Monday, July 9, 2012

Chavez Accuses Rival of Trying to 'Destabilize' Venezuela

With Mexico’s election out of the way, the next major electoral event in Latin America is Venezuela’s October 7th presidential election.  El Universal reports that the contest between President Hugo Chavez and opposition candidate Henrique Capriles heated up on Sunday, with the socialist leader accusing his rival of attempting to incite political violence in the country. Speaking at a military ceremony, Chavez warned that the opposition will “try to destabilize the country” ahead of elections.  “I've been saying it and everybody should be alert," he added.

The Associated Press notes that the remark came one day after Capriles attempted to lead a march through the poor Caracas neighborhood of La Vega. While the AP says the march was marked by a fight between “stone-throwing Chavistas and opposition sympathizers,” and was ultimately broken up by police, Chavez claimed that the opposition members were armed. “Wherever they go, violence follows; they go carrying weapons illegally. Once of them was carrying an Eastern police weapon. They are violent and aggressive,” El Universal quotes him as saying. Still, the president called on his supporters not to be provoked by the opposition.

The remarks highlight the highly polarized nature of Venezuelan society, a factor which could fuel violence in the lead up to the October elections. But despite Chavez’s characterization of the opposition as gun-wielding fanatics, he himself has the support of various urban militia groups in Caracas. The most powerful of these are in the city’s “23 de Enero" neighborhood, an area which has been described as a “micro-state” run by armed men, where police do not enter without the consent of militia leaders. 


News Briefs

·         Though the election may be over, Mexico too is seeing its share of political unrest. A final recount confirms Enrique Peña Nieto’s victory by some seven percentage points, but Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has vowed to continue challenging the result in court, citing allegations of vote-buying and election fraud. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets in Mexico City to protest the election. The BBC reports that, surprisingly, the protestors are not just leftists, students and trade unionists (as the AP claims), but actually consist of a broad coalition of individuals expressing concern over reports of irregularities in the elections.

·         Animal Politico reports that the PRD has invited its ideological opposite, the PAN, to join in demanding an official investigation into rumors that the PRI bought thousands of votes prior to last weeks election.

·         The Washington Post takes a look at Miguel Angel Mancera, Mexico City’s leftist mayor-elect. The paper claims that Mancera’s victory illustrates the success of the PRD in turning the capital city into a bastion of social tolerance in a traditionally conservative Catholic country.

·         Barely two weeks after news emerged that United States Drug Enforcement Administration agents had killed a drug suspect in Honduras, the AP reports that two DEA officers shot and killed the pilot of an alleged drug flight earlier this month after he refused to surrender and “made a threatening gesture.” Alex Main of the Center for Economic and Policy Research told the wire agency that the latest DEA killing “looks like an escalation with a sense of a lack of accountability and over-stepping their boundaries in Honduras.”

·         Raul Castro is winding down his visit to East Asia after stopping in China and Vietnam.  The Miami Herald claims that the Cuban leader took two days to arrive in China, although most flights arrive in only one, leading to rumors of a “secret stopover.”  Castro has visited the tomb of Ho Chi Minh earlier today, where he paid his respects by laying down a wreath of flowers. In addition to addressing trade relations with both countries, some have speculated that the purpose of the trip is to serve as an opportunity for Castro to view more mixed economies in action. He is set to return to Cuba on Tuesday.

·         The New York Times profiles the rise of organized crime in Argentina. While the country is still a long way away from seeing the kinds of brutal acts of violence that characterize the drug war in Mexico, drug gangs like the Sinaloa Cartel have broadened their activities there in recent years.

·         In spite of a series of guerrilla attacks in southwest Colombia in recent days, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has claimed that the government has “total control” over the area, according to El Espectador.

·         Americas Quarterly’s Nic Wirtz discusses recent student protests in Guatemala, where the government has proposed an unpopular new law which would require primary school teachers to obtain university degrees. Wirtz claims this is a major test of President Otto Perez’s power, and questions whether he will order a harsh crackdown given his frequent use of states of emergency in the past.

·         James Bosworth of Bloggings by boz looks at Ecuador’s dependence on Venezuela for refined oil. With the Correa administration seeking a $515 million loan in order to address a financial deficit in the wake of a drop in oil prices, Bosworth notes that the country will be forced to seek even more loans (likely at worse rates) if Chavez loses power.

·         51 years after the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo was assassinated, a Dominican tourism company is offering a tour “designed to educate people about the tyranny and fear under which Dominicans lived while paying tribute to the men and women who opposed Trujillo,” reports the Miami Herald.