VENEZUELA: Venezuelan Supreme Court justice Christian Zerpa has fled his country for the United States, denouncing President Nicolás Maduro during a press conference in Florida yesterday. Zerpa criticized Maduro’s understanding of the law and influence over the Supreme Court, as well as the Venezuelan military’s complicity in the Maduro regime.
“Nicolás Maduro doesn’t know the constitution, and he doesn’t know the laws,” Zerpa said at the press conference. “This has no other name than a dictatorship.” While Zerpa had been a longtime government loyalist, he defected just days after Maduro began his second term. In response, Supreme Court chief justice Maikel Moreno stated that Zerpa fled to escape allegations of sexual harassment, although Zerpa denied the claims.
HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE
UNITED STATES: As the government shutdown continues over funding of a southern border wall, President Donald Trump announced he will address the nation tonight about what he calls a crisis at the border. He also said he would visit the border later this week. Trump has so far refused to compromise on the wall, saying, “It’s about safety, it’s about security for our country.” Democrats opposed to funding the wall have called it “immoral.”
MEXICO: Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said yesterday that hewon’t back down from fuel thieves, who are known to drill into government pipelines and establish their own depots. To combat the $3 billion illegal industry, the new president has shut off some oil pipelines, causing fuel shortages in parts of the country. Meanwhile the Mexican army is stepping up surveillance at facilities of the state oil company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex).
MEXICO: Alfonso Cuarón’s film “Roma” won two Golden Globes Sunday night for best director and best motion picture in a foreign language. Despite its success, Cuarón found himself defending the movie’s combined release on Netflix and in theaters. In response to a question from a reporter about Netflix, he said, “A Mexican film in black and white, in Spanish and Mixteco, that is a drama without stars. How big did you think it would be as a conventional theatrical release?”
CUBA: José Ramón Fernández, the former general who commanded the Cuban armed forces during the Bay of Pigs invasion, passed away at 95 years old on Sunday night. Known as “The Galician” for his Spanish heritage, Fernández was one of the founders of the Cuban Communist Party and held various offices throughout his political career. Among his titles were Minister of Education, President of the Council of Ministers, and President of the Cuban Olympic Committee. According to the Granma, his ashes will be held at the Cristóbal Colón Necropolis in the island’s capital today until noon.
PUERTO RICO: Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is grappling with a growing opioid crisis. The Associated Press reports that the island suffered over 600 fentanyl-related overdoses and 60 deaths in 2017, up from 200 overdoses and eight deaths in the previous year. Julissa Pérez, spokeswoman for Puerto Rico’s Administration of Services for Mental Health and Addiction, called this issue an “unacknowledged epidemic.” Understaffed and underfunded, the island’s medical services were unable to apply for federal grants from Congress that could have funded treatment for people dealing with addiction.
GUATEMALA: Guatemala will unilaterally terminate the mandate of the U.N.–backed anti-corruption body, CICIG. After meeting with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres in New York City, Foreign Minister of Guatemala Sandra Jovel gave a 24-hour period for the commission and its personnel to leave the country. Shortly thereafter, in Guatemala City, President Jimmy Morales gave a public address in which he attributed his decision to CICIG becoming politicized. Guterres “strongly rejected” the Guatemalan government’s decision in a statement shared via Twitter, calling for the Central American country to fulfill CICIG’s mandate until September 3, 2019, as previously stipulated.
Secretary-General @antonioguterres strongly rejects the Guatemalan Government's decision to terminate the Agreement establishing the International Commission Against Impunity in the country. Full statement: https://t.co/gXB4YtHK5b
— UN Spokesperson (@UN_Spokesperson) January 7, 2019
BRAZIL: After violence broke out on Wednesday just two days after President Jair Bolsonaro took office, attacks and fire-bombings continued in the Brazilian state of Ceará over the weekend. Brazilian authorities have stated that the violence was started by organized crime groups in retaliation to Bolsonaro’s plans to tighten prison controls. Although the Justice and Public Security Ministry ordered the deployment of 300 members of the National Police Force to Ceará, violence has continued throughout the region and more than 100 people have been taken into police custody.
BRAZIL: The Japanese-language Sao Paulo Shimbun newspaper printed its last edition this month after 72 years serving the Japanese-Brazilian community. The Sao Paulo Shimbun was founded in 1946 in the Liberdade neighborhood to serve the Japanese community in Brazil, the largest Japanese community outside of Japan. Readers of the Sao Paulo Shimbun reported that readership of the newspaper decreased because fewer Japanese-Brazilians speak Japanese nowadays and because news is now available online, lessening the demand for print newspapers.
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