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This Week in Latin America: Venezuela’s Political Prisoners

Leopoldo López gets an appeal hearing. Plus: Mexico’s anti-corruption bill, Colombian oil fields, and more.
Leopoldo Lopez

Cristina Cifuentes (flickr) March 15, 2016. CC Generic 2.0

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Appeal for López: Venezuela’s imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo López will appear in court Thursday to appeal a nearly 14-year sentence handed down last September for charges of incitement to violence and criminal association. The delayed hearing comes as Venezuela has expressed its willingness to restore diplomatic relations with the U.S., which has been a strong critic of President Nicolás Maduro’s detention of those many consider to be political prisoners, such as López. The analyst Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez predicts the Venezuelan government may offer to free some of those prisoners in exchange for Washington lifting sanctions or releasing Venezuelan detainees held in the U.S.

Kirchnerismo on the Stand: Argentina’s former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is scheduled to testify Wednesday about her government’s alleged manipulation of the dollar futures market while she was in office. Fernández was indicted in May, with the case now escalating amid separate investigations into embezzlement and money laundering that have led to recent police raids on her business links and properties. For her part, Fernández is rallying supporters and holding political meetings across Buenos Aires ahead of Wednesday’s hearing, saying that she is primarily in town to get “a first-hand impression of the social situation.” The former president has denied any wrongdoing. 

Anti-Corruption Bill: Mexico’s Senate today will discuss changes to the so-called Ley 3de3 anti-corruption law after President Enrique Peña Nieto last month vetoed a section of the bill that would have required anyone receiving public funds to declare their assets, tax returns and potential conflicts of interest. Peña Nieto said that extending the legislation to cover businesses and private citizens (and not just public employees) would be a violation of privacy, and that the bill could be applied indiscriminately to anyone receiving funds from the state. The ruling PRI and its allies have faced criticism for insisting that civil servants not be required to make their own 3de3 declarations publicly, though many opposition members look likely to vote in favor of changing the bill. 

Economy in Brief

Colombia’s Ecopetrol took full control of the country’s largest oil field, as Pacific Exploration, the former operator, faces restructuring.
 
Monsanto and Microsoft said they will partner to invest up to $92 million in agricultural technology startups in Brazil. 

The EU’s ambassador to Uruguay said that Brexit “will not hinder” a pending EU-Mercosur trade deal.


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