VENEZUELA: President Nicolás Maduro claimed a sweeping victory in Sunday’s legislative elections that were boycotted by the main opposition parties. The elections flipped the National Assembly, the last opposition-controlled branch of government, to Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela and allied parties. The win consolidated Maduro’s power, with his allies winning 67% of the votes. Opposition parties called the vote a fraud and boycotted the election, while the United States, the Organization of American States and the European Union have questioned the legitimacy of the election. Official results showed a low 31% voter turnout.
Maduro is expected to fill the congressional chamber with members from his party. Among those who ran for the National Assembly are Maduro’s son, Nicolás Ernesto Maduro Guerra, and the first lady, Cilia Flores. The current leader of the National Assembly and self-proclaimed interim president, Juan Guiadó, has dismissed the election as a fraud and tweeted pictures of empty voting stations.
Lo de este 2020 es un fraude que se evidencia en las calles y que contrasta con la lucha por elegir -como lo hicimos en 2015- (basta con ver las imágenes de un mismo centro de votación)
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) December 6, 2020
The opposition will hold a referendum over several days following the elections, asking Venezuelans in the country and abroad a series of questions pertaining to ending Maduro’s rule, holding new elections and seeking international aid.
HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE
URUGUAY: Former President Tabaré Vázquez died at the age of 80 on Sunday. Vázquez became the first leftist president in 2005 under the Broad Front party. The 2005 Broad Front presidential victory broke the monopoly of the two centrist Colorados and Blancos parties since the restoration of democracy in 1985. The Broad Front held power for 15 years with the presidency of José Pepe Mujica and a second term for Vázquez in 2015. Vázquez was a doctor by profession and took on the Phillip Morris tobacco company with an ambitious anti-smoking policy. Vázquez died from lung cancer.
PERU: Miners joined the labor strike with the nationwide farmer protests on Friday by blocking vital highways. The farmers’ protest started last week when farmworkers blocked highways leading to Lima, demanding higher wages and protesting a law that exempts them from workers benefits, like bonuses and vacation time. Workers for major fruit exporters like Camposol and Talsa have also joined the strikes. The transportation blockades have left hundreds of trucks and buses stranded on the roads for several days. As a response, interim President Francisco Sagasti presented a proposal to update the law that excludes farmworkers. The death of a 19-year-old during a protest last week by a gunshot to the head is under investigation by authorities.
CUBA: Symptoms that U.S. diplomats in Cuba suffered in late 2016, dubbed the “Havana Syndrome,” were most likely caused by “directed, pulsed radio frequency energy,” according to a National Academies of Sciences report commissioned by the United States State Department. The condition that 40 U.S. and 14 Canadian embassy workers experienced included headaches, nausea, dizziness and blurred vision. Some embassy workers still suffer health problems. Prior explanations suggested that mosquito fumigation or even a “sonic weapon” using noise from crickets caused the symptoms. The report did not blame any nation for the suspected attacks, but noted that “significant research” had been conducted in Russia into pulsed radio frequency exposure. Both Cuba and Russia have denied any involvement.
PUERTO RICO: Gov. Wanda Vázquez on Thursday announced that the islandwide curfew would revert an hour and be between 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting on Monday, December 7, as part of a new series of COVID-19 restrictions. The executive order will last a month, until January 7, and includes lockdowns on Sundays. The 24-hour lockdown on Sundays will only allow pharmacies, grocery stores and gas stations to remain open, and alcohol sales will be prohibited during the weekends. Visits to prisons, nursing homes and care centers are prohibited. Vázquez noted that the most restrictive measures were consulted with governor-elect Pedro Pierluisi, who will take office in January 2021.
GUATEMALA: Around 1,000 Guatemalans on Saturday took to the streets for the third consecutive Saturday of protests, demanding the resignation of President Alejandro Giammattei and of Congressional deputies. University students, feminist groups and representatives of Indigenous communities led the protests. Protestors also denounced violence committed by the National Civil Police during the last two protests. Similarly, smaller manifestations took place in other cities throughout the country. The protests have continued for weeks despite the government’s decision to annul the budget that sparked the protests last month.
MEXICO: President Andrés Manuel López Obrador wants to restrict foreign agents working within the country, according to a proposal sent to Mexico’s Senate on Friday. The proposal is being interpreted as targeting employees of the U.S. government working in Mexico, especially the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Under the proposed restrictions, foreign agents would be required to share any information they obtain with the Mexican government and local authorities, and they would be stripped of all diplomatic immunity if they are found to have committed any crime. López Obrador’s proposal would also require any Mexican officials who have had contact with a foreign agent to submit a written report within three days to Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department. Although the president did not specifically mention the United States and its agents in Mexico, the move follows tensions between the two countries after the October arrest of former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos by U.S. agents. Former DEA official Mike Vigil told the Associated Press that the type of information sharing envisioned in the draft legislation is “not going to happen.”
MEXICO: Mexico’s state oil company Pemex said it cancelled over 365 million pesos ($18.4 million) worth of contracts with a company partly owned by a relative of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The contracts were brought to light last week in a report by journalist Carlos Loret de Mola. According to documents obtained by Loret de Mola, Pemex awarded at least two contracts over the course of the past year to Litoral Laboratorios Industriales, a chemical analysis company specializing in water and hydrocarbons owned by Felipa Guadalupe Obrador Olán, a first cousin of the president. The president acknowledged the issue in a morning press conference on Friday, where he denied having known about the contracts but promised an investigation.