This Latino Week

Haiti Suspends Oxfam Operations, Assange Talks Reach Stalemate, Maduro Proposes "Mega-Election"
by: 
Jim McKenna

Haiti Suspends Oxfam Operations

Haiti has took the major step of temporarily stopping Oxfam GB's work within the country, following widespread reports of sexual misconduct by representatives in the immediate aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. Stories in Britain have emerged, alleging that staff hired prostitutes during their time in Haiti, when they were tasked with providing immediate relief to a country shattered by a major earthquake, which caused anywhere from 100,000 to 300,000 casualties. This followed an alleged cover-up by Oxfam itself, with several workers quietly leaving Oxfam in 2011 when the accusations were proven internally, but there was never any public admission of guilt or apology until last month, when The Times published reports about the exact events in Haiti.

In a public address, Haiti's Minister of Public Planning and External Cooperation, Aviol Fleurant, said that a decision would be made in the next few months about the long-term future of Oxfam GB, stating that they made a "serious error" by failing to inform the country of the allegations once they came to light. Oxfam, in turn, have publicly apologised for their role in the events of 2010, and have stated that they are planning to review their practises and safeguarding.

Oxfam's other, non-British, branches will continue to work in Haiti, which still requires humanitarian assistance. The country is still ravaged by the 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew, which hit in 2016. Oxfam, in turn, has not yet faced any further allegations outside of the ones initially published last month. It is hoped that improvements are made, so that the vital role of humanitarian workers representing the charity can continue in one of the region's most devestated nations.

Assange Talks Reach Stalemate

Julian Assange, the infamous founder of Wikileaks, will remain in Ecuador's London embassy for the forseeable future, after talks between Ecuador and the United KIngdom failed yet again. This follows Britain's decision to uphold the arrest warrant against Assange, which relates to him breaching bail conditions by seeking refuge within the embassy. The bail was in relation to sexual assault charges in his home country of Sweden, which were dropped in 2017. 

It was hoped that the decision to grant Assange Ecuadorian citizenship, which was taken late last year, would be enough to smooth the passage towards his freedom. But there seems to be little sign of progress or movement on the British side, who maintain that the second he leaves the embassy, which counts as Ecuadorian soil, he would be arrested in Britain's jurisdiction. The United Kingdom has also point-blank refused to recognise Assange as a diplomatic agent of Ecuador.

Assange remains a controversial character, with the impact of Wikileaks being continuously debated to this day. Ecuador maintains that they are happy to negotiate Assange's release, provided that there is some form of guarantee that he will not be immediately arrested and tried after leaving their embassy. 

Maduro Proposes "Mega-Election"

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who is fighting to remain leader of his country following economic crisis and hyperinflation, has proposed a "mega-election" this year, following opposition calls for a widespread boycott of the democratic process.

Under this plan, the Presidential election, which is due to be held in April due to the country's constitution which calls for fixed election terms, would be combined with legislative, state and municipal elections. Maduro called the move an attempt at "democratic renewal", and tellingly stated that he wanted to bring other elections forward so that there would be no more elections for around the next four years, meaning that any clear victory would leave him safely in power for that period of time unless he was overthrown through extra-parliamentary means. 

Maduro has stated that this election will be held with or without the main opposition, the Democratic Unity coalition, who are the main force calling for a boycott. This follows the decision to arrest leading opposition figure Leopoldo Lopez, who is currently detained in his house, as well as the move to ban Henrique Capriles from standing for office, over alleged misuse of funds while he was a state governor.

At the moment, this planned "mega-election" seems unlikely to move Maduro's political rivals, and instead seems to ensure that he will be able to combine a range of potentially controversial elections into one, entrenching his power in various political offices. It could be argued that this is a response to the Constituent Assembly elections of 2017, which faced widespread public disapproval and international condemnation. In any case, Maduro's reelection as President in April is all but guaranteed, with all leading opposition figures unable to run for office and no potential power base that could realistically overthrow Maduro's political machine.