Thursday, May 16, 2013

Division Continues in Post-Election Venezuela

Despite an announced agreement last week between opposition lawmakers and legislators of Venezuela’s ruling majority, Venezuelan society remains bitterly divided with no end in sight.

Last week, Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) lawmakers reached an agreement with members of the United Socialist Party (PSUV) which looked like it would allow Venezuela’s National Assembly to resume normal proceedings. The agreement, which included a joint statement calling for peaceful dialogue, came after weeks of National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello refusing to grant opposition legislators the floor because they would not recognize Maduro’s election victory.  This tension boiled over on April 30, when a fistfight broke out on the floor of the legislative body, injuring lawmakers on both sides.

Since then, however, the conflict in the Assembly has continued. El Nacional reports that MUD lawmakers refused to turn up at a parliamentary meeting yesterday in which the Assembly’s permanent commissions convened.  In response, Cabello has announced he will not pay their salaries.

"The committees all met yesterday in the Assembly, they weren’t there. Only the committees controlled by revolutionary lawmakers worked. How can I pay them? I can’t. It would be irresponsible on my part to pay those who do not work," Cabello said.

Opposition leaders say they are refusing to attend the meetings until their control of four committees they have held since 2011 is restored.

Meanwhile, opinion polls show the Venezuelan public is becoming increasingly sympathetic to the opposition, with a recent analysis by pollster IVAD suggesting that if new elections were held, 40.8 percent would support President Nicolas Maduro and 45.8 would vote for opposition leader Henrique Capriles.

The International Crisis Group has released a report today noting that Venezuelans have become “divided into two, apparently irreconcilable parts,” and calling on moderate sectors of Chavismo to meet with members of the opposition and establish a national dialogue. Unfortunately, the odds of this happening seem slim at the moment.

News Briefs
  • Reuters reports that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has ordered her government to stop seizing farmland in order to transfer it to indigenous tribes. After land management regulations were changes last week, sources close to Rousseff told the news agency that she has told her government to refrain from approving indigenous claims to land.
  • In a sign of growing Brazilian influence in the world, BBC reports that Brazil is expanding naval operations off the coast of Africa in order to better fight piracy and drug trafficking.
  • Despite evidence that public opinion is turning against him, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is still relying on popular support for deceased President Hugo Chavez to boost his image. Yesterday the president inaugurated the mausoleum of Venezuelan liberator Simon Bolivar, which is seen by many observers as one of Chavez’s last pet projects. Maduro invoked Chavez throughout the ceremony, the AP reports, stressing the similarities between the deceased president and Bolivar.
  • In addition to historic levels of food shortages, Venezuela is now seeing scarcity of toilet paper. As with food, the government is blaming this issue on hoarding and price speculation. "The revolution will bring the country the equivalent of 50 million rolls of toilet paper," Commerce Minister Alejandro Fleming announced on Tuesday. "We are going to saturate the market so that our people calm down." Meanwhile, the BBC has a piece on how food shortages have become a politically divisive issue in the country.
  • Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto fired the head of Mexico’s consumer protection agency yesterday in response to a scandal caused by his decision to briefly close a restaurant that refused his daughter the table she wanted. The incident has raised the issue of elite privilege in the country, as Univision has reported.
  • The Guardian reports that the Colombian government has uncovered a plot to kill a freelance correspondent and magazine columnist, just two weeks after a high-profile investigative reporter with Semana magazine survived an assassination attempt.
  • The Washington Post has a long investigation into recruitment of child soldiers by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). While the group is engaging in peace talks with the government in Havana, local experts say it is increasingly relying on minors to fill gaps in its structure in response to increased casualties and desertions. While the exact number of is unknown, human rights groups say there are anywhere from hundreds to thousands of minors in the FARC.
  • The Post also features a piece on the marked difference in reaction to President Peña Nieto’s decision to allow less U.S. involvement in the fight against drug traffickers between Washington and Mexico. Many in the latter country see it as a positive move that is long overdue. 

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