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Daily Brief: OAS Rebukes Venezuela Over Threats to Democracy

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June 1, 2016

Daily News Brief

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OAS Rebukes Venezuela Over Threats to Democracy

The head of the Organization for American States said the body would take steps that could lead to Venezuela's suspension from the group (NYT). Secretary-General Luis Almagro accused Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of "grave alterations of democratic order" and called for a vote to suspend the country (AP). Maduro has declared a state of emergency amid calls for a referendum to remove him from power. Meanwhile, security forces have quelled protests, and government-backed courts have moved to stymy the opposition-backed legislature. Venezuela's severe economic downturn has led to wide-scale power outages and shortages of food and medicine. 


"The slow rollback of South America’s 'pink tide' is laying bare the endemic corruption that was hidden beneath the economic success once enjoyed by the region’s progressive governments. Voted out in democratic elections in Argentina, expelled by what almost conclusively looks like a palace coup in Brazil or tottering on the brink of social meltdown in Venezuela, a league of like-minded progressive presidents has been broken apart in the space of six months," Uki Goni writes for the Guardian.

"Venezuela’s government, with its low popularity and one of the world’s worst economic collapses, is facing a growing chorus accusing it of doubling down on authoritarianism. President Nicolas Maduro this month called a state of emergency that expanded his powers against opponents. Venezuela's Legislature, controlled by rivals of the country’s governing leftists for the first time in more than a decade, has been stymied by government-backed courts. And protests to recall the president in a referendum have been quashed with tear gas and security forces," Nicholas Casey writes for the New York Times.

"Beneath all the chaos that now characterizes daily life in Venezuela, one question rings forth: Why did the country with the largest fossil-fuel resources in Latin America, and among the largest on Earth, decide to generate its power with water, a notoriously unreliable substance? Contrary to what we might assume, in today’s sustainability-minded world, the choice did not arise from a noble commitment to renewable energy. The main reason that Venezuela has invested in hydro above all else is to preserve as much of its oil as possible for export. Yet power generation, and especially generation that relies on renewables, requires diversification; Venezuela has failed to design its electrical infrastructure in a way that accounts for the natural unpredictability of energy sources like hydro, solar, and wind," Gretchen Bakke writes for the New Yorker


China Announces Plan to Clean Contaminated Soil

China released a plan to restore 90 percent of its contaminated agricultural land within four years (FT). Up to 20 percent of China's arable land is believed to be contaminated due to metal smelting, fertilizer production, and mining.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at China's environmental challenges.

THAILAND: Seventy Uighur migrants jailed in Thailand will reportedly begin a hunger strike to protest detention conditions and threats of repatriation to China, where they wrote they would face "physical and emotional torture" (RFA). A letter claiming to represent the group said Thai detention conditions "inflicted profound suffering" on the detainees and that they hoped to travel to Turkey.


Report: Number of Afghan Internally Displaced Has Doubled Since 2013

The number of Afghans who have fled their homes for other parts of the country has doubled since 2013, according to a new Amnesty International report, reaching 1.2 million (WaPo) as violence between Taliban militants and government forces continues a year and a half after the United States declared an end to its combat mission in the country.  

This CFR InfoGuide looks at the history of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

BANGLADESH: A new report says that only seven out of 1,660 factories have implemented corrective plans following the 2013 Accord on Fire and Building Safety (Guardian) in Bangladesh. The legally binding agreement came after a building collapse at the Rana Plaza garment factory killed 1,138 workers earlier that year.


UN: ISIS Gaining Territory in Libya

The self-proclaimed Islamic State poses a "real threat" in Libya as it looks for alternative places to expand and profits from the sale of oil from captured facilities there, according to a new UN report. The militant group has suffered military setbacks in Iraq and Syria and lost revenue from oil sales due to U.S. airstrikes on its infrastructure (Al Jazeera).

This CFR Global Conflict Tracker discusses the civil war in Libya and the establishment of the new UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli.  

EGYPT: Authorities arrested three leaders of Egypt's journalist union and accused them of harboring fugitives and distributing false news (WaPo). An attorney for the reporters said the arrests targeted one journalist for his criticism of an Egyptian deal to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.


UN Contractors, Peacekeeper Killed in Mali

In a social media post Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb seemed to claim responsibility for two separate attacks in the Malian city of Gao that killed a UN peacekeeper and two contractors (Al Jazeera). Sixty UN peacekeepers have died since the mission was established there in 2013, making it the body's deadliest active mission.  

NIGERIA: President Muhammadu Buhari will make his first visit to the country's oil-producing Niger Delta region (DW), where militants have carried out numerous attacks recently on oil infrastructure and locals have long expressed grievances over pollution and oil spills. Buhari said he will engage with disaffected community leaders in the region (Newsweek)

CFR's John Campbell discusses attacks on Nigeria's oil infrastructure in this blog post.


Turkey Warns Germany Over Armenian Genocide Vote

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned of damage to bilateral relations if German lawmakers go forward with a vote to denounce the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as a genocide (FT).

ITALY: Police arrested sixteen alleged human traffickers who were among refugees rescued at sea and brought to the city of Catania (Reuters). Separately, the EU law enforcement agency, Europol, announced that it had arrested nineteen people involved in forging passports and other documents in Greece and the Czech Republic (WSJ). Aid groups say more than one thousand migrants died (AP) trying to cross the Mediterranean last week.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at Europe's migrant crisis.


Canadian Wildfire Evacuees Return Home

Some fifteen thousand residents of the Alberta oil sands town Fort McMurray were expected to begin returning home following their evacuation after a wildfire that began four weeks ago (CBC). A fire covering 580,000 hectares is still burning but is not expected to grow (BBC).

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