Venezuela Weekly: Trump Administration Links Venezuela to Migrant Caravan

In stoking an alarmist view the migrant caravan currently making its way through Mexico, the White House has painted the march as a product of sinister Venezuelan influence in the hemisphere. Yet like much of the Trump Administration’s rhetoric on the caravan, there is no evidence to back this up. At an October 23 event hosted by the Washington Post, Vice President Mike Pence said that he was told by Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez that the caravan was “organized by left-wing groups in Honduras, financed by Venezuela, and sent north to challenge our sovereignty and challenge our border.”

The claim that Venezuela is complicit in organizing  this caravan was also repeated by a Wall Street Journal editorial yesterday, which noted that left-wing activist and former congressman Honduran congressman Bartolo Fuente organized the initial protest that snowballed into the caravan. Aside from an ideological link between his party and Venezuela’s ruling government, the WSJ cited no proof of Venezuela’s involvement but said “[c]riminal organizations and governments like Venezuela would benefit from chaos at the U.S. border that embarrasses the Trump Administration.” This appears to have been enough for UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, who shared the article on Twitter and added that “Honduran politicians allied w Venezuelan & Cuban socialist dictators are encouraging the caravan to undermine US-friendly gov’t of Pres Hernandez.”

It is true that Nicolas Maduro has minimized his own country’s displacement crisis and used the caravan to attack U.S. immigration policy. But there is no proof that Venezuela provided financial support to the caravan, and the allegation has been debunked by reporters following the issue. The Washington Post reports bluntly today that “there is no evidence to support that claim,” and the WSJ’s own Latin America editor David Luhnow said this dovetails with his team’s own reporting, adding that there is “no sign” of Venezuela behind the caravan.

International Engagement and Pressure

  • The Associated Press reports today that U.S. conflict management specialist Jim Tull will be visiting Venezuela next week in an effort to explore the potential for meaningful talks between the government and opposition. Tull will hold several days of closed-door meetings with representatives from both sides, though there is no sign that the Trump Administration supports the effort. Instead his trip is reportedly organized by Sen. Bob Corker and his staffer Caleb McCarry, who have been spearheading a search for creative engagement initiatives through the Boston Group (see October 11 briefing).
  • Ecuador continued its break from previously friendly relations from Venezuela in recent days, announcing the expulsion of its Venezuelan ambassador. The move came after Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez claimed Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno had lied about the number of those who have fled Venezuela.

Democracy and Transparency

  • Transparencia Venezuela notes that the Venezuelan government has now unconstitutionally circumvented the National Assembly in submitting an annual budget for the third consecutive year. As it did last year, the Maduro administration presented the budget to the Constituent Assembly rather than the legislature. But the group notes that unlike last year, this year’s process lacked any public explanation of priorities or areas of focus.
  • On October 18, Mexico’s Attorney General’s office cast further light on the scale of corruption in Venezuela, announcing the dismantling of shady network that profited by selling products at marked-up prices to the government’s CLAP (Local Production and Distribution Committee) subsidized food distribution program. According to Animal Politico (for English see InSight Crime), the group sold low-quality goods to the Venezuelan government at twice their market value. As part of a plea deal, Mexico’s Attorney General made those responsible commit to pay $3 million to the UNHCR. The investigation confirms previous reporting by news site Armando.info, which has suffered harsh retaliation from the Venezuelan government (see last week’s briefing).

Migration

  • Serving in her role as a special envoy for UNHCR, actress Angelina Jolie carried out a three-day trip to Peru to meet with Venezuelans who have fled their country. The AP reports that she met with refugees at a shelter in Lima and traveled to a border crossing in northern Peru. In Tuesday remarks after meeting with Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra, Jolie congratulated him on his administration’s response and urged governments around the world to adopt policies that make it easier for refugees to apply for asylum.
  • On October 17 the foreign ministers of Colombia and Peru signed an agreement to exchange information in order to establish a database of Venezuelan migrants in both countries, a step towards the creation of a kind of regional residency permit.
  • Ecuador’s government has said that its commitment to addressing Venezuela’s migrant and refugee crisis will not be affected by diplomatic tensions with Caracas, and that a second meeting of signatories of the Quito Declaration will proceed on November 22-23.

Human Rights

  • Two months on from the launch of Nicolas Madro’s recovery plan intended to reverse the country’s economic crisis, the situation has not improved. Efecto Cocuyo has an overview of the last two months, noting that food shortages persist, and inflation has risen by over 4% each day.
  • The ongoing wave of small-scale labor protests continued over the last week, with an October 18 march to the prosecutors’ offices of 15 states organized by the Plataforma de Conflicto de los Trabajadores. EFE notes that the protests were focused around economic rights in addition to denouncing repression against demonstrating workers.

The goal of Venezuela Weekly is to provide a news digest that is brief yet highlights concrete information. As such most of our links will be to local and regional Spanish-language press. English-language links will be highlighted in bold.

Did I miss something important or get something wrong? Let me know at [email protected]