Sunday Blurbs - News You Should Know
As the world is still working on picking sides, Juan Guaidó has been officially sworn in as the interim President of Venezuela. For his first act as President, Guaidó reached out to all military and government officials who served under the much-maligned President Maduro, and offered them amnesty. During a speech that could only be broadcast online, Guaidó stated, “Every official who wants to be on the side of the constitution, every official who wants to have order…will be welcomed.” Maduro responded with a speech of his own, broadcasted on all Venezuelan-controlled networks, that he and the military will do everything in their power to, “defend sovereignty”.
Maduro has accused the Trump Administration for staging the coup and causing the overthrow of power. He has feared that this might happen and has long-rejected foreign aid from Western Powers fearing that it would serve as a “trojan horse” for foreign intervention. While there is no evidence that the Trump Administration or the United States orchestrated this change in power, it is known that the United States backed Guaidó rising to power in the days before it happened. In fact, the United States supported Guaidó’s right to power before it had even hit the newswires that an overthrow was imminent. On top of this, a bi-partisan bill was proposed by US Senators Rubio and Menendez to expedite this recognition. Much of South America, Canada, and a handful of European Nations quickly followed suit in this recognition.
Maduro responded to these recognitions by telling his military to ready for war. “We should be increasingly prepared for any military threat. If you want peace, if you love your homeland, prepare to defend it.” He told them during his address. Additionally, he thanked Russia, China, and Turkey for standing up to the United States and Europe by continuing to support him.
One of the most pressing issues in this conflict is who will control Venezuela’s oil supply. Oil is absolutely vital to the Venezuelan economy as it accounts for 95% of its annual income. Who controls the oil is the one who will truly rule the nation, and right now Maduro still has personnel loyal to him running this key infrastructure. Guaidó is working on replacing these people and is seeking outside support in transitioning the control to those loyal to himself. The United States Treasury Department has alleged its full support to Guaidó, saying that they will utilize all, “economic and diplomatic tools to ensure that commercial transactions…including those involving its state-owned enterprises and international reserves, are consistent with this recognition [of Guaido].”
Amidst the chaos occurring in Venezuela, three million people have fled the country as refugees, with the majority spilling into neighboring Colombia. Colombia has become increasingly frustrated with Venezuela’s troubles, going as far as accusing them of harboring terrorist leaders within their own borders. As this conflict continues to spill outside the borders of Venezuela, it is increasingly important to see how the world responds.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that, “it is time,” for leaders to pick sides in this conflict. The United States, Canada, and most South American nations have entrenched themselves behind Guaidó, while Russia, China, Iran, and Turkey have put themselves behind Maduro. The European Union, as an entity, has declared that Maduro has eight days to run an election to determine who is President, but has otherwise remained neutral as a whole, advising its member Heads of State to remain silent until it is determined if these elections take place.
Mexican Discontent with Influx of Migrants Nears Boiling Point
Since assuming the role as Mexican President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador has had to figure out what to do about the continuous flow of migrants that flood into his country as they make their way towards the United States. Mexico has received tens of thousands of migrants from its Southern neighbors, causing civil-discontent in the already troubled nation. Protests have broken out throughout the nation as disgruntled, and often-times desperate, locals voice their concerns about losing work to the ever-increasing number of migrants.
Shortly after being elected last year, Obrador began issuing Humanitarian visas to migrants pursuing asylum in the United States so that they can work and provide for themselves while awaiting entry in to the US. This has caused a variety of problems at the local level, as many people say they cannot compete with the lower wages that migrants will accept. Additionally, many Mexicans are complaining that violence has been on the rise since the influx of migrants began entering the country.
These protests have taken on a new aim, as it was just announced that Obrador has come to an agreement with the Trump Administration that Mexico will begin to accept twenty asylum seekers per day from the United States Department of Homeland Security and house them as the United States processes their request. Obrador is concerned that this will put undue hardship on Mexican authorities as they will now need to find housing, protection, and food for these asylum seekers. Authorities are also concerned that asylum seekers will only have limited access to their American lawyers while in Mexico, delaying the process even longer. The agreement stipulates that Mexico will not receive people with health problems, unaccompanied minors, nor asylum seekers who were previously rejected asylum already. An end date has not yet been determined for this program.
The Muslim-majority in Mindanao, Philippines votes in favor of Autonomy
Last week, I wrote about the civil conflict in the Philippines and how a majority-Muslim region of the country, Mindanao, was going to host an autonomy vote. This election has since passed and the result is what we expected: an overwhelming majority have voted for self-rule. 88% of voters agreed that autonomy was the way to peace, and President Duterte is in the process of setting up a transitionary government that will run Mindanao until elections are held in 2022.
Some have called the legitimacy of the vote into question. There have been rampant reports that voter intimidation and other tactics were used to influence the vote, but no outside agency has yet to confirm these allegations nor argue against the results. The European Union has applauded the vote, calling it a “significant milestone in the history of the Philippines”.
This vote can be seen in various lights. One angle will show that this vote is a path towards peace and growth for the often violence-torn Mindanao region. Another, however, shows this vote as a victory for Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda and ISIS, which have been acting in the region, helping to pave the way for this vote to take place. Now they find an autonomous region with a Muslim-dominated-population in a traditionally Roman Catholic nation. In order to prevent this region from becoming a de facto “Islamic State” where groups like ISIS can freely operation, Duterte has pledged to heavily secure the region with tight oversight from officials who he will appoint himself.