Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Monday Memo: Rios Montt – Venezuela’s Military – Panama’s Electricity – World Cup – China’s Vice President

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Top stories this week are likely to include: Rios Montt convicted of genocide; Venezuelan military to fight insecurity; Panama announces continued electricity rationing; FIFA expresses concerns over Brazil’s World Cup stadium; and China’s vice president travels to Venezuela.

Rios Montt found guilty: On Friday, a three-judge tribunal sentenced the 86-year-old former dictator of Guatemala, Efrain Rios Montt to 80 years in prison.  Rios Montt was convicted of genocide for ordering the deaths of nearly 2,000 people of the Ixil Maya ethnic group between 1982 and 1983. He is expected to appeal the court’s decision, a process that promises to drag on a trial that, over the course of two months, has been beset by numerous delays. The conviction is seen as a victory not only for Guatemalans who endured the violence, but also for international human rights more broadly. It marks the first time a former head of state had been found guilty of genocide by a court in his or her own country. A hearing on Monday will focus on compensation for the victims.

Venezuela’s military deployed to fight crime: Today, some 3,000 military troops will deploy to the streets in several neighborhoods throughout Venezuela as part of President Nicolás Maduro’s efforts to tackle the country’s daunting and rising crime rate.  Venezuela has the highest number of homicides per capita in Latin America and polls during the recent presidential election revealed that insecurity tops the list of citizen concerns.  Troops will be concentrated in the municipalities of Sucre and Baruta—both areas dominated by opposition supporters and, according to the government, two of the most dangerous regions of the country.  Critics say the move violates the constitution, but Maduro maintains that the troops are necessary to protect the Venezuelan people.

 Strict electricity rationing to remain in place in Panama: On Sunday, Panama’s government announced that most of the restrictions on electricity use that went into place last week will continue until further notice.  The rationing, which curtailed business hours and drastically limited the use of electricity-intensive devices, comes amid a severe drought that has dried up the water sources that power the country’s hydroelectric plants.  While other restrictions will remain—and in some cases tighten—schools, which were closed last Wednesday to Friday, will reopen today. However, the government has instructed schools to keep the air conditioning off and to use lights sparingly.  Over the course of the week, the government will monitor energy supply and modify restrictions as necessary.

FIFA warns Brazil about construction timeframe: As Brazil prepares to host the World Cup in 2014, FIFA, the games’ governing body, issued a warning about delays in the construction of six soccer stadiums.  FIFA’s concern came after as second test at the Maracanã stadium was cancelled due to unpreparedness. The Maracanã stadium, along with the others in Cuiabá, Manaus, Natal, Curitiba, Porto Alegre, and São Paulo must be handed over to FIFA and tested twice by December, according to FIFA. Yet, the current timeline is that the stadiums are unlikely to be completed before February or March.

Vice President of China travels to Venezuela: China’s vice president, Li Yuanchao, arrived in Venezuela on Sunday, beginning a four-day visit focused on deepening the bilateral relationship and establishing alliances with the new administration of President Nicolás Maduro.  On Monday, Li will participate in a memorial to former President Hugo Chávez, followed by a series of meetings over the course of the week with Venezuelan leaders, including the minister of science and technology.  Li hopes to prioritize educational and technology exchanges between the two countries.  He will also meet with the ministers of energy and economy, President of Petróleos de Venezuela Rafael Ramírez, and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, among others. The two countries are expected to sign accords on issues such as oil and mining. Li will then travel to Argentina on May 16.

Tags: 2014 World Cup, China and Latin America, Efraín Ríos Montt, Energy crisis
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