Friday, June 8, 2012

Venezuela Court Upends Two Opposition Parties

Venezuela’s highest court has issued two rulings which undermine the ability of two small opposition parties to ally themselves with opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court declared that internal elections held within the left-wing Fatherland for All Party (PPT) in October were invalid, and ordered it to hold new elections in 90 days. In the meantime, the court named a temporary leader for the party. The ruling effectively prevents the PPT from endorsing Capriles before a Monday deadline by which parties must specify their support for a candidate.

On Thursday, the court decided to accept the claim of Didalco Bolivar that he, and not Ismael Garcia, is the lawful leader of the center-left PODEMOS party. Whereas Garcia has long been an outspoken critic of the Chavez government and has appeared at public events with Capriles, Didalco is expected to endorse Chavez.

The Washington Post notes that Didalco, a former governor of northern Aragua state, has not always been a supporter of Chavez. In fact, he publicly broke with the president in 2007 when he refused to join Chavez’s United Socialist Party (PSUV). In 2009 he fled the country after the government charged him with corruption, and sought asylum in Peru. He returned in 2011, when he turned himself in. After a brief time in jail, he was freed and has been a Chavez supporter ever since.

Caracas Chronicles blogger Gustavo Hernandez Acevedo points out that, although the two decisions were nominally unrelated, the Chavista-dominated Supreme Court likely targeted the opposition parties due to the “leftie street-cred” they contributed to the Capriles campaign. Capriles has presented himself as a “center-left progressive” who claims to admire the economic policies of leftist Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and the official endorsements of both the PPT and PODEMOS would have helped further this image. Without them, it may be easier for Chavez portray his opponent in the upcoming October 7th elections as a tool of elite economic interests.


News Briefs
  • The mining conflict in Peru’s troubled Cajamarca region is heating up. On Tuesday the president of Cajamarca, Gregorio Santos, called for the removal of President Ollanta Humala due to the latter’s support of the controversial Minas Conga mining project in the region. Santos also blasted Humala’s failure to follow up on his campaign pledge to convene an assembly to change the Peruvian constitution. When Santos asked his followers what should be done with a president who does not stay true to his word, the attendees responded “Remove him!” Santos then voiced approval for this, and cited various protests which resulted in the removal of presidents in Bolivia and Ecuador, according to El Comercio. The president of the country’s highest court, the Constitutional Tribunal, has said that Santos could be prosecuted for inciting rebellion, despite the fact that he did not advocate violence in his remarks. The Wall Street Journal points out that this is the latest incident in a growing trend of dissatisfaction with Humala from the left, and came just one day after three leftist congressmen split from the president’s ruling Gana Peru coalition. A fourth congressman, Cusco’s Ruben Coa, has since left the party as well.
  • In Foreign Affairs, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Shannon K. O’Neil argues that Mexico’s democratic institutions are strong enough to withstand a PRI victory in the upcoming July elections, even if the party attempts some of its old tricks like vote-buying and corrupt deals.
  • The United States Treasury has added two relatives of drug lord Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman to the “Kingpin List,” freezing their US assets and barring American citizens from doing business with them. The individuals are Maria Alejandrina Salazar Hernandez and Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar, whom the Treasury’s press release identifies as Guzman’s wife and son, respectively. This appears to clash with press reports from 2011 which named former beauty queen Emma Coronel as Guzman’s current (and third) wife.
  • A three-member panel of appellate judges in Mexico has ruled that Sandra Avila Beltran, also known as “The Queen of the Pacific,” can be extradited to the US on drug charges, reports the AP. Avila was arrested in 2007 and has been accused by Mexican and US officials of being a large-scale cocaine trafficker. Her relatively high status in Mexico’s criminal underworld has made her the focus of several analyses of the role of women in the country’s drug war.
  • El Tiempo has new poll numbers that show Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos with a 69 percent approval rating, down ten percent from the month before. Carlos Lemoine, president of polling firm CNC, told the paper that public perceptions of a FARC resurgence are the main cause of the drop.
  • The tension between the United Kingdom and Argentina over the Falkland Islands rose even higher yesterday, after British Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne accused the Argentine government of imposing an “economic blockade” on the islands by turning away ships bearing the Falklands’ flag and declaring oil exploration off of the island illegal.
  • Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, meanwhile, is also facing criticism at home. Reuters reports that thousands of protestors gathered in front of the presidential palace on Thursday to bang pots and pans in protests reminiscent of the massive 2001 riots spurred by economic crisis. Among their grievances were double-digit inflation, the increased difficulty of acquiring foreign currency and rising crime.
  • While the unpopularity of Chilean President Sebastian Piñera amongst the general population is well known, elements of the country’s military are also unhappy with the president.  Retired major Carlos Gary told Chile’s El Mostrador that he and other military figures believe Piñera is not prosecuting guerrillas who resisted the Pinochet regime as often as the government goes after the military abuses committed during the dictatorship era.