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Venezuela under Maduro

26 April 2013 Dear LAB Supporter and Friend, Venezuela under Maduro Henrique Capriles, the defeated opposition candidate in the Venezuelan presidential elections, has decided to persist with his challenge to the results, withdrawing from the audit of ballots to which he had agreed just a few days earlier. This has shaken Venezuela’s political system. Without the support of Washington, it is unlikely that Capriles would have sided with the hard-line elements within his party and called fraud. It is first time ever that Washington has refused to recognise the result of a Venezuelan election. After his victory, Unasur, the association of South American countries, held an emergency meeting in Lima and agreed to accept the result. Most Unasur member countries sent their presidents to Maduro’s inauguration. The issue is turning into a struggle between the USA and the increasingly confident alliance of South American nations. Many international observers, including the UN and the Organisation of American States, the OAS, agreed that, despite a few hiccups, the elections had been fair. Venezuela has an electronic voting system, one of the most advanced in Latin America. Julia Buxton, a seasoned international observer, was in Venezuela, spent election day at a polling station in Barinas and gives a vivid account for LAB of what she saw (Read More). Another international observer, Daniel Kovalik, an American lawyer and university lecturer, provides useful comparisons with close-run election results in the US itself (Kennedy and Bush). He argues that Washington treads a dangerous path when it disowns democratic votes which do not suit its own interests (Read More). LAB’s editor Javier Farje, who was in Caracas around the time of President Chávez’s death, says that the narrowness Maduro’s victory will make it difficult for him to govern effectively (Read more). Just before the Comandante’s death, he talked to three followers of the Bolivarian Revolution about the future of the process in a television programme broadcast by Hispan TV (read more and watch the programme). The United States has shown a particularly aggressive approach towards Hugo Chávez’s successor and this hostility has been particularly intense in the mainstream U.S. media, which portrays his victory as some kind of “sinister plot” writes Kevin Edmonds, from NACLA (Read More). According to Larry Birns and Frederick B. Mills, from the US-based think-tank Council of Hemispheric Affairs, The Washington Post accused Maduro of ‘killing his way into power’ and they call for the US administration to change course. The White House, they argue, seems to be more prepared to cater to the rightist predilections of some hard-line members of the U.S. Congress, rather than hammer out a coherent post-Cold War policy for the Americas (Read More). Once the audit is over, Nicolás Maduro will need to settle down as the successor of Hugo Chávez. He has already made some appointments that suggest he wants to deal with the difficult economic situation confronting Venezuela. In order to do that, he must consolidate the democratic process and, according to Marcelo Serpa, an expert on Latin America’s elections process interviewed by Inter Press Service, that means chavismo “will not rule forever”, although he believes that it will remain a political force for the time being (Read More). The next important challenge will be to resist calls for a recall election, which the constitution allows for at the halfway point of the 6-year presidential term. Asa Cusack, a specialist in Latin America’s political economy, believes that the new government will need to improve Venezuelans living conditions if it wants to retain its hold on people’s loyalty (Read More). In Other News Paraguay: The Presidential election was won by Colorado Party candidate Horacio Cartes. Paraguay expert Claudia Pompa makes an initial analysis (Read more). LAB’s next newsletter will be on Paraguay. Peru: A project for oil exploration threatens one of the most important sources of biodiversity in the world: the Manu National Park, in the South-east Amazon region (Read more) Brazil: Indians continue at the forefront of the struggle to halt ‘development’ projects in the Amazon region. After indigenous protests, a federal court has ruled that troops be withdrawn from areas around the São Luiz do Tapajós dam in the state of Pará (Read more). An indigenous leader from the Amazon has won a prestigious award (Read more). And the rights of indigenous people are being trampled on, says Bianca Jagger (Read more). Human rights in Brazil: the country is finally moving to uncover crimes committed during the dictatorship. Millions of documents held by the secret police are to be published online (Read more). The Figueiredo report, believed to be lost, has been found, with its horrendous account of crimes committed against the indians during the military years (Read more). However, human rights groups are angry that the landowner believed responsible for the May 2011 murder of two Amazon land-rights activists has been acquitted (Read more). Climate Change: we have published two articles highlighting concerns about the growing pace of climate change in the Region, both in the Antarctic (Read more) and in the Andes (Read more). Blog Posts We continue to publish posts to the growing number of LAB Blogs. You can see a list of the most recent posts by clicking on the article LAB Latest Blog Posts at the foot of the middle column on our Home Page. Alternatively, follow this link. Partners LAB welcomes four new Partners: A Pública from Brazil, Caribbean Media Partners, Cuba Support Group Ireland and Unión Latino-Americana de Mujeres. Their full profiles can be seen by double-clicking their listing on the LAB Partners Page. Notice that partners who supply Twitter and/or facebook details benefit from a live link to their posts which updates their page on the LAB website automatically. If you would like to become  LAB partner, the links to the Profile Questionnaire (in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French) can be found here. It takes only a couple of minutes to complete the questionnaire and it’s free! Donate to LAB!  We have received a generous anonymous donation of £2,000. However, LAB remains in urgent need of further funding. Donations will help us to match-fund an application we are preparing to a UK charitable trust. Use the donate button on the Home Page of our website, which links to the friendly and secure website JustGiving.  You can choose to make a one-off or regular donation. For UK readers, LAB is a registered charity so your donation is worth 20% more if you sign the Gift Aid agreement. Best wishes, The LAB Team

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