Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Potential for Fracturing Emerges in Venezuela's Ruling Party

Although officials in the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) deny that there are any internal divisions within their ranks, the case of an expelled governor suggest that cracks are emerging in the party. As noted on Friday, the PSUV suspended Monagas state Governor Jose Gregorio Briceño for accusing National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello of exerting undue influence over his state, and was reviewing his case to see if it warranted expulsion.

On Monday, the governor was officially removed from the party for his comments, allegedly for  engaging in "a series of behaviors that violate the rules laid down in the red book, the statutes and principles of the party.”

Briceño, however, cites a different reason for his expulsion. He claims that he was barred from the PSUV because he refused to toe the party line about an oil spill into the local Guarapiche river. According to him, the Chavez administration told him to re-open water plants near the river just one day after the oil leak, when there were still significant quantities of oil pouring into the river. “I did not accept this because it was too risky,” Briceño remarked to local media.

Now that he has been expelled, some in the party are no doubt closely watching his moves ahead of the December 16 gubernatorial elections.  With the future of Chavez rule is in doubt, he may be tempted to join with the opposition Coalition for Democratic Unity (MUD) in an effort to gain favor with the party should its candidate win in the upcoming general elections in October. As political analyst Ricardo Rios told the New York Times last week, if Briceño does decide to join with the opposition, then other PSUV might soon follow for the same reason.  In an interview with the AFP published yesterday, the governor said he was an independent for now, but “would not rule out” an alliance with the MUD.

News Briefs

·         Amid debate amongst ALBA countries over whether or not to attend the upcoming April 14-15 Summit of the Americas without Cuba, Chavez has said that he thinks the bloc should go, as long as they make it clear that this will be the last summit that doesn’t include the communist island country.

·         Mexico was hit by a powerful magnitude-7.4 earthquake yesterday, which centered mostly in the southern states of Oaxaca and Guerrero. Although El Universal notes widespread structural damage, there have been no reports of casualties, which may have been due to the high level of quake preparedness in the area. The AP reports that the affected region has seen 15 earthquakes of magnitude 7 or stronger since 1973, proving an incentive for buildings to be built to withstand them.

·         Dolia Estevez, a Noticia MVS correspondent in Washington, has claimed that sources within the US government informed her that Mexican President Felipe Calderon plans to leave the country as soon as he leaves office, as he fears that he may be killed by drug trafficking organizations. Though this is not the first time that this has been reported, Calderon has consistently denied such reports. More from Vanguardia.

·         Colombia’s Semana reports that the Colombian armed forces killed 31 members of the FARC in the northeastern department of Arauca. President Juan Manuel Santos called the attack a “major hit” to rebel group.

·         Guatemalan Finance Minister Pavel Centeno resigned yesterday, claiming that the opposition was preventing necessary legislative reforms. El Periodico suggests that the move may have been made as part of a strategy by President Otto Perez to force congress into action.

·         Citing solidarity with Argentina’s position on the Falkland Islands, Peru has canceled a planned visit to one of its naval bases by a British frigate. While the AP claims that the decision was made in response to criticism from Argentine media, Argentina’s La Nacion reports that Argentina threatened to accuse Peru of not complying with its obligations under an UNASUR agreement signed last week relating to the Falklands, and threatened to withdraw an invitation for Peruvian President Ollanta Humala to visit in May.

·         Congressmen in Suriname have proposed an amnesty law that would end the trial against President President Desi Bouterse, who stands accused of ordering the disappearance and murder of political adversaries during his dictatorship in the early 1980s.

·         El Faro profiles police corruption in Honduras, highlighting the October murder of two university students, likely at the hands of police officers.

·         Dr. Oscar Biscet, president of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights, has written an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal arguing that the upcoming Papal visit to Cuba represents a unique opportunity for him to encourage political reform on the island.