Networked Notes - 1 March 2016

By Southern Pulse Staff and Network

The FARC traveled to previous rounds of Cuba via planes funded by the Venezuelan government and PDVSA. Now, with the Venezuelan governments finances in deep jeopardy, that line of funding for the FARC has allegedly ended. The FARC leadership received Red Cross support to provide their transportation to Cuba for what may be the final round (optimistically) of peace negotiations.

However, the Venezuelan government remains a key obstacle to ELN negotiations. Colombia President Santos has both publicly and privately questioned the Venezuelan government’s role in pulling the plug on recent talks based in Ecuador. It appears that Maduro’s position is a key reason the ELN leadership, many based in Venezuela, refuse to negotiate today.

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As OAS Secretary Luis Almagro approaches his first year in office, his new approach has made allies and enemies, and not from the expected sources. From the outside, Almagro has received significant praise for his more forceful and outspoken advocacy of democratic principles, human rights and the organization’s mission. Contrasted with Insulza, many view the new secretary general as breathing fresh air into the OAS and restoring its relevancy.

However, that isn’t the view inside the halls of the building. Internal restructuring has shifted leadership and resources towards Almagro’s allies. Morale among the staff is low. Even as the organization still struggles with budgetary issues, there is an internal grab for power and money that will likely reverberate for years to come. While this bureaucratic in-fighting is unlikely to generate headlines, it does impact how effective the organization can be beyond the individual leadership of the Secretary General.

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As the Mexican government has now taken a strong public position against Donald Trump’s statements about building a wall, other statements Trump made about the Mexican peso may have hit closer to home. Trump claimed in last week’s Republican debate that Mexico is purposefully devaluing its currency to compete better with the United States. The reality is that the Mexican government has spent billions of its foreign reserves in recent weeks attempting to defend the peso, one of the worst emerging market currency performers this year. It has made numerous statements about defending the peso’s strength and has attempted to shock the market to knock out speculators gambling on a further decline. While the Finance Ministry insists the peso devaluation is not leading to inflation, the rapid decline of Mexico’s currency is a critical concern to its economy. Trump’s mistaken comments, likely unintentional, added insult to injury for those attempting to defend the peso and present a strong front against its devaluation.