VENEZUELA: The Lima Group of Latin American countries and the European Union walked out on Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza during his speech to the UN Human Rights Council yesterday. Arreaza called for direct talks between Trump and Maduro to find “common ground” and was joined by Bolivian President Evo Morales, who asked the U.S. administration to show the same will for dialogue with Venezuela as it has with North Korea.
Opposition leader Juan Guaidó left for Brazil to meet with President Jair Bolsonaro before returning to Venezuela, where Guaidó plans to lead a “national mobilization.” Guaidó faces serious risk of arrest after he violated a court order to not leave the country in order to attend the Venezuelan Aid Concert over the weekend in Colombia. U.S. President Donald Trump’s Latin America advisor said Maduro would make the “worst decision of his life” if he arrested Guaidó.
HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE
UNITED STATES: House Democrats passed legislation yesterday to end President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration, intended to obtain funding for his proposed border wall, despite threats that Trump will veto the bill. The House voted 245-182 to block Trump’s national emergency declaration, enough to pass the bill in the House, but not enough to override a veto should Trump reject the legislation. Thirteen Republicans backed the Democrats’ measure. During a lunch with Republican senators at the Capitol, Vice President Mike Pence urged Republicans to support the President’s national emergency, emphasizing the crisis at the border. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said, “I personally couldn’t handicap the outcome at this point,” suggesting that Senate Republicans may be uncomfortable with the national emergency.
UNITED STATES: The U.S. federal government has received over 4,500 complaints of sexual abuse of immigrant children detained at government-funded detention centers in the past four years. There was an increase in complaints recently while the family separation policy was in effect. The records, involving children who came to the United States by themselves or who were separated from their families at the border, present detailed allegations of adult staff members sexually harassing children. They also include suspected abuse of children by other minors.
U.S./MEXICO BORDER: Prototypes of Trump’s border wall were demolished yesterday just steps from an existing barrier between San Diego and Tijuana. The eight concrete and steel panels, symbols of Trump’s promise to build a wall, were destroyed in two hours. U.S. officials said elements of the prototypes had been incorporated into current border fence designs and that the prototypes were no longer needed.
PUERTO RICO: Seventy-five people have been indicted on federal charges for drug trafficking, allegedly running an international ring out of Puerto Rico since 2006. Known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cantera (FARC-PR), the group allegedly sent cocaine to the U.S. mainland and distributed narcotics around public housing projects in the Santurce neighborhood of San Juan. Members of the FARC-PR are accused of throwing their victims to caimans, according to federal investigators. The U.S. government seized $76 million and four properties allegedly under the control of the group.
HAITI: Following continued protests, the Haitian Minister of Culture canceled its national carnival. Jean-Michel Lapin explained that there is “not enough time” to prepare the annual festivities. In the face of anti-government demonstrations that have gripped the country since Feb. 7, mayors across the country had already canceled several celebrations leading up the carnival.
NICARAGUA: Ahead of talks with the opposition, President Daniel Ortega’s regime released dozens of political prisoners in Nicaragua yesterday. Among those released were students, academics and human rights activists detained over the last two years. The Ministry of Interior published online a full list of those individuals who will now be under house arrest. Fueled by sustained social unrest and political repression, Nicaragua’s economy has hit its lowest point since the 1980s, when the country was experiencing an internal armed conflict.
COLOMBIA: A Human Rights Watch report released yesterday questions President Iván Duque’s promotion of nine army generals to top positions despite investigations into their involvement in extrajudicial killings known as the “false positives” scandal. The scandal involved government security forces murdering innocent civilians and portraying them as guerrillas killed in combat. According to the report, the new army chief of staff, General Nicacio de Jesús Martínez Espinel, was commander of a brigade under investigation for 23 false positives. Hundreds of low ranking officers have been sentenced for the extrajudicial killings, but ranking officers have yet to be convicted.
BOLIVIA: The Bolivian government declared a state of emergency after torrential rains killed at least 25 people and left 5,200 people homeless. Hail nearly the size of golf balls injured civilians and killed animals in the affected regions of Chuquisaca, La Paz and Potosí. The government intends to commit over $7 million to disaster relief.
BRAZIL: Brazil’s anti-trust council gave Disney the green light to continue its $71 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox yesterday. Regulators conditioned the deal on Disney selling Fox Sports because owning Fox Sports and ESPN would have given Disney dominant market power over sports networks. The Brazilian government’s decision indicates that similar regulator approval for the purchase should follow soon in Mexico and Chile.