Thursday, April 18, 2013

Capriles Officially Files Recount Request, U.S. Endorses It

After two days of confrontational rhetoric and mass protests, Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles has finally submitted an official request for a full recount to the country’s election authority, the National Electoral Council (CNE). Carlos Ocariz, head of Capriles’ campaign team, told reporters that they met for over two hours with CNE President Tibisay Lucena yesterday to request a full review of “ballots, meeting minutes, voting machines, records and files" associated with Sunday’s election.

El Nacional reports that President-elect Nicolas Maduro welcomed the move and said he would “fully and completely” accept whatever the CNE decides regarding Capriles’ request. Nevertheless, the appeal will not prevent him from taking office. Maduro is scheduled to be sworn in tomorrow, in a ceremony attended by a number of regional heads of state and official delegates. Anticipated guests include the leaders of Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay and Honduras as well as high-level officials from Spain, El Salvador Colombia and Peru, among other nations.

Meanwhile, the United States government continues to refrain from fully accepting the results of the Venezuelan elections. Testifying before Congress on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry endorsed the recount, saying "if there are huge irregularities we are going to have serious questions about the viability of that government.”

In response, Maduro dismissed Kerry’s remark to local press. "We don't care about your recognition…We have decided to be, and we are going to be free and independent, with you or without you," the Venezuelan leader said.

It is worth noting that Kerry did not explicitly say that the U.S. government contested Maduro’s victory. According to Politico, when asked if he recognized Maduro as the winner in Sunday’s elections Kerry refused to give a yes or no answer. This is likely part of a strategy to avoid public confrontation with Maduro’s government, thus lending weight to his claims that the Obama administration is intervening in Venezuela’s affairs.

This approach was referenced yesterday by Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson. In a surprisingly frank interview with Bloomberg, she said that the Obama administration is actively avoiding responding to Maduro’s heated rhetoric, much as it did with Chavez. “It still doesn’t make sense to get in, you’ll excuse me, a pissing match with Nicolas Maduro any more than it did with Chavez,” Jacobson said.

News Briefs
  • Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, chair of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), has called an emergency meeting of the organization today in Lima to address the political situation in Venezuela. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff and Uruguay’s Jose Mujica will attend the meeting, according to Diario Popular. Mercosur reports that the objective of the meeting is to release a joint statement of support for the elections and for their results.
  • OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza has modified his position on Venezuela’s elections. While he previously supported the Venezuelan opposition’s demands for a recount and offered OAS assistance in the effort, Clarin reports that yesterday he recognized the CNE’s decision and Maduro’s victory, although he maintains that he has concerns about post-election violence in the country.
  • The New York Times reports that Horacio Cartes, the frontrunner in Paraguay’s presidential election, has drawn criticism for comparing gay people to “monkeys” and likening gay marriage to the apocalypse. As noted in yesterday’s Post, Cartes also faces accusations of money laundering, which could cause a last minute change of opinion ahead of Sunday’s vote.
  • While official talks between the Colombian government and FARC rebels seem to be going well, the progress of negotiations with the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN) is unclear. Colombian news agency Colprensa looks at the potential for an announcement of a parallel peace process with the ELN, which appears closer than ever before.
  • The Chilean Senate has voted to impeach Education Minister Harald Beyer, banning him from public office for five years in response to charges that he failed to investigate reports of profits being made at a private university in the country. The vote is a victory for the Chilean student movement, as his dismissal was one of its key demands.
  • Officials in the Brazilian state government of Acre have issued over 900 work permits to recent immigrants from Haiti and other nations, just two weeks after the government declared a state of emergency due to an influx of immigrants to the state.
  • Siglo21 reports that Guatemalan President Otto Perez has supported a public statement by intellectuals, politicians and former military officials circulating in the country which expresses concern that the genocide trial of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt represents a threat to peace and stability.
  • Days after Noe Ramirez -- a former Mexican drug czar accused of working with cartels -- was released from prison, charges have been dropped against another top government official accused of drug ties. According to Mexican prosecutors, the witness testimony against former assistant defense secretary Tomas Angeles Dauahare was not enough to support allegations that he accepted money from the Beltran Leyva crime organization.
  • The Washington Post looks at the changing trade dynamic between Mexico and China, which some economists believe could ultimately benefit the United States, boosting exports and increasing its access to cheap imported goods.
  • In an op-ed for the New York Times, novelist Marie Arana discusses the historical legacy of Latin American liberator Simon Bolivar in Venezuela, criticizing the appropriation of his image by the Chavez government as inaccurate and incongruous.

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