Monday Memo: Summit of the Americas—Venezuela–U.S. relations—Citibank Inspection—Bolivian Missile Trial—Canada-Venezuela Oil
This week’s likely top stories: The Summit of the Americas commences in Panama; petition criticizes U.S. action against Venezuela; Argentine Central Bank inspects Citibank; TSJ initiates missiles trial in Bolivia; Canada and Venezuela discuss investment in Venezuelan oil.
Americas Summit Begins This Week in Panama: The seventh Summit of the Americas will take place this week from April 10 to 11 in Panama City, the first summit in which the leaders of all 35 countries in the hemisphere—including Cuba—will participate. Topics such as climate change, immigration, violence, and energy needs will be on the agenda, although U.S.–Cuba relations may dominate the summit. Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro will meet in person for the first time since they announced renewed diplomatic relations in December 2014, and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson confirmed on Friday that there would be an “interaction” between the two leaders. Meanwhile, Cuban dissidents have been invited to a separate meeting for civil society at the summit. Cuban dissident Rosa María Payá A. stated on Twitter yesterday that Panamanian authorities stopped and searched her at the airport upon arrival in Panama, and she was released after several hours.
Petition against Obama’s Action on Venezuela Gains Ground: Critics of President Barack Obama’s March 9 executive action that declared Venezuela a national security threat have circulated a petition that had gained over 8 million signatures by Saturday. The petition began in Venezuela, although many countries throughout the region have expressed their support for Venezuela. In March, all member nations of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) rejected Obama’s action against the country, which also included sanctions against select Venezuelan officials accused of human rights abuses and corruption. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro thanked supporters via Twitter on Sunday. Growing tension between the U.S. and Venezuela, which have not had full diplomatic relations since 2008, threatens to overshadow other issues to be discussed at the Summit of Americas this week.
Argentina’s Central Bank Sends Inspectors to Citibank for Supervision: On Monday, the Argentine Central Bank sent regulators to Citibank headquarters in Buenos Aires for an inspection. Central Bank president Alejandro Vanoli said that the inspection aimed to ensure that Citibank would be able to run normally without CEO Gabriel Ribisich, who was dismissed by the Central Bank on Wednesday for not following local regulations regarding Argentine interest payments on restructured debt. The Central Bank gave Citibank 24 hours to find a replacement for Ribisich, but the deadline was extended to Monday, due to the closure of banks for local holidays. Local entities, such as the Argentine Banks Association, the Argentine Business Association and the United States Chamber of Commerce in Argentina expressed their support for Citibank and criticized the decision. Citibank could still appeal the decision today.
Chinese Missiles Trial Begins in Sucre: Bolivia’s Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (Supreme Tribunal of Justice—TSJ) began a trial against former Minister of Defense Gonzalo Mendéz and eight former military officers on Monday for the suspicious delivery of 36 Chinese missiles to the U.S. in 2005. The defendants are accused of “total or partial submission of Bolivia to foreign domination,” as well as insubordination and the revelation of state secrets. The missiles involved in the case were sold to Bolivia by China in 1996, but were then given to the U.S. Embassy in La Paz for deactivation since they were allegedly obsolete. However, the current administration claims that the missiles were operational. President Evo Morales has announced that he will purchase weapons to replace the lost missiles. Russia’s ambassador to Bolivia, Alexey Sazonov, said a committee will be traveling to Bolivia soon to discuss the sale.
Canada Sees Possibilities of Oil Collaboration with Venezuela: Canadian Senior Trade Commissioner Lewis Coughlin stated on Monday that Canada hopes to use its experience working with heavy crude oil to work with Venezuela to develop the technologies needed to expand the oil industry in the country. Coughlin said that the countries could accomplish this through further investment in the Orinoco oil belt in the next five years. He expressed a desire for Canada to increase its imports of oil goods parallel to the increase in investment in the sector. Coughlin also reiterated that bilateral relations between the Venezuela and Canada in terms of trade remain “positive and stable.”
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