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TOPIC: venezuela


On Democracy, Republics And Lula's Theory Of Relativity

A democracy is not just the vague and dangerously malleable promise of popular rule. It is instead an institutional regime or "republic" that defines and protects the rights of the people, and of individuals.


BUENOS AIRES — In a column in this newspaper (Clarín) earlier this year, Professor Loris Zanatta drew our attention to declarations made in July by Brazil's President Lula da Silva rejecting criticisms against Venezuela's socialist regime. Lula said "democracy is a relative concept, for you and for me," when asked if Venezuela is a democracy.

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No Ceasefire, Maduro Election Interference, No Más Sexy Halloween Nurses

👋 Häj ą̊ dig!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Israel and the U.S. dismiss global calls for Gaza ceasefire, Venezuelan elections are in doubt and Spanish nurses are not Ok with those racy (or ghoulish) Halloween costumes. Meanwhile, Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza dives back into the abortion debate in the wake of the recent elections that will push the conservative ruling party out of power.

[*Elfdalian, Sweden]

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An End To Venezuela Sanctions? The Lula Factor In Biden's Democratization Gamble

The Biden administration's exploration to lift sanctions on Venezuela, hoping to gently push its regime back on the path of democracy, might have taken its cue from Brazilian President Lula's calls to stop demonizing Venezuela.


BOGOTÁ — Reports last month that U.S. President Joe Biden's apparent decision to unblock billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets, frozen since 2015 as part of the United States' sanctions on the Venezuelan regime, could be the first of many pieces to fall in a domino effect that could help end the decades-long Venezuelan deadlock.

It may move the next piece — the renewal of conversations in Mexico between the Venezuelan government and opposition — before pushing over other obstacles to elections due in 2024 and to Venezuela's return into the community of American states.

I don't think I'm being naïve in anticipating developments that would lead to a new narrative around Venezuela, very different to the one criticized by Brazil's president, Lula da Silva. He told a regional summit in Brasilia in June that there were prejudices about Venezuela — and I dare say he wasn't entirely wrong, based on the things I hear from a Venezuelan friend who lives in Bogotá but travels frequently home.

My friend insists his country's recent history is not quite as depicted in the foreign press. The price of basic goods found in a food market are much the same as those in Bogotá, he says.

He goes to the theater when he visits Caracas, eats in restaurants and strolls in parks and squares. There are new building works, he says. He uses the Caracas metro and insists its trains and stations are clean — showing me pictures on his cellphone to prove it.

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Latin America's Migrants Trying To Reach The U.S.: Risk It All, Fail, Repeat

Searching for a safe home, many Latin American migrants are forced to try, time after time, getting turned away, and then risk everything again.

BUENOS AIRES — With gangsters breathing down his neck, Maynor sold all of his possessions in Honduras, took his wife and three kids aged 11, 8 and 5, and set out northwards. He was leaving home for good, for the third time.

"I had to leave my country several times," he said, "but was deported." He was now trying to enter the U.S. again, but the family had become stuck in Mexico: "Things are really, really bad for us right now."

Migration in Latin America is no longer a linear process, taking migrants from one place to another. It goes in several directions. Certain routes will take you to one country as a stopover to another, but really, it's more a lengthy ordeal than a layover, and the winners are those who can find that receptive, welcoming community offering work and a better life.

The aid agency Doctors Without Borders (MSF) calls this an international, multidirectional phenomenon that may include recurring trips to and from a home country.

Marisol Quiceno, MSF's Advocacy chief for Latin America, told Clarín that migrants "are constantly looking for opportunities and for food security, dignified work opportunities (and) healthcare access." These are the "minimum basics of survival," she said, adding that people will keep looking if they did not find them the first time around.

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Migrant Lives
Adrià Salido

With The Migrants Forced To Face The Perils Of The Darién Gap Journey

The number of migrants and refugees who have passed through the Darien Gap reaches historic figures. So far this year, it is estimated that 250,000 migrants and refugees have crossed through the dangerous Darién jungle, mainly from countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador and Haiti.

NECOCLÍ — It is 7 in the morning at the Necoclí pier. Hundreds of migrants and refugees pack their goods in garbage bags. Then, they wait for their name to be called by the company that organizes the boats that will take them to Capurganá or Acandí.

Necoclí, a small Colombian fishing town on the Caribbean coast, has become the hub from where daily masses of people fleeing their countries set out for the Darién Gap — a tropical jungle route beset with wild animals and criminal gangs that connects Colombia to Panama. The journey to the UN camps in Panama can take up to seven days, depending on the conditions along the way.

In May this year, the US revoked Title 42, an emergency restriction imposed during the Trump administration. While on paper the order was meant to stop the spread of Covid-19, in practice it served to block the flow of migrants by allowing border officials to expel them without the opportunity to request asylum.

The termination of Title 42 has seen a dramatic increase in the number of migrants and refugees seeking the "American dream". According to the UN, more than 250,000 people have used the Darién Gap this year, over half of them Venezuelans.

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Julio Borges

Don't Be Fooled By The Myth Of Venezuelan And Cuban Doctors

Like Cuba, Venezuela churns out doctors who are poorly trained and overworked. Colombia then lets them practice medicine in the country in yet another senseless gesture of political goodwill toward Venezuela.


BOGOTÁ — Venezuela's self-styled Bolivarian Revolution is a big-old scam. A scam in every way that has hoodwinked everyone, friend and foe, workers and employers alike. Lying is the system's very backbone.

Like a sinister fairy tale, thousands of youngsters seeking opportunities have fallen for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's deceptive promises, and none more so than those lured into becoming one of the state's Integrated Community doctors (or MICs). They dreamed of a career in medicine, but all they have had is a big dose of indoctrination from a ruthless system that has trained them not as medics but as party militants.

I say this in response to reports on social media that Venezuelan community doctors might be allowed to work in Colombia. The Colombian College of Medicine has already warned of the risks of certifying medical degrees given by institutions controlled by the Maduro regime. Its recent statement declared that "the academic training — in theoretical, practical and technical terms — of the MICs is highly deficient and precarious, as their trajectories have not regrettably produced the high educational and professional standards required of a health sector professional."

What folks in Colombia might reasonably ask is, what is wrong with doctors trained by the Venezuelan state practicing medicine in their country? More doctors save more lives, right? There is a logic to that, but the warning given by the College of Medicine is much closer to facts on the ground.

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Marcelo Cantelmi

Maduro Like Bolsonaro? Lula's Double Standard On Democracy

Brazilian President Lula da Silva's goodwill toward the Venezuela's President Maduro, in spite of the signs Maduro might hijack the 2024 general elections, suggests Lula has a problem with Western-style liberal democracy, even after he has criticized his predecessor for the same thing.

BUENOS AIRES — Almost simultaneously on the last day of June, Brazil and Venezuela blocked the political paths of two prominent opponents of the countries' socialist governments. In Brazil, ex-president Jair Bolsonaro, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's right-wing predecessor and often dubbed the "tropical Trump," was banned for eight years from holding public office, which means he could not run in the 2026 presidential elections or the municipal polls of 2024 and 2028.

In Venezuela, authorities slapped a 15-year ban on María Corina Machado, a former legislator and a favorite to unite the opposition in the general elections scheduled for 2024. She was thought to have a good chance of stopping President Nicolás Maduro's new attempt at reelection.

Our great Argentine novelist Jorge Luis Borges observed, a little ironically, that history loves symmetry, though in this case the coincidence is, frankly, haphazard. The big difference between the disqualifications is that in Brazil, the judiciary acted against Bolsonaro in a country where the due process of law, and thus personal rights and pertinent evidence, are respected.

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In The News

Worldcrunch Magazine #39 — Pageant Trafficking: How Venezuela's Beauty Queens Are Forced Into Prostitution

June 26 - July 2, 2023

This is the latest edition of Worldcrunch Magazine, a selection of our best articles of the week from the best international journalists, produced exclusively in English for Worldcrunch readers.


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Miguel Henrique Otero

Venezuela's New Trick For Killing Democracy: Make Official Statistics "Disappear"

The absence of accurate official statistics in Venezuela is no accident. Rather it is a symptom of the breakdown of the rule of law and hides the regime's criminal failures.


BUENOS AIRES — Any web user consulting the website of Venezuela's INE or National Statistics Institute, as I last tried to do one day early last month, may find this is a waste of time. Our country stopped quantifying its population in 2011. Even the last census from that year, shown on the website, appears as a mass of words and stats that mean little to the general reader. There are no charts or diagrams to give an idea of trends or the bigger picture: just data used as "filling".

The webpage has a section for sectoral reports on consumer patterns, say, or the environment, but not beyond 2013 or 2014. Elsewhere, based on the 2011 census, INE estimates that Venezuela's population will reach 33,728,624 by June 30, without any mention of the seven million or more Venezuelans who have left since 2011. The number is likely rising by the day — not that it bothers the INE — which means there are no figures on how many of us are living inside and outside Venezuela.

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eyes on the U.S.
William Ospina

The U.S. Badly Needs Friends In Latin America — It Should Start Acting Like It

If the United States insists on treating Latin American countries as unruly neighbors rather than partners, then it must expect problems from them in the form of fugitives, drugs and crime.


BOGOTÁ — There isn't a border on this planet as tense and heated as the U.S.-Mexico border. It isn't a bilateral frontier, but a line drawn through an entire continent. Every day it must keep thousands of migrants, who are filled with dreams of a life of work and prosperity, at bay as they push to get in.

Without a concerted strategy of productivity, job opportunities and strengthened markets between these countries, the migrant problem will inevitably become less manageable and more explosive.

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You cannot open frontiers to capital flow and raw materials while shutting out people and production. Latin America is an immense market and a vast supplier. It should be treated as a partner, not a rowdy neighbor — in that respect, we have problematic neighbors on both sides.

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Ronna Rísquez, Lorena Meléndez, Sheyla Urdaneta, Liz Gascón and Ahiana Figueroa

"The Aragua Train" — How Venezuelan Beauty Pageants Feed A Global Sex Trafficking Ring

Venezuela's Aragua Train, which began smuggling women into jails a decade ago, has become an international forced prostitution and people-smuggling operation. A special investigation by Colombia's El Espectador*.

CARACAS — Venezuela is famous for its beauty pageants and boasts seven Miss Universe and six Miss World winners among a generous handful of other contest queens. People would quip here that after crude oil, pretty women were its No. 2 export. Today, beauty contests have become a tool to lure hundreds of Venezuelan girls and women into the continental sex trade.

A leading gang in this murky business is "El Tren de Aragua" or the Aragua Train, named after the Aragua prison in the district of Tocorón, in the north of the country, that has held several of its members. The Train, just like a regular train, travels the country looking for girls and is active in at least 10 of the country's 23 states.

In the district of Güiria in the eastern state of Sucre, it catches them online and in beauty contests, where the first three winners are given cell phones, money and gifts. Then they're invited to parties, including some held in jail for gangsters. Emerging as an organization in 2014, the Train soon became the purveyor of young women to gangsters jailed in Aragua including its own chief, Héctor Rusthenford Guerrero.

Now it has expanded across Latin America.

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Juan Carlos Botero

The Venezuela Bogeyman, How Fear Of Socialism Thwarts Latin American Progress

Like fears of communist subversion during the Cold War, claims that the Left will destroy the economy and end freedom persist in Latin American elections, in spite of their ridiculousness.


BOGOTÁ -- It must be Latin America's favorite warning. Every time there's an election, conservatives warn "socialism" is coming — and not just any socialism, but the Venezuelan variety! A vote for this or that candidate, they say, will turn the country into a land bereft of freedoms and prosperity.

Claims like these helped thwart a first presidential bid by Mexico's Andrés Manuel López Obrador in 2006. The opposition said he had contacts with Venezuela's then-ruler, Hugo Chávez, and even forceful denials could notdampen the fear of a communist president. The warnings were repeated in 2018 , to little effect as López Obrador was elected, and again in 2021, when former president Vicente Fox called him López Chávez.

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