposition bloc, Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD), has announced that it will not participate in the upcoming Dec. 10, municipal elections. 1.

The announcement by all  major opposition groups comes after a dispute over how to handle the swearing in of the five opposition governors who won in the Oct. 15 elections. The oppositon won five out of 23 governorships. The decision by the Accion Democratica faction to go along with the government’s order to swear in their four newly elected governors before the assembly led to a dispute with other members of the MUD coalition. Henrique Capriles, head  of the Primero Justicia party, former governor of Merida state and an opposition presidential candidate twice, announced that he was leaving the opposition coalition. He said he would not return as long as Henry Ramos Allup, head of the Accion Democratica remained. Ramos Allup served as president of the Venezuealan National Assembly in 2016. 2,3

The coalition had declared the Constitutional Assembly illegitimate. But the government left the opposition winners little choice but to swear in under their authority or be disqualified from holding office. Four governors who are members of  Accion Democratica Party swore in while one member of the Primero Justicia party refused to swear in. The Accion Democratica governors are: Antonio Barreto Sira, Anzoategui state; Ramon Guevara, Merida state; Alfredo Diaz, Nueva Esparta state and Laidy Gomez, Tachira state. Refusing to swear in was Juan Pablo Guanipa, Zulia state.

Guanipa was fired by the Zulia state legislature in retaliation for not swearing in. A new election for Zulia governor will be held Dec. 10

SEE: Venezuela Regional Elections: A Major Opposition Defeat

The situation was seen by a number of opposition members and some foreign observers as weakening the objective of declaring the constitutional assembly illegitimate. It also undermined charges that the Oct. 15 regional elections were fraudulent. 4,5.6

Whether the sworn-in Accion Democratica governors will function as some type of official opposition was also a concern for opposition groups like Voluntad Popular and Primero Justicia. Ramos Allup has announced that Accion Democratica will join in the boycott of the December municipal elections. He agrees that current conditions are not adequate for fair elections. In the mean time, he also favors moving ahead with opposition primaries to choose a unified presidential candidate.

The United States, Organization of American States, the European Union and the Lima Group of former foreign presidents have declared the election marred by fraud and irregularities. 7,8,9,10

At the same time that the Opposition MUD was falling apart the European Union awarded the group the Andrei Sakharov prize for human rights. The prize signalled out for recognition, the National Assembly and its opposition leader Julio Borges. It also honored opposition members being held in prison: Leopoldo Lopez, Antonio Ledezma, Daniel Ceballos, Yon Goicoechea, Lorent Saleh, Alfredo Ramos and Andrea Gonzalez.

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro has declared the opposition MUD to have “self suicided” The newpaper Tal Cual reported that Maduro threatened to send opposition members to prison if they sabotaged the municipal elections. Maduro has also criticized the opposition for only recognizing the results when they win. 11,12

The president is seen by some as benefitting from the surprise win for the official party coalition in the Oct. 15 elections and the resulting disarray in the opposition. So far, hard and fast proof of election fraud has also failed to materialize.  The move away from electoral participation by the opposition will at least in the short run strengthen the government’s hold on the country. All out polarization over the legitimacy of the Maduro government also is ahead.

SOURCES:

1. Ramos Allup: Militante de Acción Democrática que se postule quedará autoexcluido http://www.talcualdigital.com/Nota/151164/ramos-allup-militante-de-accion-democratica-que-se-postule-quedara-autoexcluido

2. Henrique Capriles anunció su retiro de la Mesa de la Unidad http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/oposicion/henrique-capriles-anuncio-retiro-mesa-unidad_2091773.

3. Venezuela: ¿qué consecuencias puede tener para la oposición que se fracture la MUD por las divisiones entre Henrique Capriles y Henry Ramos Allup?http://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-41744117

4. Perú plantea involucrar a la ONU para afrontar crisis en Venezuela http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/mundo/peru-plantea-involucrar-onu-para-afrontar-crisis-venezuela_209371

5. Venezuelan Opposition Announces International Tour to Denounce “Electoral Fraud”https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/13465 .

6. OEA denuncia irregularidades en recientes elecciones venezolanas http://www.la-razon.com/mundo/venezuela-elecciones-denuncia-oea-irregularidades_0_2807719243.html

7. Elecciones regionales en Venezuela
Por James Petras, Rebelión –  Oct. 28, 2017 http://argentina.indymedia.org/news/2017/10/914336.php?theme=1

8. On Venezuela’s Regional Elections: Some Elephants in the Roomhttps://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/13464

9. Hinterlaces: Mayoría del pueblo avala el modelo económico socialista http://www.avn.info.ve/contenido/hinterlaces-mayor%C3%ADa-del-pueblo-avala-construcci%C3%B3n-modelo-econ%C3%B3mico-socialista

10. Oposición venezolana carece de credibilidad en la población info.ve/contenido/jvr-oposici%C3%B3n-venezolana-carece-credibilidad-poblaci%C3%B3n

11. Nicolás Maduro: La oposición tomó el camino del “autosuicidio”http://www.talcualdigital.com/Nota/151168/nicolas-maduro-la-oposicion-tomo-el-camino-del-autosuicidio

12. Maduro afianza su poder sobre una oposición fracturada http://www.la-razon.com/nacional/Venezuela-Maduro-oposicion-Capriles_0_2807719244.html

 

 

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Venezuela Regional Elections: A Major Opposition Defeat

Ronald J. Morgan

After street protests, which left 125 dead in Venezuela in the  first half of 2017, the second half of the year has been marked by election of a new constitutional convention and regional elections.

The protests called for a return to full democracy including respect for all government powers — congress, supreme court and presidency. In return,the government of President Nicolas Maduro (2013-) responded with a new constitutional convention which has consolidated his hold on the country. 1.

Maduro has said the convention, which will rule supreme for two years, has brought the country social peace and beaten back a violent coup from the streets. The opposition and international supporters have depicted the new assembly as establishing a dictatorship. The July 30, Constitutional Assembly election was criticized as fraudulent. The chief charge was that the voter turnout had been inflated by a 1 million votes. The election also was convened by presidential decree rather than by a national referendum. Once the new constitution is drawn up, however, it will face a voter referendum.

See: Venezuela Crisis Deepens

With the constitutional convention underway, the new assembly voted to move up regional elections to October 15.  With Maduro popularity hitting the basement and the country plagued by food and medicine shortages as well as hyperinflation members of the opposition MUD (Mesa de la Unidad Democratica) thought that they could show their power in any election and easily prove that the government was without support.

Even though the government’s power was already secured by the Constitutional Convention the opposition decided to participate in the Oct. 15 regional elections. They expected a landslide victory and opinion polls seemed to validate that assumption.

But the results, instead, gave a landslide victory to the government. The pro-government coalition Gran Polo Patriotico (GPP) won 18 out of 23 governor seats. A pro-government analysis argued that voters were tired of street protest violence and a government food assistance program was popular. The official turnout was 61% of registered voters.  The official party GPP took 52.7% of the total votes to the 45.1% for the MUD.  2a,2b

The United States immediately accused Venezuela of fraud, but so far, concrete proof has not been provided. OAS General Secretary Luis Alamagro also condemned the election as did forty foreign countries.  3,4,5,5a

Criticism of the election included: Last minute relocation of voting centers; inclusion of defeated primary candidates on the ballot, lack of invisible ink at some polling stations, mysterious power outages, Pro government supporters known as Colectivos patrolling near polling places.

Opinion polls before the vote showed the MUD ahead. The firm Datanalysis showed MUD ahead 44.7% to 21.1% for GPP.

The opposition has called for an extensive audit of the election process. Further internationally mediated talks aimed at reducing polarization inside Venezuela have also been put on hold. 6,7,8

Further complications arose when the five newly elected opposition governors said they would not be sworn in by the Constituent Assembly since the opposition has refused to recognize the body. The governors won in the Venezuela states of Anzoátegui, Nueva Esparta, Mérida, Táchira y Zulia. President Nicolas Maduro has announced that unless they agree to be sworn in by the Constituent Assembly and respect its powers new elections will be held in those states.

Venezuelan municipal elections are scheduled for Dec. 10. Presidential elections are coming next year. It is expected that the United States and the European Union will implement new sanctions against Venezuela. Venezuela faces increasing financial commitments in coming months. 9,10,11

SOURCES:

1, What has Venezuela’s constituent assembly achieved? http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-41094889#

2. Nicolás Maduro: “Venezuela le dio un mensaje brutal a EE.UU. y sus aliados en las elecciones regionales” https://www.clarin.com/mundo/nicolas-maduro-venezuela-dio-mensaje-brutal-eeuu-aliados-elecciones-regionales_0_H1zEcn7pW.html

2a 18 gobernaciones ganó el chavismo el 15-O http://www.avn.info.ve/contenido/18-gobernaciones-gan%C3%B3-chavismo-15-o

2b. Regionales en Venezuela: claves del nuevo escenario político https://www.telesurtv.net/telesuragenda/Regionales-en-Venezuela-20171016-0017.html

3. Elecciones en Venezuela no fueron ni libres ni justas: EE.UU.https://www.elespectador.com/noticias/el-mundo/elecciones-en-venezuela-no-fueron-ni-libres-ni-justas-eeuu-articulo-7183983.

4.. “Ninguna elección en Venezuela dará garantía a los electores”: Secretario general de la OEA, Luis Almagro http://www.ntn24america.com/noticia/almagro-ninguna-eleccion-venezuela-dara-garantia-a-los-electores-155312

5.. 40 countries protest Venezuela’s new assembly amid fraud accusations https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/02/venezuela-voting-fraud-corruption-allegations-protests

5a. Venezuelan Regional Election: Opposition Claims Fraud in Areas They Won http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=20240#.WeZavAcwun4.twitter

6. Oposición venezolana no asistirá al diálogo hasta que se realice auditoría de todo el proceso electoral http://www.ntn24america.com/noticia/Oposici%C3%B3n-venezolana-no-asistir%C3%A1-al-di%C3%A1logo-hasta-que-se-realice-auditoria-de-todo-el-proceso-electoral-155307

7. Resultados del 15-O no se corresponden con la baja popularidad de Maduro http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/politica/resultados-del-15-o-corresponden-con-baja-popularidad-maduro_208143

8. Los resultados de las elecciones en Venezuela difieren por más de 30 puntos con las proyecciones de las encuestas https://www.infobae.com/america/venezuela/2017/10/16/los-resultados-de-las-elecciones-en-venezuela-difieren-por-mas-de-30-puntos-con-las-proyecciones-de-las-encuestas/#XAS3QRFMDJHGLKYDTE3JIMQYXY

9. Venezuela regional election roundup https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venezuelan_regional_elections,_2017

10. Venezuela Protest Timeline : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_2017_Venezuelan_protests#August

11. Maduro enfrenta un trimestre con restricciones financieras y altos compromisos http://www.talcualdigital.com/Nota/148804/maduro-enfrenta-un-trimestre-con-restricciones-financieras-y-altos-compromisos

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Argentina Votes Ahead of Radical Neoliberal Reforms

By Ronald J. Morgan

In what could be the economic policy showdown of the decade, Argentines will be either green lighting a radical neoliberal policy by President Mauricio Macri or signalling a need to put a break on pro business and government austerity reforms when they vote in congressional elections Oct. 22. 1,2,3,3a,3b,4

Former President Cristina Kirchner (2007-2015), who is facing investigations for corruption during the past administration, is nevertheless, leading the Left campaign against Macrism.  While the Kirchner campaigning has been formidable, the Macri forces are showing a growing strength.  Argentines gave the Macri Cambiemos (Let’s Change) Party a strong show of support in the Aug. 13 primary elections. Cambiemos won in Kirchner strongholds such as Santa Cruz, Cordoba and Salta. Anti-Kirchenr Chamber of Deputies candidates Elisa Carrio and Margarita Stolbizer, won large victories.

In the media-watched Buenos Aires province  senatorial race, however, Kirchner defeated Esteban Bullrich, the former head of government for Buenos Aires City under Macri, by a razor thin margin. But the close victory could not offset the overall Cambiemos win. The Cambiemos gains caused euphoria in the stock market and international business sectors.

“We’re are two weeks away from ratifying that we are convinced of the path that we have chosen,” The Argentine Daily Clarin reported Macri as saying to a gathering in Puerto Iguazu. We decided that we want to live with the truth, that we don’t want more lies, that we don’t want more mafias, narcos, nor corruption. That time has ended.”

Macri had a second good turn of  luck when better than expected economic news showed the economy pulling out of recession. Inflation also is headed downward after peaking at 40% last year. The Argentine Central Bank predicts 22.8% inflation at the end of the year.  The official statistics agency INDEC predicts year-end growth for 2017 of 2.7%.  Economic recovery in Brazil will also help stimulate Argentine economic activity. 5,6,7,7a,8

Whether the pain of the recent severe downturn is behind most Argentines is doubted however.  Since Macri took over in January 2016, what’s being termed the “Adjustment” has filled the streets with homeless and returned Argentines to the streets in protest in a way not seen since the 1990s.  Government and private sector firings, accompanied by radical price hikes, which caused a loss of consumer purchasing power, have been endured since Macri took office. 8a

Poverty conditions improved slightly in the first half of 2017. Official INDEC statistics showed a 1.7% drop in poverty from last year to 28.6%. Currently, 7.84 million Argentines are below the poverty line.  Some 1.7 million Argentines are classified as indigent.

See: Argentina’s Neoliberalism: Firings, Price Hikes, Austerity

Macri and his economic team are showing a conservative zeal on the eve of the elections. He has announced plans for passage of  a package of radical neoliberal reforms as soon as Cambiemos posts an expected strong win Oct. 22. Tax cuts, labor reforms, and further cuts to federal and state bureaucracies are ready for passage. More price hikes are also planned to reduce government subsidies. 9,10,11,11a

The Argentine labor confederation CGT (Confederación General del Trabajo de la República Argentina) has been meeting with pro union Peronist congress members and senators to form a strategy to block Macri anti-labor reforms.

In addition to the scary prospect of more onerous price hikes and government job cuts there have been some weaknesses in the Macri turnaround.  The government has been criticized for heavy borrowing from foreign lenders. After 15 years without access to the international bond market Argentina borrowed $16.5 billion in 2016. Then in 2017 it issued an unusual 100 year bond for $2.75 billion. A large trade deficit still looms and capital flight has been brisk. The Argentine peso also is still devaluing in an erratic manner. Multilateral borrowing has also increased. Total foreign debt now stands at $204.5 billion. Moodys credit rating agency criticized the foreign borrowing in October and said it was “credit negative”. 12,13,14,14a

The borrowing was channeled into infrastructure projects which are being used to stimulate the Argentine economy. Public works construction is evident throughout Argentina. The government plans to under take 59 major infrastructure projects worth $26 billion over the next three years. 15,16

Kirchner entered the senate race with the hope of forming a strong opposition in congress. If she wins, Kirchner would receive protection from arrest in various legal proceedings. The former president formed a new movement — Citizen Unity (Unidad Ciudadana) — and hit the campaign trail with a list of Macri failings and a plea to save the nation from a far right shift. “They are preparing a great adjustment after the elections. The question is whether society is willing to give a blank check to this government,” she said recently. Barring legal complications, Kirchner could run for president again in 2019.

The October 22 vote, will elect 127 out of 257 members in the Chamber of Deputies and 24 members of the 72 member Senate. Two elections for governor will also occur this year. Cambiemos won the Corrientes province race and an election for the governor of Santiago del Estero  province is still ahead. 17,18

As in previous elections a number of legal proceedings, and political crimes are influencing the election environment. Argentines are watching how the Macri government handles the investigation into the Aug. 1 disappearance of a 28-year-old  Argentine backpacker, Santiago Maldonado. Santiago disappeared in Patagonia when members of a Argentine Gendameria police unit attacked and attempted to dislodge a Mapuche encampment that was conducting a protest on land owned by the Benneton Coporation. 19

Another sensitive case being looked at closely by Argentines and the international human rights community is that of pro-Kirchner social activist in Northern Argentina Jujuy province, Milagro Sala. Sala, 53, headed the Tupac Amaru neighborhood association and was the recipient of government funds to build a low-cost housing project for poor and indigenous persons. She also served as a state deputy. Shortly after Marci took office Sala was arrested during a protest against Governor Gerardo Morales. She since has been charged with misusing $2 million in public funds and disturbing the peace.  Activists have charged that Sala is the victim of a vendetta by the governor and is the first to fall to a trend to criminalize protest. 20

Last September, the Argentina forensics group of the Gendarmeria police issued a report declaring the Alberto Nisman death in January 2015, a homicide and not a suicide. Nisman was the prosecutor in the AMIA Jewish center bombing case. The new turn further heightens concerns about the possibility of a political plot to kill Nisman. 21

In addition to the Nisman case, corruption proceedings are moving ahead against Cristina Kirchner and a number of associates. Fernandez has become a subject of investigation in three corruption cases involving bribes. 22,23

Fernandez is also being investigated for covering up Iran’s role in the AMIA Jewish center attack of the 1990s. Nisman originally proposed the investigation four days before his mysterious death.

SOURCES: 

1, CFK, de campaña en Lanús https://www.pagina12.com.ar/66778-cfk-de-campana-en-lanus

2. Cristina Kirchner’s Interview with Infobae, Explained http://www.thebubble.com/cristina-kirchners-interview-infobae

3. La entrevista completa a Cristina Kirchner en Infobae http://www.infobae.com/politica/2017/09/14/en-vivo-entrevista-a-cristina-fernandez-de-kirchner-en-infobae/

3a. Cristina Kirchner ganó las primarias en Buenos Aires por 20.000 votos https://elpais.com/internacional/2017/08/30/argentina/1504052963_172150.html

3b. Macri domina las primarias pero Kirchner empata en Buenos Aires

https://elpais.com/internacional/2017/08/13/argentina/1502630221_677668.html

4. Entrevista con el Pte. de Argentina, Mauricio Macri” Oppenheimer Presenta # 1728

5. Macri, sobre la baja de la pobreza: “Es una muy buena noticia, pero esto recién comienza” https://www.clarin.com/politica/macri-baja-pobreza-buena-noticia-recien-comienza_0_H1umkg3jb.htm

6. Indec: Poverty Rate Clocked in at 28.6 Percent in the First Semester of 2017 down 1.7%

http://www.thebubble.com/indec-poverty-rate-dropped-to-28-6-percent-in-the-first-semester-of-2017/

7. Analistas mantienen proyección de inflación en 22% http://www.cesla.com/detalle-noticias-de-argentina.php?Id=31425

7a. El FMI sube la previsión de crecimiento de Argentina a 2,5 % en 2017 y 2018 https://www.clarin.com/economia/economia/fmi-sube-previsiones-crecimiento-argentina-2017-2018_0_SJrJ1D53-.html

8. El Gobierno desa elecciones sean hoy http://www.lanacion.com.ar/2066773-el-gobierno-desea-que-las-elecciones-sean-hoy

8a. Unidad Ciudadana Spot Lorena Pokoik #AsíNoVamosBien https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYa4UvnSMuw&feature=youtu.be

9. Macri Readies Tax, Fiscal Bills for Post-Election Drive https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-19/macri-is-said-to-ready-tax-fiscal-bills-in-post-election-drive?utm_content=economics&utm_campaign=socialflow-organic&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&cmpid%3D=socialflow-twitter-economics

10. La redistribución macrista del ingreso https://www.pagina12.com.ar/67968-la-redistribucion-macrista-del-ingreso

11, Los 5 puntos del proyecto de Ley de Responsabilidad Fiscal que será enviado al Congresohttp://www.infobae.com/economia/2017/08/18/los-5-puntos-del-proyecto-de-ley-de-responsabilidad-fiscal-que-sera-enviado-al-congreso/

11a  La Agenda del Gobierno en El Congreso http://www.infobae.com/politica/2017/09/25/la-agenda-del-gobierno-en-el-congreso-el-paquete-de-leyes-que-buscara-aprobar-despues-de-las-elecciones/

12. ARGENTINA: Unhedged Foreign Borrowing Raises Risks For Sub-sovereigns – Moody’shttp://markets.businessinsider.com/news/interestrates/ARGENTINA-Unhedged-Foreign-Borrowing-Raises-Risks-For-Sub-sovereigns-Moody-s-1003032622

13. Argentina returns to global debt markets after 15-years https://www.reuters.com/article/us-argentina-bonds-bids/argentina-returns-to-global-debt-markets-after-15-years-idUSKCN0XG2W0

14. Argentina sold $2.75 billion worth of 100-year junk bonds http://www.businessinsider.com/argentina-sold-275-billion-worth-of-100-year-junk-bonds-2017-6

14a. Crece la cantidad de plata de argentinos en el exterior https://www.clarin.com/economia/economia/crece-cantidad-plata-argentinos-exterior_0_HJefzM6jb.html

15. Argentina’s Macri bets on bus lane, public works ahead of key election http://www.reuters.com/article/us-argentina-politics/argentinas-macri-bets-on-bus-lane-public-works-ahead-of-key-election-idUSKBN17S2ZT

16. Argentina prevé inversiones público-privadas por US$26.000M http://www.cesla.com/detalle-noticias-de-argentina.php?Id=31457

17. Corrientes elige gobernador: Cambiemos se impone y evita el ballottage

https://www.cronista.com/elecciones2017/Corrientes-elige-gobernador-Cambiemos-se-impone-y-evita-el-ballottage-20171008-0001.html

18. Elecciones 2017: qué elige cada provincia

https://www.cronista.com/elecciones2017/El-cronograma-de-elecciones-2017-que-elige-cada-provincia-este-ano-20170601-0085.htm

19. Santiago Maldonado: missing backpacker takes center stage in Argentina’s elections https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/06/santiago-maldonado-argentina-election-missing-backpacker?CMP=share_btn_tw

20. Argentina’s Milagro Sala: Criminal, or “Political Prisoner”?http://americasquarterly.org/content/argentinas-milagro-sala-criminal-or-political-prisoner?

21. Nisman también tenía lesionados un dedo y un diente https://www.clarin.com/politica/nisman_0_H1IauDOjZ.html

23. Día por día: la agenda judicial que enfrentará el kirchnerismo en el último tramo de la campaña electoral http://www.lanacion.com.ar/2066243-la-agenda-judicial-que-enfrentara-el-kirchnerismo-en-el-ultimo-tramo-de-la-campana

 

 

 

 

 

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Ecuador’s Moreno Announces Austerity Cuts

By Ronald J. Morgan

We all know that this has been extremely difficult since 2015. Not having the liquid resources, we turned to foreign and domestic financing. Entering in a complex economic situation the decisions that were taken were not as measured as they should have been and they put a limit to the sustainability of our economy. Today we find a country with more equality, with more infrastructure, services and a growing human talent. But we have to pay for it.” President Lenin Moreno during his July 28 televised address.

After being elected as the successor to President Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s new president, Lenin Moreno, has begun a startling political turn away from his mentor and from the policies of the last decade.

During a televised address July 28, Moreno announced that the nation was facing a critical economic situation. In May, Correa had left the presidency saying the “table was set” for further economic progress but Moreno reported that overspending had been greater than first reported and that overall indebtedness had reached 49% of GDP. (Finance Minister Carlos de la Torre has since lowered the amount to 43% of GDP) 1,2,

The government, he said, was facing an annual financing shortfall of  $8 billion. The deficit forced Ecuador to break with an OPEC oil production quota and begin pumping extra petroleum.

See: Lenin Moreno to Continue Ecuador’s Citizens Revolution

In the first 100 Days of the Moreno Administration the Correa legacy of a Decade Won has come under withering attack. Economic problems have resulted in the public sector role in the economy needing to be reduced. A new austerity program is being characterized as changing the Ecuadoran economic model toward one that depends on  private sector investment for growth.

Moreno and Correa have sparred publicly. There have been charges of a theft of Correa e-mails and Moreno has denounced that Correa did not inform him of a hidden camera in the presidential palace. 3,3a

Added to the economic crisis is a corruption scandal involving bribes by the Brazilian Olderbrecht Corporation  which has ensnared Vice President Jorge Glas. A corruption probe into money laundering and illicit enrichment in the state oil company Petroecuador is also underway. 4,5,6

Another scandal involving administration of the justice system and undo pressure of judges, threatens to bring down a number of former Correa officials. A recent release of Correa e-mails (The emails are likely stolen) has brought calls for prosecution of the former president for illegal influence over the justice system. 7

Moreno has moved to establish a more conciliatory tone for his administration by improving relations with the nation’s Indigenous movement. An indigenous organization headquarters has been returned to the organization and seven indigenous protesters have been  pardoned for criminal violations. Moreno has also undertaken an extensive dialogue with the political opposition and the private sector. 8,9

In what could spell the end of a number of the more controversial policies of the Correa period, Moreno has announced a possible public consultation on a number of Correa Administration laws and policies, including a recently passed right to an indefinite reelection, a restrictive media law, and a government agency charged with naming persons to major government posts. Also expected to be on the ballot are justice sector reform and a property tax law. 10,11,12

The public consultation and a new government austerity program will set the Moreno government on a more centrist course than expected. In foreign policy, Moreno has reduced Ecuador’s support for Venezuela slightly, by criticizing the number of  so-called political prisoners being held.

So far, Moreno is receiving strong support in Ecuadoran opinion polls. The opinion poll Perfiles de Opinion gave Moreno 84% approval. Many of those polled said they approved of the president’s opening of dialogue with the opposition. 13

See: Ecuador Elections: The Citizens Revolution Without Correa

In the past, Ecuador has experienced strong economic crises. And president’s who have betrayed their campaign promises have been overthrown by street protests.

A number of prominent official party members have criticized Moreno’s new policies as being too close to those proposed by the opposition. Former President Correa has accused Moreno of turning the country over to right-wing bankers and political parties interested in back room power sharing agreements.

Several important Moreno cabinet members have resigned in order to defend the original Alianza Pais platform. These include Ricardo Patiño, government counselor under Moreno and former Defense Minister under Correa, Paola Pabon, National Secretary of Political Administration, and Virgilio Hernandez, presidential counselor for Housing and Environment. 14

Correa loyalists in the Partido Alianza Pais have issued a strong criticism of Moreno’s political shift and said they will not support a public consultation which responds to the right wing agenda and the economic powers, the removal of political rights or the “destabilization of the national institutionalism”. 15,16

The pro Correa group has said if the consultation is too pro opposition they will propose a constitutional convention to consider political reform. Such a reform could allow Correa to run as a delegate.

Moves by the president which have angered Correa and his supporters include:

!. Appointment of associates of former president Abdala Bucaram (1996-1997) to government posts.

2. The turning over of a new digital money system to private bank operation. Under a previous plan the system was to be operated by the central bank. The new digital money will save on the amount of dollar currency which must be purchased each year.

3. Use of a decree to strip Vice President Jorge Glas of his ability to carry out duties as Vice President after he publicly criticized the president for turning away from the Citizens Revolution.

4. Depiction of the Correa economic policies as reckless overspending that lead to unsustainable indebtedness. Correa has maintained that the over all indebtedness is less than the Moreno government says. He also objects to the charge that corruption was widespread in the government. Moreno announced the government’s public debt at $57.788 billion while the Correa Administration figure for May, showed a consolidated debt of $26,896 billion.

5. Moreno reorganized and fired Correa backers at the government-owned media, including El Telegrafo. 17

The Moreno administration, faced with heavy debt ($8 billion dollars in public debt payments and $12.5 billion in total financing requirements) and less revenue due to low oil prices, low mineral prices and a dollar currency that makes Ecuador less competitive against its competitors, is falling in line with a regional trend toward more austerity and increased reliance on private sector investment to propel the economy forward.

Nevertheless, Moreno has vowed to push through a major housing program and maintain current social programs. Government salaries have been cut 10%, positions eliminated and new hiring restricted for a savings of $2.8 million per month.. Six coordinating ministers have been cut.  Government buildings, cars, presidential jets and other property valued at $107 million will be sold immediately with more to go on the auction block later. 18

Tax incentives to return money from offshore are also expected.

The total fiscal austerity plan will be presented in two parts: The 2017 updated budget passed in September and the 2018 budget which will be passed in October. A total of $365 million to $369 million is expected to be saved through the new strategy. 19,20,21

The objective of the fiscal austerity will be to reduce the non-financial public sector deficit from the current 7.6% of GDP to 2% of GDP by 2021.

The economy is expected to grow slowly from 2017 to 2020 : 0.7% 2017, 1.6% 2018, 2.39% 2019, 2.49% 2020. Annual inflation was 0.28% in August due to the dollar economy. Unemployment was 5.78% in June according to the Ecuadoran Central Bank.

The new Moreno strategy will eliminate most large government infrastructure spending projects. The focus will be on stimulating private projects in the  construction industry (The government will eliminate a new real estate tax aimed at stopping land speculation in hopes of increasing construction investment to $ 4.8 billion. Non petroleum exports will be promoted through the new European Common Market free trade agreement. Products such as bananas, shrimp, chocolate, tuna and cafe are expected to increase from $7.04 billion to $8.3 billion in 2020.

The government also expects to promote an increase in mining projects to offset dependency on petroleum.

The government plans to save on purchases of U.S. currency by implementing an electronic money system which eliminates the use of currency.

Public highways will be opened to private concessions. Other private-public partnerships will also be promoted.

Focusing of fuel subsidies will save S300 million.

Despite the austerity program, social spending will be increased 27%. The government major public spending effort will be new housing. This year the government will build 325,000 homes. Of those, 191,000 will be given away free to extremely low income families. 22

The housing program will begin with a $500 million dollar appropriation which will stimulate the construction industry and the economy in general.

Eight social programs known as Plan Para Toda La Vida will be budgeted at 878.3 million dollars.

SOURCES:

1. 28 de julio de 2017  20:26 Lenín Moreno dice que situación económica del país es crítica http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/leninmoreno-acciones-presupuesto-economia-ecuador.html

2. Cadena nacional del Presidente Lenín Moreno 28-07-17, You Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXn3oxvEfMQ

3. 100 días del Gobierno de Lenin Moreno.

3a. Ecuador’s Succession Politics Get Ugly Mac Margolis https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-07-17/ecuador-s-succession-politics-get-uglyEcuador’s Succession Politics Get Ugly 17 de julio de 2017 9:00 GMT-

4. 25 de agosto de 2017 16:30 Asamblea autorizó procesamiento penal del vicepresidente Jorge Glas http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/asamblea-autorizacion-enjuiciamiento-penal-jorgeglas.html

5- 9 de septiembre de 2017 00:00 Pareja Yannuzzelli acordó con la Fiscalía aportar datos sobre ilícitos http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/carlosparejayannuzzelli-acuerdo-fiscalia-corrupcion-petroecuador.html

6. 12 de septiembre de 2017 19:04 El CAL resolvió convocar a Gustavo Jalkh a la Asambleahttp://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/cal-convocar-gustavojalkh-asamblea-judicatura.html4

7. Unidad Popular demanda a Rafael Correa por supuesto tráfico de influencias Martes, 12 de septiembre, 2017 – 12h5 http://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/2017/09/12/nota/6377989/unidad-popular-demanda-rafael-correa-supuesto-trafico-influencias

8. 16 de agosto de 2017 15:16 El Gobierno no concederá más indultos a líderes indígenashttp://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/gobierno-indultos-lideres-indigenas-conaie.html

9. 10 de agosto de 2017 11:08 Comodato de la sede de la Conaie por 100 años se concretóhttp://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/comodato-sede-conaie-mies-convenio.html

10. 30 de agosto de 2017   00:00 Consulta sobre la reforma institucional cobra fuerza
http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/consulta-reforma-instituciones-leninmoreno-asamblea.html#.Wab7kG10yR0.twitter

11. 1 de septiembre de 2017 00:00 13 organizaciones coinciden en la extinción del Cpccs http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/organizaciones-extincion-cpccs-consulta-popular.html

12. 9 de septiembre de 2017 17:07 Glas propone una Constituyente para ‘cambiar la estructura del Estador http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/jorgeglas-asamblea-constituyente-ecuador-leninmoreno.html

13. 21 de agosto de 2017 00:00 Moreno con alta aceptación, según sondeos de cuatro encuestadoras http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/presidente-leninmoreno-aceptacion-sondeos-encuestadoras.html

 14. Ricardo Patiño, Paola Pabón y Virgilio Hernández abandonan el gobierno de Lenín Moreno

Viernes, 25 de agosto, 2017 – 21h1

http://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/2017/08/25/nota/6348343/ricardo-patino-paola-pabon-virgilio-hernandez-abandonan-gobierno?&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social-media&utm_campaign=addtoany

15. Jorge Glas critica en carta pública acciones del gobierno de Lenín Moreno http://www.eltelegrafo.com.ec/noticias/politica/2/jorge-glas-critica-en-carta-publica-acciones-del-gobierno-de-lenin-moreno

16. 2 de agosto de 2017 12:30 Expresidente Correa propone un nuevo movimiento si AP calla ante supuesto pacto con Bucaram http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/expresidente-correa-movimiento-alainzapais-bucaram.html#.WYNZ6_nAvSg.twitter.

17. Moreno dinamita al correísmo en los medios públicos   en La Info  por http://4pelagatos.com/2017/07/12/moreno-dinamita-al-correismo-en-los-medios-publicos/

18.  27 de agosto de 2017 00:00 El desempeño económico será modesto los próximos cuatro años http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/economia-crecimiento-deficitfiscal-austeridad-leninmoreno.html#.WaNmMrulync.twitter

19. En la Asamblea Nacional hay al menos cinco prioridades en materia económica, 4 de Septiembre http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/asambleanacional-prioridades-economia-leyes-debate.html. Si está pensando en hacer uso del mismo, por favor, cite la fuente y haga un enlace hacia la nota original de donde usted ha tomado este contenido. ElComercio.com

20. 9 de agosto de 2017 00:00 USD 395 millones generarían las medidas de austeridad http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/leninmoreno-medidas-auteridad-inmobiliar-sueldos.html

21. 4 de septiembre de 2017 00:00 El Ejecutivo alista su agenda de reformas y proyectos de ley http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/ejecutivo-agenda-reformas-proyectosdeley-asamblea.html

22. 4 de agosto de 2017 00:00 USD 878,3 millones en subsidios al área social http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/ecuador-subsidios-area-social-economia.html:http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/ecuador-subsidios-area-social-economia.html. Si está pensando en hacer uso del mismo, por favor, cite la fuente y haga un enlace hacia la nota original de donde usted ha tomado este contenido. ElComercio.com

 

 

 

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Election Briefing: Opposition Vows to Defeat Re-election of Honduras President Hernandez

By Ronald J. Morgan

This November 26, Honduras will hold their third election since the 2009 military coup that overthrew leftist President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya. This time, a coalition of left and moderate forces will attempt to defeat what they see as an illegal attempt at re-election. The newly formed coalition has also warned of the danger of a massive voter fraud.

Ironically, reelection is the issue which lead to Zelaya’s overthrow. (Zelaya was overthrown after attempting to hold a nonbinding plebiscite on calling for a constitutional convention. The military intervened with a coup after the supreme court ordered the plebiscite stopped and Zelaya indicated he was going ahead anyway. The Honduran Right had expressed concern the convention would approve reelection and keep Zelaya in power. 1,2,3,4,5

The Left has accused current President Juan Orlando Hernandez, 48,  of manipulating the supreme court into allowing reelection despite the 1982 constitution’s explicit prohibition. The Left also contends that the reelection decision did not allow for a vote by Hondurans on the change and therefore is illegal.

The three-and-a-half years under Hernandez have brought an ever so slight reduction in violence and a bit of an improvement in the economy — principally government finances. The question voters will face is whether the president is slowly leading Honduras out of an extremely serious social crisis or is now starting a dictatorship. So far, Hernandez is running first in the polls with 36% support according to a May 17 CID/GALLUP Poll. There is no second round in Honduran presidential elections.

Three parties have joined to form the Alianza de Opposicion Contra la Dictadura (Alliance of the Opposition against the Dictatorship) with the aim of countering Hernandez. The ticket is being led by Alejandro Nasralla, 64, of the centrist Partido Anticorrupcion (Anti-corruption Party) PAC. Nasralla is a well-known television personality and a political centrist. The Vice Presidential Candidate is Xiomora Castro de Zelaya, 57, of the Left Partido Libertad y Refundación, Libre, (the Freedom and Re-Foundation Party), and wife of former president Zelaya. The third party supporting the coalition is headed by Guillermo Enrique Valle, 47, of the center-left Partido Innovacion y Unidad Social Democratica (Innovation and Social Democratic Unity Party, PINU. 6

The group attempted to include the Liberal Party in the coalition but negotiations broke down when the Liberal Party (LP) wanted to head the ticket. The Conservative Liberal Party  Candidate Luis Zelaya, 50, an Ex-rector of Universidad Tecnológica Centroamericana, is now running second behind Hernandez in the opinion polls with 18% support.

In addition to defeating the National Party reelection effort, the opposition coalition advocates fighting corruption, and tackling social problems such as poverty and the need for free education and health care. They are also calling for an end to U.S. backed militarization policies, according to a recent report by Telesur. The group also wants to organize a constitutional convention to implement political reforms.

For years, the National and Liberal Parties controlled the Honduran political system. But after the 2009 coup the Left Libre Party and PAC Anti-corruption party began to show increasing power.

In the 2013 presidential election Hernandez of the National Party, NP, took the presidency with 36.89% of the vote, Libre finished second with 28.78%. The Liberal Party, LP,  was third with 20.30% and following in fourth position was the Partido Anticorrupcion, PAC, with 13.42%. The Partido Innovation and Democratic Unity Party, PINU, received 0.14% of the vote. Charges of fraud emerged after the election due to polls showing the opposition candidates ahead during much of the campaign. Nevertheless, the United States and the Organization of American States declared the election free and fair. 7

This year, ten political parties are fielding candidates. In addition, 47 independent candidates are also running. Honduras will also elect 128 congressional deputies, 20 Central American Parliament deputies. A total of  298 mayors, 298 vice-mayors and 2092 city councilmen will also be up for election. 8

Honduras remains locked in a political battle between supporters of the former Zelaya administration and the Honduran traditional right-wing. After taking office in 2006, Zelaya pulled away from the right-wing Liberal party in 2007, and supported Hugo Chavez. He joined the Left Petrocaribe and Alba organizations and began adopting a series of reforms, including sharp rises in the minimum wage. Briefly economic growth rose to 6%. Poverty fell by 10%. Zelaya continues to support the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. 9

After the coup, the country teetered on the edge of being a failed state. Economically and politically the country was in shambles. In addition, Honduras slumped further into a violent Narco State situation and deaths soared. Street gangs took control of the streets. The police were riddled with corruption and impunity reigned.

On top of everything else, old political intolerance remained and remains a serious threat to the lives of all social activists seeking to change or to stop government sponsored activities. The Nongovernmental Organization Global Witness said in a Jan. 17, 2017 report that “More than 120 people have died since 2010, according to Global Witness research. The victims were ordinary people who took a stand against dams, mines, logging or agriculture on their land – murdered by state forces, security guards or hired assassins. Countless others have been threatened, attacked or imprisoned.”10

In March, 2016, Berta Cáceres’, a well known award winning environmental activist, was killed and became an emblematic case of anti-environmentalism murder. She was protesting the building of the Agua Zarca hydrolectric dam  She had documented 30 murders related to the dam protests and had been put under government security after having received numerous death threats. The Guardian, in an article Feb. 28, 2017, said the murder was being linked to military intelligence specialists. The company building the dam, DESA corporation, had ties to military intelligence and other government ties, the Guardian said. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16

Dissatisfaction has been expressed with the government investigation. Resistance by powerful economic elites to outside investigations became evident in July when the Honduran Business Organization (Consejo Hondureño de la Empresa Privada (Cohep) called a press conference to condemn investigation efforts by the recently formed Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras, known as MACCIH-OAS. MACCIH, which is headed by Peruvian Juan Jimenez Mayor. Jimenez announced that the organization would investigate illegal contracting activities by the DESA organization.16a

Insecurity in Honduran cities pushed out-migration to the United States to emergency levels. Starting in 2014, unaccompanied children began pouring out of the country with the aim of crossing the U.S.- Mexico border. In four years, 41,000 unaccompanied children were arrested. This emergency lead U.S: President Barack Obama (2009-2017) to order a re-working of U.S. Central America policy.

Hondurans living in the United States have become a major support for the Honduran economy.  Remittances by immigrants totaled $3.9 billion in 2016. A recent Congressional Research Service report said that 588,000 Hondurans live in the United States and 67% are thought to be illegal aliens. 17

Since the overthrow and the 2014 out-migration crisis, Honduras has fallen back into conservative political reset and under policies developed by the United States and the International Monetary Fund. This Made in USA approach includes heavy militarization and radical economic austerity polices.

The effort, which is similar to Plan Colombia, has had some small success. Violent murders, which put Honduras on top as the most violent country in the world in 2011 with a rate of 86 murders per 100,000 population, have dropped to a still high 59.1 per 100,000. Honduras is now ranked the third most violent country after El Salvador and Venezuela. Impunity remains a problem as only 4% of homicides are successfully resolved. In 2014, Honduras began authorizing extradition to the United States for the first time and Narcos began to be arrested and sent to the United States for trial. A dozen major drug traffickers have been extradited. 18, 19,20

Major Honduran drug trafficking organizations have been broken up. But, overall, drug trafficking remains very strong as a result of use of the country as a transit zone. The country transports three to four metric tons of cocaine a month, according to the 2017  International Narcotics Control Strategy Report. The report mentions that new narco organizations also have begun to form in response to the old groups which have been broken up. This year, Honduras was criticized for failure in maritime sea smuggling interdiction. But drug plane flights are down 30%. 21

Criminal activities by the Salvatrucha, M.S. gang and the 18th Street gang, known as Maras, also are continuing. Some analysts have predicted an attempt by the Maras to form an international drug cartel but, so far, this has not occurred according to the drug report. A U.S. backed neighborhood program to assist and train youth to resist gang involvement has been recognized as improving conditions in some neighborhoods.

The United States assistance programs have focussed on retraining of the police and of formation of elite vetted units. Under Hernandez a purge of alleged corrupt police is occurring. So far, 3,900 police have been fired.  The United States also is financing a planned doubling of the size of the police force from the current 14,000 force to 27,000 by 2022.

In 2016, the United States approved $98.3 million in bilateral assistance to Honduras up from $41.8 million in the crisis year of 2014. The money is distributed as part of the the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America and Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI). Another $95.3 million is earmarked for 2017. Further assistance to Honduras is being provided through the joint Central American-nation- created Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle. Under the plan, which is being financed by the InterAmerican Development Bank and other lending sources, Honduras was granted $965 million in 2016. Most of this money will just be arriving in 2017.

The publication Insight Crime has rated this effort under Hernandez. In their article “Grading Honduras President’s Performance” the U.S. backed effort is given mixed reviews. The publication gave Hernandez a B for breaking up drug trafficking organizations. The combatting of gangs with Mano Duro policies was given a c+ and considered less than effective. Institutional Reform and Police Purging was judged “incomplete”. Formation of an Ant-impunity Commission (The Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras, MACCIH)  was judged lacking sufficient power to do its job. 22, 23

While Hernandez is credited with making gains in the effort to bring the Narco-gang violence under control the overall situation is still considered a less than win situation given concerns about embedded corruption and impunity among the most powerful Honduran elites. Use of Military police squads has also been sharply criticized as fomenting violence, according to recent complaints by members of the U.S. congress who are concerned about human rights violations.

Narcos on trial in the United States may provide some election season revelations that could severely rock the Hernandez administration. Insight on Crime  reports that testimony by Cachiros Cartel member Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga implicates members of the Honduras elite in drug trafficking and bribery activities.

Among those involved the, publication said, are the late Honduran tycoon Mauricio Facussé, the brother of the current President Hernandez, Antonio Hernández, and former President Porfirio Lobo Sosa (210-2014) and his son Fabio. Fabio, who pleaded guilty to cocaine trafficking in 2016, has attempted to implicate the brother of former President Zelaya, Carlos Zelaya Rosales, in the use of a military base for drug trafficking. Carlos Zelaya has denied the charges.

The Cachiros investigation also lead to prosecution of members of the Jaime Rosenthal family, a powerful business magnate, Jaime, 79, is being held under house arrest in Honduras. The family bank, Continental, had its assets frozen in 2015, on charges of drug trafficker money laundering. So far, only the daughter, Yani Rosenthal, has pleaded guilty. She will be sentenced in the United States in October.

Former president Rafael Leonardo Callejas Romero (1990-1994) has pleaded guilty to corruption charges involved in the FIFA soccer scandal. He will be sentenced in New York in December.

The Honduran Plan Colombia brought with it a neoliberal adjustment program which was also an aspect of reforms enacted in Colombia under President Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010). In 2014, The International Monetary Fund granted Honduras a $189 million credit in return for IMF designed austerity reforms. The program cut central government spending and froze transfers to local governments. Private participation was allowed in the telecommunications and electrical sectors. The government reformed the tax administration and began prosecuting tax cheats. Private-Public partnerships were enacted to make government infrastructure projects easier to finance. 24, 25, 26, 27

The reworking of the public sector reduced the government’s deficit from an out of control 7.6% of GDP to 1.4% of GDP. International Reserves have improved and are at $4.76 billion. Inflation is running at 3.6 %. The project has brought positive reviews from international Credit Rating agencies like Moodys which has improved the Honduras overall credit rating. The government has been so emboldened by the three-year results that it has approved legislation imposing further spending constraints on the government. 28.

Under the 2016 Fiscal Responsibility Law the government has committed itself to reduce government expenditures to an eventual 1% of GDP. While the government finances were in need of emergency help in 2013, the IMF program has been questioned as to its ability to reduce crushing poverty. Poverty has dropped slightly from 74.3% in 2013 to 66% in 2016. Growth rates above the current  modest 3.6% to 4% level are needed to bring this poverty down. Expenditures on health and education may need boosting. There is a need for more rural assistance programs as well. The poor are also being hurt by a 2013 rise in the sales tax from 12% to 15%.

Current improvements in the economy are also related to the drop in oil prices which has reduced Honduran fuel costs and helped the trade balance. U.S. and other international assistance has also been supplementing Honduran government costs. Large remittances from abroad are also helping the economy. Since the passage of the Dominican Republic, Central American Free Trade Agreement in 2006, the Honduran in-bond manufacturing (maquiladoras) sector has grown and total U.S. foreign investment increased to just over $1 billion.

President Donald Trump may affect both immigrant remittances and the level of foreign assistance. Free trade could also be affected by shifting winds at the White House. Trump announced in Miami that his Central American policies will be focussed mostly on enhancing security. He has proposed a 30% cut in assistance to Honduras in 2018.

The Trump anti-illegal alien and gang member crackdown may also affect remittances. He has also advocated ending a temporary stay program, known as TPS, which grants a stay on deportation when there are economic disasters in a country. This program has allowed 57, 000 Hondurans to stay in the United States as refugees. An increase in deportees and the return of TPS holders could further exacerbate unstable conditions in Honduras. 29, 30

The U.S. Congress, also,  is showing a desire to review the Honduran assistance program. Pressure is forming to enact cuts in aid do to the failure by Honduras to adequately  prosecute numerous attacks on social activists. A certifying of Honduras, Sept. 16 2016, on human rights compliance by the State Department has been criticized as faulty and insulting to congressional intent.

A recent Inspector General’s Report also criticized the DEA for misleading congress about civilian deaths in a 2012 drug operation.  In addition to DEA operations some 500 U.S. Troops are based in Honduras as Task Force Bravo. They carry out anti-drug operations and development and humanitarian missions. Security assistance is also being provided by Israel and Colombia. 31

A  sign-on letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by 78 members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives called for the State Department to more closely monitor Honduran human rights compliance.

“We are concerned that U.S. assistance has been provided to the Honduran government despite recurring threats and assassinations of human rights defenders and environmental activists, and contrary to the requirements in section 7045(a) of division K of Public Law 114-113, including that civil society be able to “operate without interference”. We support continued U.S. engagement in Honduras to achieve common goals. However, it is essential to ensure effective scrutiny of Honduras’ compliance with human rights conditions on U.S. assistance.” the letter said.

In addition, 24 Democratic members of congress have introduced the  H.R. 1299, the “Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act.” The act calls for a cut off of Honduran U..S. assistance and multilateral lending assistance until the government successfully investigates a number of human rights crimes. 32 

###

SOURCES:

1. The Impending Battle on Presidential Reelection in Honduras http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marco-caceres/the-impending-battle-on-p_b_5722830.html

1a. Opposición se une para frenar reelección presidencial en Honduras https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_Xua-Hm1lI

1b. Honduras: Supreme Court Approves Presidential Re-election https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wlw44PJCTzI

2. Honduras legalizes reelection – issue at heart of 2009 coup ://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/Latin-America-Monitor/2015/0428/Honduras-legalizes-reelection-issue-at-heart-of-2009-coup

3. Honduras’ constitutional quagmire http://latinamericagoesglobal.org/2016/09/honduras-constitutional-quagmire/

6. ‘The Right Wing Is Finished’: Honduran Activist on Elections http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/The-Right-Wing-Is-Finished-Honduran-Activist-on-Elections-20170524-0041.html

7. Report from Honduras: How the Election Was Stolen http://nacla.org/blog/2013/12/9/report-honduras-how-election-was-stolenThe

8. Honduras: Diez partidos y 46 candidaturas listas para las elecciones generales http://tiempo.hn/elecciones-generales-en-honduras-4/

9. Accomplishments of President Manuel Zelaya https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manuel_Zelaya

9a. New York drug case opens window on dark period for Honduras Published March 31, 2017 http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/03/31/new-york-drug-case-opens-window-on-dark-period-for-honduras.html

9b. Ex President Rafael Callejas Conocera su Sentencia en Diciembre nota: http://www.laprensa.hn/honduras/1080086-410/expresidente-rafael_callejas-sentencia-eua-corrupcion-fifa-corte_nueva_york-
Copyright © http://www.laprensa.hn http://www.laprensa.hn/honduras/1080086-410/expresidente-rafael_callejas-sentencia-eua-corrupcion-fifa-corte_nueva_york-

10. HONDURAS: THE DEADLIEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM https://www.globalwitness.org/en-gb/campaigns/environmental-activists/honduras-deadliest-country-world-environmental-activism/

11. The Intercept, Drugs Dams and Power//theintercept.com/2016/03/11/drugs-dams-and-power-the-murder-of-honduran-activist-berta-caceres/.

12. Rep. Johnson reintroduces the “Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act”March 2, 2017 Press Release https://hankjohnson.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/rep-johnson-reintroduces-berta-caceres-human-rights-honduras-act

13. H.R.1299 – Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/1299/text

14. Congressional letter https://www.globalwitness.org/en/blog/us-congress-calls-action-honduras-response-murders-land-and-environmental-activists/

15. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016 Honduras https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm#wrapper

16. Honduras: justice on the tightrope https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/05/honduras-justicia-en-la-cuerda-floja/

16a. DESA y Agua Zarca piden disculpa pública de la MACCIH por presunciones http://tiempo.hn/desa-agua-zarca-piden-disculpa-publica-la-maccih-presunciones/

17. Remittances https://tradingeconomics.com/honduras/remittances

18. Congressional Research Report Honduras https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL34027.pdf

19. U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central
America: Policy Issues for Congress: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R44812.pdf

20. Homicide Rates in 2016 http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/insight-crime-2016-homicide-round-up

21. 2017  International
Narcotics Control
Strategy Report  https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/268025.pdf

22. Calificaciones del presidente de Honduras en cuanto a seguridadhttp://es.insightcrime.org/analisis/calificaciones-presidente-honduras-cuanto-seguridad

23.  Problemas de seguridad persisten en Honduras, a pesar de disminución en los homicidios

24. IMF Staff Concludes Visit to Honduras June 1, 2017 https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2017/06/01/pr17203-imf-staff-concludes-visit-to-honduras

24a. Honduras 2017 General Budget Leaves Out The Necessities Of The Poorest https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WOCLJkiBGM

25. Honduras as Seen by the IMF – November 2016 The institution highlights the restoration of macroeconomic stability, reduction of the fiscal deficit and the rate at which credit to the private sector is increasing. http://www.centralamericadata.com/en/article/home/Honduras_as_Seen_by_the_IMF__November_2016

26. Analysis of the Honduras 2017 budget. Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Fiscales  http://icefi.org/publicaciones/honduras-analisis-y-recomendaciones-al-proyecto-de-presupuesto-publico-2017

27. Honduras: IMF Austerity, Macroeconomic Policy, and Foreign Investment ://cepr.net/publications/reports/honduras-imf-austerity-macroeconomic-policy-and-foreign-investment

27a. Honduras as Seen by the IMF – November 2016 The institution highlights the restoration of macroeconomic stability, reduction of the fiscal deficit and the rate at which credit to the private sector is increasing. http://www.centralamericadata.com/en/article/home/Honduras_as_Seen_by_the_IMF__November_2016

27b. Fiscal law http://country.eiu.com/article.aspx?articleid=1304136914&Country=Honduras&topic=Economy&subtopic=Forecast&subsubtopic=Fiscal+policy+outlook&u=1&pid=535435637&oid=535435637&uid=1

28. Moody’s upgrades Honduras’ ratings to B2 from B3; positive outlook remains The document has been translated in other languageshttps://www.moodys.com/research/Moodys-upgrades-Honduras-ratings-to-B2-from-B3-positive-outlook–PR_349459

29. Return of US military-led foreign policy https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/13/central-america-us-foreign-policy-deportations-aid

30. Inside Trump’s Disastrous ‘Secret’ Drug War Plans for Central America http://www.thedailybeast.com/inside-trumps-disastrous-secret-drug-war-plans-for-central-america

31. DEA and Deadly Honduras Shootings http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/dea-misled-congress-deadly-shootings-honduras-drug-operations-n764256

32. Congressional letter https://www.globalwitness.org/en/blog/us-congress-calls-action-honduras-response-murders-land-and-environmental-activists/

33.Why Congress should support the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Acthttps://vimeo.com/206184044

 

 

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Venezuela Crisis Deepens

By Ronald J. Morgan

Venezuela has become the worst political crisis in Latin America in decades. And with no end in sight, the human toll is expected to keep rising.

An electoral and constitutional crisis which began taking shape shortly after the opposition won a majority in the 2015 congressional elections has touched off months of opposition street protests which have left 67 dead as of June 13.

The opposition has accused the government of staging a self-coup twice in recent months. The government claims the protests and opposition international lobbying are aimed at forcing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, 54,  from power.

The opposition protests have called for Maduro to call new presidential elections, release so-called political prisoners and  attend to a humanitarian crisis. While many outside observers would like the two sides to enter into serious talks aimed at ending the crisis the Maduro government has so far chosen to defy the right-wing opposition by moving farther to the left.

The decision, May 1, to call a constitutional convention in the midst of a dispute over delayed regional and local elections and the thwarting of congressional power has worsened the impasse. In early April, one of Venezuelas top opposition leaders Henrique Capriles,44, who is serving as governor of Miranda state, was banned from running for the presidency for 15 years by the Venezuelan Comptrollers Office.

The opposition has found its strongest supporter in Luis Almagro, General Secretary of the Organization of American States. Almagro, a former Left foreign minister from Uruguay, has described Venezuela as a dictatorship which should be condemned internationally. The criticism has led Venezuela to withdrawal from the OAS, a process which will take until 2019. Resurgent righ-wing parties in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay have expelled Venezuela from the Mercosur trade organization last December due to a dispute over entrance requirements just as Venezuela was about to assume leadership of the organization.

So far, the U.S. strategy has been to focus criticism on alleged human rights abuses, and corruption. In a new twist on the execution of American power, the United States has chosen to target sanctions against Venezuelan individuals. Sanctions against the Venezuelan economy as a whole are not being imposed in order to prevent further hardship. The U.S. congress passed the Venezuela Defense of Rights and Civil Society Act. in 2014.

Among the charges leveled by the United States are a Aug. 2016 federal cocaine trafficking indictment against Interior Minister Nestor Luis Reverol. Vice President Tareck Al Aissami also has been alleged by the United States to be involved in drug trafficking. Two nephews of First Lady Cilia Flores have also been charged with cocaine trafficking.

The U.S. government has imposed visa restrictions on 60 persons which it accuses of undermining democracy. Asset blocking orders were also issued under the Barack Obama administration.

Recently, the United States targeted members of the Venezuelan Supreme Court. The sanctions were for interfering with numerous democratic initiatives by the opposition controlled congress.

In 2016, $6.5 million in democracy assistance to the opposition was approved. Outgoing President Obama budgeted $5.5 million in his proposed 2017 budget. Covert assistance could be significant as well.

Human Rights  and democracy critics allege that Maduro has been ruling largely by emergency decree since 2013 and that he is kept in power by a triad of the National Election Council, the Supreme Court and the Military. The United States has expressed concern about a May 17 announcement to issue arms to a 500,000 Milicia Nacional Bolivariana to protect the state.

After an escalating crisis in 2016, Venezuela now stands at the precipice of a less democratic socialism or a harrying collapse that could have untold effects for years. How the Latin American Left, in general, is perceived could also be affected.

Unfortunately, the death of President Hugo Chavez  in 2013, brought his hand picked successor to power just as oil prices began collapsing. Maduro won the April 2013 election by a narrow 1.4% vote. The opposition alleged the vote included numerous irregularities. The refusal of the National Election Commission to carry out a full recount lead to violent 2014 protests known as La Salida or the Exit. Some 48 persons were killed.  The government arrested protest leader Leopoldo Lopez and sentenced him to 14 years in prison in a trial that has been criticized by human rights organizations. Other political opposition members have also been arrested.

The opposition has responded with a campaign to rally international support calling for their release. And over the past two years they have garnered increasing support from a number of nations.

Starting in 2015, the government began moving to thwart growing right-wing opposition power. The opposition won a majority in the Dec. 6, 2015 General Assembly elections. The opposition Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, MUD coalition won 172 seats to the official Partido Socialista Unido, PSUV´s 55.  The election, which on the surface seemed to be a major gain for the opposition, began a serious disruption in democratic procedures. The outgoing assembly packed the supreme court with 13 new judges . The Supreme Court then reduced the opposition´s majority by 3 seats, disqualifying three congressional candidates in the Amazonas state.

See Venezuela: Will New Congress Be The Boss?

Later, the Supreme Court became a recurring break on the General Assembly by blocking bills and approving emergency powers and enabling decrees.

In 2016, the opposition MUD began a recall election effort against Nicolas Maduro. The Venezuelan constitution contains procedures for such an election but the Venezuelan Election Commission delayed the procedure throughout 2016 and then on Oct. 21, 2016 it  permanently blocked the drive.

Scheduled  local and regional elections also were delayed. Regional elections due in 2016, were recently rescheduled for December  2017. Local elections will also be in December.

CORRECTION Regional elections for state governors and state assemblies will be held Dec. 10. Municipal elections will not be held in 2017.

The regional election vote could be delayed by actions of the new constitutional convention.

Presidential elections are scheduled for 2018 and recently, in May, after announcing the constitutional convention, President Maduro promised that they will be held.

The recall and election crisis touched off a number of protests. But the situation grew more serious when on April 1, the Supreme Court issued a ruling limiting the General Assembly´s powers and revoking the legal immunity for congressmen. This decision was later modified but had already touched off charges of an attempted self-coup by the Maduro government. Major Easter protests began and are still under way. As of this article there have been over two months of protests. Violence is escalating  and ten of thousands of Venezuelans are caught in the middle of the growing power struggle.There have been deaths on both sides.

The Venezuelan political stand off has been accompanied by a historic economic depression. During the 14 years of Chavez rule the country had reduced poverty by 20% and expanded social and economic opportunities. But the tremendous drop in oil prices in 2013, brought a unraveling of the economic fabric. A major humanitarian crisis has occurred, including shortages of medicines, food, water, healthcare and clothing. Hiper inflation is making the crisis worse.

The collapse of the Venezuelan economy has brought repeated calls for immediate changes in the government´s policies. The opposition has accused Maduro of mounting a self-coup because  he is too weak politically to continue to prevail in upcoming elections. The Maduro government has said that currently the situation is too unstable for elections and economic decline is the result of economic sabotage by the Right.

The decision by Maduro to call a Constitutional Assembly has brought the most serious criticism that the government is engaging in a self-coup and that Venezuelan democracy is going to be further harmed. Maduro, however, has said the convention will be the foundation for a new peace.

The procedures for the constitutional convention do not include a vote by the populace to authorize the holding of the convention. Delegates will also be elected in a nontraditional manner.  There will be 545 assembly delegates. 364 will be elected by territory i.e. states and cities. Some 173 will be elected from grass roots social sectors and 8 delegates will come from indigenous communities.The election is scheduled for July 30.

The opposition has charged that the assembly will be packed with a pro Maduro majority and will be used to ensure continued official party dominance of the political system. They will not accept the activation of a Constituent Assembly and have called upon the military to intervene and for the president to resume the calendar of elections and ensure the presidential elections scheduled for 2018.

The dispute over the Constitutional Convention has lead National Prosecutor  Luisa Ortega Díaz, 59, to confront the Maduro government over the legality of the procedures and has thrust her into the limelight as new opposition figure.

Former presidents of Spain, Panama and the Dominican Republic as well as Pope Francis have attempted to mediate between the two sides. Special U.S. Envoy Tom Shannon has also engaged in talks with Nicolas Maduro. But the opposition seems reluctant to enter into further ,mediation efforts. The crisis has heightened with the call for Maduro to resign and for the Constitutional Convention to be rejected.

In the streets, violence is increasing along with police repression. Use of military courts to try some protesters is also causing concern among human rights monitors. Since April there have been 3, 132 arrested according to Foro Penal Venezuela.

The issue of what role foreign governments should play in criticizing Venezuela for its internal actions has left a split in Latin America. Vociferous support for the Maduro government still exists among most elected Left governments and former Left Presidents. More centrist governments have been stepping up criticism and advocating a dialogue as the only avenue left to prevent outbreak of possible major violence.

A meeting of the Left Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños (CELAC),  regional Latin American body May 2, in San Salvador could not create a consensus document on the situation in Venezuela. Venezuela had called the meeting to discuss the situation and explain its position on the current crisis.

The OAS also is having problems reaching a consensus on what should be done about the Venezuela crisis.  So far, the proposals of Secretary General Almagro have not been acceptable to all.  The May 31 General Assembly meeting failed to produce a two-thirds support for any position on the Venezuela crisis. Most, however, see a negotiated internally reached solution as the only way out of  the impasse. A renewed effort is scheduled for June 19 to 21.

Numerous useful articles, reports and documents have emerged during this season of protests. I have put in some of the ones that seem useful in trying to update knowledge of Venezuela and to help form an opinion of the current crisis.

SOURCES

Protests

Timeline of the 2017 Venezuelan protests https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_2017_Venezuelan_protests

Cronología: 64 muertos en protestas en Venezuela hasta el 31 de mayo http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/sociedad/cronologia-muertos-protestas-venezuela-hasta-mayo_182987 ..

Constitutional Convention

Nicolás Maduro: Constituyente es el camino a la paz en Venezuela http://www.telesurtv.net/news/-Nicolas-Maduro-Constituyente-es-el-camino-a-la-paz-en-Venezuela-20170518-0004.html

Pdte. Maduro convoca a Asamblea Nacional Constituyente https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFC0_VKqpWU&feature=youtu.be

Nuevo Constituyente en 7 preguntas http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/el-mundo/entienda-en-siete-preguntas-como-se-elegira-la-constituyente-de-maduro-articulo-696080

Venezuela opposition blasts president’s plan to rewrite constitution and delay elections https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/24/venezuela-nicolas-maduro-constitution-elections-delay

 Humanitarian Crisis, Refugees

Venezuela’s Humanitarian Crisis https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/10/24/venezuelas-humanitarian-crisis/severe-medical-and-food-shortages-inadequate-and

Venezuelans leave 21st-century socialism for US, Spain http://www.dw.com/en/venezuelans-leave-21st-century-socialism-for-us-spain/a-18815399

Venezuela’s Lost Generation https://www.buzzfeed.com/karlazabludovsky/the-brain-drain-from-venezuela?utm_term=.twYlGOe55#.tbgwjBLxx

Human Rights

Human Rights Watch Blog https://www.hrw.org/es/americas/venezuela

Henrique Capriles banned from public office http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/04/henrique-capriles-venezuela-banned-public-office-170407230838078.html

Venezuela opposition leader Capriles banned from politics http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-39534732

Venezuela Prosecutor Decries Maduro Plan, Unrest Worsens https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2017-05-22/venezuela-prosecutor-decries-maduros-new-congress-plan-deepening-riftOAS fails to agree on Venezuela as protests continue http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-40118288

Political Overview

Has Venezuela reached a tipping point’?http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/upfront/2017/05/venezuela-reached-tipping-point-170519081258186.html

What Is to Be Done in Venezuela? https://www.thenation.com/article/what-is-to-be-done-in-venezuela/

Venezuela’s irreconcilable visions for the future http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-39980403

Why is Venezuela Spiraling Out of Control? http://fpif.org/why-is-venezuela-spiraling-out-of-control/

El Tiempo: ¿Qué sostiene a Nicolás Maduro en el poder? http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/gda/tiempo-que-sostiene-nicolas-maduro-poder_179789

Bolivia dice que Venezuela no necesita protectorados http://www.eldeber.com.bo/bolivia/Bolivia-dice-que-Venezuela-no-necesita-protectorados-20170531-0057.html

25 ex presidentes alertaron a cancilleres de la OEA sobre Venezuela

http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/politica/presidentes-alertaron-cancilleres-oea-sobre-venezuela_184852

¿Quién financia la violencia opositora en Venezuela?https://actualidad.rt.com/actualidad/239831-financia-violencia-opositora-venezuela

“Opposition does not want democracy or elections” https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/venezuelan-opposition-does-not-want-democracy-or-elections/

The Need to Radicalise the Bolivarian Revolution (Part 2) https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/the-need-to-radicalise-the-bolivarian-revolution-part-2/

Radiografía de la violencia en Venezuela
http://www.eltelegrafo.com.ec/noticias/columnistas/1/radiografia-de-la-violencia-en-venezuela

¿Por qué los organismos internacionales no dicen nada de los líderes revolucionarios asesinados en manifestaciones opositoras en ?.

Venezuela opposition blasts president’s plan to rewrite constitution and delay elections https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/24/venezuela-nicolas-maduro-constitution-elections-delay

United States and Organization of American States

U.S. senators seek sanctions, other ways to address Venezuela crisis http://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-usa-congress-exclusive-idUSKBN17Z13Z

US slaps sanctions on Venezuela Supreme Court judges http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/05/slaps-sanctions-venezuela-supreme-court-judges-170519052123333.html

Venezuela And The OAS: The Logic Of Withdrawal http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/venezuela-and-the-oas-the-logic-of-withdrawal_us_590389c8e4b084f59b49f8b5?ncid=engmodushpmg00000004

OAS, Report of the Secretary General to the Permanent Council on the Situation in Venezuela, May 30, 2016, at http://www.oas.org/documents/eng/press/OSG-243.en.pdf

Overview of recent events, especially 2016. Venezuela: Issues for Congress, 2013-2016 https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R43239.pdf

Maduro prometió un ‘fusil para cada miliciano’ http://www.elnuevoherald.com/noticias/mundo/america-latina/venezuela-es/article145054754.html

OAS, Report of the Secretary General to the Permanent Council on the Situation in Venezuela, May 30, 2016, at http://www.oas.org/documents/eng/press/OSG-243.en.pdf

Estados Unidos estrecha el cerco alrededor de Nicolás Maduro http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/politica/estados-unidos-estrecha-cerco-alrededor-nicolas-maduro_184724

Corruption

International Narcotics Control Strategy Report Volume I Drug and Chemical Control March 2017

Implican a Nicolás Maduro en el escándalo de Odebrecht http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/bbc-mundo/implican-nicolas-maduro-escandalo-odebrecht_182086

Economy

Venezuela’s worst economic crisis: What went wrong? http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/05/venezuela-worst-economic-crisis-wrong-170501063130120.html

El petróleo en Venezuela, un sector en crisis profunda sin visos de mejora http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/petroleo/petroleo-venezuela-sector-crisis-profunda-sin-visos-mejora_184175

Goldman Sachs makes an irresponsible deal with the corrupt Venezuela regimehttps://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/goldman-sachs-makes-an-irresponsible-deal-with-the-corrupt-venezuela-regime/2017/06/04/f3e3994c-47a8-11e7-bcde-624ad94170ab_story.html?utm_term=.d29c993aff42

Venezuela Gasps On Capitalist Bond Buying: Goldman & Spinhttp://www.barrons.com/articles/venezuela-gasps-on-capitalist-bond-buying-goldman-spin-1496250006?mod=yahoobarrons&ru=yahoo&yptr=yahoo

Russia to Ship 60,000 Tons of Wheat to Venezuela in Major Deal http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Russia-to-Ship-60000-Tons-of-Wheat-to-Venezuela-in-Major-Deal-20170519-0022.html

Venezuela and China Sign New $2.7 Billion Development Deal

Pope Francis hints at new mediation initiative in Venezuela http://elpais.com/elpais/2017/05/01/inenglish/1493639890_646588.html

Leaders attempt dialogue between Venezuela government, opposition http://edition.cnn.com/2016/05/29/americas/venezuela-political-dialogue/

Finaliza la Celac en El Salvador sin resolución por ausencia de 7 paíseshttp://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/344180/inicia-sesion-de-la-celac-en-el-salvador-pese-a-escasa-asistencia-de-cancilleres/

Pope Francis hints at new mediation initiative in Venezuela http://elpais.com/elpais/2017/05/01/inenglish/1493639890_646588.html

 

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