U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited South America last week and urged allies to pressure Venezuela. In Brazil he spoke with President Michel Temer, and asked Brazil to “act more firmly” to restore democracy in Venezuela. But while the U.S. vice president assured journalists that Brazil supported sanctions on Venezuelan government officials, after the visit Brazilian foreign minister Aloysio Nunes said they opposed unilateral sanctions initiatives and thought “the issue of Venezuela should be managed in the OAS.” Pence also visited Venezuelan migrants at a refuge in Manaos, Brazil. Pence called Venezuela a “brutal dictatorship” and said “the message that President Donald Trump sends is that the United States is with you…and will continue to be until democracy is restored in Venezuela.”
Pence had a similar message for Ecuador on his visit there. He urged President Lenin Moreno to stay firm with respect to Venezuela, and promised $2 million in US support for their efforts to attend to Venezuelan migrants.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro responded by calling Pence a “Venomous snake,” and suggested that every time Pence speaks “I feel stronger and clearer about our path.”
- The Lima Group met on June 27 to analyze the results of the Organization of American States’ General Assembly, in which 19 countries passed a resolution saying they did not recognize Venezuela’s May 20 presidential election.
Democracy and its challenges
- Bloomberg gained access to military court documents and witnesses revealing that indeed there had been a coup plot in the works in May to overthrow Nicolás Maduro. High ranking officers from all four branches of the Armed Forces had been conspiring. But the plot was discovered and those involved were arrested. The military prosecutor says that Maria Corina Machado was involved, but she denies that, as do insiders close to the conspiracy.
- A couple of important segments of the public sector are protesting salaries and work conditions. On June 28, public university professors started a forty-eight hour work stoppage to protest unfulfilled salary promises. Behind faculty discontent is also the decimation of health and other benefits. Nurses of 21 of the most important public hospitals in Venezuela went on an indefinite strike. They are demanding salary increases similar to those recently given to the military.
- One government response was to have the Health Ministry distribute CLAP boxes of low-cost food at various hospitals during the work stoppages. Several nurses expressed offense at what looked like an obvious attempt at social and political control through food distribution.
- A pilot plan aimed at distributing gas through the CLAP network, was rolled out in Sucre Municipality, in eastern Caracas. Residents of Venezuela’s barrios depend on refillable gas tanks for their stoves.
- The National Press Workers Syndicate denounced that so far in 2018 there have been 113 violations of the freedom of expression.
- Access to the TOR Network in Venezuela has been blocked. TOR is an encryption network that allows users to access censured webpages and blocked content.
- The Venezuelan Program for Education and Action in Human Rights (PROVEA) demanded medical attention for an indigenous community in Bolívar state where 200 people have malaria and there is only medicine available for 50.
- Access to water is increasingly precarious, leading to protests in neighborhoods that sometimes go weeks without water (see here and here). Buildings in wealthier neighborhoods frequently drill their own illegal wells.
- Argentinian volunteers, including health workers and doctors, have been deployed to the Colombian border with Venezuela to attend to migrants. The operation is the result of an agreement made between Argentinian president Mauricio Macri and President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia.
- The Federation of Latin American and Caribbean Journalists (FEPALC) asked its member organizations to facilitate and support the work and integration of journalists who have had to leave Venezuela.
- BBC Mundo published a moving article on the number of kids who now live without their parents after the latter move abroad to try to work and send home remittances.
- A brief written by Insight Crime with information from the Venezuelan Prison Observatory suggests that Venezuela’s prisons have become the operation centers for organized crime.
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.
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