Friday, May 16, 2014

UNASUR Cancels Venezuela Visit Amid Stalled Talks

With dialogue in Venezuela still frozen following the opposition's decision to suspend its participation in the talks, the UNASUR coalition facilitating them has postponed its visit to the country. 

Yesterday, the Brazilian, Ecuadorean and Colombian foreign ministers who make up the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) delegation mediating the dialogue announced that they would not be traveling to Venezuela as planned. The official reason given by Brazilian Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo was that he had been called away to Brasilia unexpectedly, but the timing of the announcement is no coincidence. 

The future of the talks looks uncertain, and in all likelihood the UNASUR ministers determined that their presence could pose more of a risk than a boon to dialogue. After all, the opposition MUD coalition had been planning on using their presence to "explain to them" their grievances regarding the government's alleged failure to deliver concrete results.

If the talks ultimately break down, it will have repercussions for the regional bloc as well as for Venezuela. As Javier Ciurlizza of the International Crisis Group told EFE, the UNASUR ministers likely wanted to avoid being "affected by a failure which occurred in their presence," which would be especially damaging to UNASUR considering that it was specifically asked to mediate the dialogue "over other organizations like the Organization of American States (OAS)."

While no new date has been announced for the UNASUR visit, MUD figures say it is "probable" that it will be rescheduled for Sunday.

News Briefs
  • Dominican paper Listin Diario reports that the president of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina, has finally presented lawmakers with a bill that would create a path to citizenship for thousands of individuals of Haitian descent in the country, after promising to do so since February. The AP notes that the bill would only provide citizenship rights to those who have official identification documents, a requirement which critics say will ultimately force many to register as foreigners in the very country in which they were born.
  • Newly-inaugurated Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis is pressing the United States for clarification of reports that the USAID’s failed “Cuban Twitter” partially operated out of the Central American country. Solis told the AP that he is seeking information on what the U.S. is doing “to prevent this from happening again without authorization from the Costa Rican government.”
  • BBC Mundo has an analysis of Guatemalan lawmakers’ recent vote to deny that a genocide took place during the country’s civil war despite a UN-backed truth commission’s finding that state agents committed “acts of genocide” during the conflict. Fortunately, the resolution is non-binding, and will have no legal impact on the pending case against former dictator Efrain Rios Montt.  
  • The New York Times looks at Colombia’s presidential race, with the campaigns of President Juan Manuel Santos and challenger Oscar Ivan Zuluaga both adopting significantly dirtier tactics in recent days as the first round vote approaches on May 25.
  • Colombia’s two main guerrilla armies, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN) have announced a unilateral ceasefire ahead of the upcoming elections, to take effect betweenMay 20-28, Semana reports.
  • In spite of rampant speculation in Latin America that Pope Francis is advancing murdered Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero’s application for sainthood, a senior Vatican spokesman has denied that any such effort is underway.
  • A judge has ordered the arrest of Cesar Alvarez, the governor of Peru’s Ancash state which was recently profiled by the AP as a “mini-dictatorship,” in connection with the assassination of state lawmaker Ezequiel Nolasco, who had been one of Alvarez’s fiercest critics. According to El Comercio, Alvarez’s lawyers have challenged the arrest order on the basis that he has already been acquitted of similar charges.
  • Major Brazilian cities saw anti-World Cup protests yesterday, which fueled riots in the northeastern city of Recife as well as violent clashes with police in São Paulo. However, O Globo points out that the number of protesters in yesterday’s demonstrations was less than those participating in various ongoing labor union strikes, and is far below the numbers seen during last year’s wave of demonstrations.
  • The Washington Post reports on Uruguayan President Jose Mujica’s offer to host six freed detainees of the Guantanamo Bay prison in his country. While Mujica remains on board the idea, he told reporters that the U.S. must take up his offer quickly, as elections are in October and he is only in office until March.
  • Today’s L.A. Times profiles the recent report by the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO), which evidence of widespread fraud in the country’s public education system.