Latin America: Week in Brief [May 19-26, 2014]
ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTS, VENEZUELA| Context
Protests against President Maduro’s socialist government continue but have dwindled in recent weeks with no new deaths since May 8th. On Sunday May 25th, Venezuelans in two cities voted to elect new mayors two months after the opposition-member incumbents were jailed for their alleged responsibility in the protests. The wives of two ousted mayors won landslide victories in special elections to choose their husbands’ replacements.
Both original opposition mayors had won office last December, but the National Electoral Council called for new elections after the two men were convicted and jailed. The wives of the detained mayors, were both heavily favored to win in the cities, which have a strong tradition of supporting opposition candidates. President Maduro warned on Sunday however that his government may have to intervene again if tensions resume.
MAOIST INSURGENCY, COLUMBIA | Context
Polls have closed in the first round of a Colombia’s presidential election, which put Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, who opposes the government’s peace talks with Marxist rebels, ahead President Juan Manuel Santos. With many topics in the election, negotiations with guerrillas from the FARC has developed into the central issue and a major differentiator.
The Santos government has held talks in Cuba with FARC negotiators since 2012, trying to agree to a peaceful solution to an insurgency that began in 1964. The FARC and government negotiators have so far reached agreement on three of five negotiating points. Mr Santos has said he needs another four years to see the peace talks through and to lead the country through a post-conflict period.
Zuluaga however opposes any deal that would give guerrilla leaders immunity for crimes or allow them seats in Congress. Mr Zuluaga has said that, if elected, he would place conditions on continuing the negotiations, including demanding the FARC cease all criminal activity. With the recent win, FARC negotiators in Havana, where talks are being held, may be deciding whether they should accept conditions for continuing the talks or break them off altogether.
CARTEL VIOLENCE, MEXICO | Context
Mexican security forces captured a regional leader of a drug cartel who controlled illegal trafficking of drugs, guns and money as well as kidnapping of migrants in a frontier region bordering Texas. The suspect, Juan Manuel Rodriguez Garcia was the Gulf Cartel’s commander along the Rio Grande and was competing for control of the gang’s operations in all of Tamaulipas state.
Six suspected cartel enforcers were killed by the Mexican army during two shootouts last week in the greater Reynosa area. Five gunmen confronted soldiers in Ejido Arguelles, a village outside Reynosa. Soldiers seized two trucks, several rifles, ammunition and tactical gear. In the second shootout, members of the Mexican marines patrolling the Rancho Grande neighborhood returned gunfire on several men, killing one. They seized two rifles and several vehicles.
Federal police on Sunday said they noticed a gunman in a home while patrolling a neighborhood, state officials said. They arrested 26-year-old Jose Luis Martinez Vasquez, and found six guns, a grenade launcher, seven grenades, 48 bullet magazines and more than 1,300 bullets. Also seized were marijuana and cocaine.
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