Opposition Submits Signatures to Begin Ouster of Maduro

Top Story — The Venezuelan opposition coalition, MUD, submitted more than 1.8 million signatures to the country’s election council to initiate the recall referendum process for President Nicolás Maduro.

The signatures, collected in just five days, were nearly nine times more than the 200,000 required by the council and mark the first steps to remove Maduro, whose term is scheduled to end in 2019.

The opposition may have to wait 30 days for the national election council to verify the signatures before beginning the second round of petitioning, which would require the approval of 20 percent of the electorate, nearly 4 million voters. If secured, the second round would trigger a recall election in which a larger number of Venezuelans would need to vote to recall Maduro than the some 7.6 million who voted for him in the 2013 election.

Venezuela has been plagued by a worsening food crisis, electricity shortages and triple digit inflation, fueling growing frustration with Maduro and the Chavista government that exploded into riots and looting last week.

MUD leader Jesús Torrealba stated that submitting the signatures signaled the opposition is committed to “peaceful and constitutional” political change in the face of what many expect to be political obstructionism by the pro-government Supreme Court as they attempt to delay the recall election until 2017, when the current vice president would succeed Maduro.

In his address during Sunday’s May Day celebrations, Maduro called on supporters to fight back should he be recalled, saying, “Declare yourselves in rebellion and undertake an indefinite strike.”

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

Mexico City authorities announced a new pollution alert after smog rose above 1.5 times acceptable limits on Monday, and are requiring 40 percent of cars keep off the streets today, an additional measure to a pre-existing rule in effect through June that requires one-fifth of vehicles stay home on weekdays.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s environmental prosecutor announced Monday it is fining Ford’s local unit just over $1 million for selling nearly 5,000 vehicles that were missing the certifications required under gas emission and noise level regulations.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s hardline stance against immigrants has pushed migrants eligible for U.S. citizenship to rush to apply for naturalization, especially as his nomination becomes increasingly likely, according to The Associated Press. Meanwhile, Fox News Latino reports that Trump’s negative rhetoric surrounding Mexico may have actually helped improve U.S.-Mexico relations, as both countries’ governments have ramped up efforts to improve their relationship amid negative press.

Caribbean

A 704-passenger Carnival cruise ship docked in Havana on Monday as hundreds of Cubans observed from the capital’s iconic Malecón sea-wall, snapping photos of the first cruise ship to sail from Miami to Cuba in nearly 40 years.

Puerto Rico’s failure to meet a principal debt payment of almost $400 million foreshadows the risk of cascading defaults this summer, when more than $2 billion in bills are due, according to The Wall Street Journal, a possibility that is placing further urgency on negotiations in Congress. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned Monday that Puerto Rico may require a taxpayer-funded bailout, if Congress does not pass the proposed debt restructuring legislation.

Central America

Four men have been arrested in the murder of famed Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres, including an employee of a firm behind the hydroelectric project she helped block.

Dozens of suspected gang members of a cell specializing in extortion were arrested in Guatemala on Monday as a result of more than 120 raids targeting the notorious Barrio 18 gang.

The Thomas Reuters Foundation reports on how rape, incest and a lack of sexual education are behind a growing number of pregnancies among girls in El Salvador, which has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Latin America.

Andes

13 days after a devastating earthquake hit Ecuador, a 72-year-old man has been rescued, alive but in a severe state of dehydration, from the rubble in the fishing town of Jaramijó.

Southern Cone

Raúl Reynoso, an Argentine federal judge who investigated thousands of drug trafficking cases during the course of his career, has now been arrested and charged with helping drug traffickers in exchange for bribes.

Brazil has issued a 72-hour ban on the mobile messaging service WhatsApp in an ongoing dispute regarding the access to encrypted data.

As the Summer Olympics prepare to open in Rio de Janeiro this August, The New York Times reports on the history of Brazil’s anti-doping lab that will be used for the event.

An Argentine prosecutor petitioned Monday that former President Cristina Fernández and her son be investigated for illegal enrichment linked to two businessmen currently under investigation for money laundering and tax evasion, the latest allegation in a string of corruption accusations against the former president.

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National Online Survey of 8,000+ Latinos: Clinton 62%, Other 26%, Trump 12%

A new April online mobile survey of more than 8,000 U.S. Latinos conducted in Spanish by Florida International University’s Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs and mobile Hispanic advertising company Adsmovil reported that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has a commanding 50-point lead over Republican candidate Donald Trump. According to the survey, which ran from April 11-15, 62% of Latinos chose Clinton, with only 12% choosing Trump and 26% preferring another candidate.

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The survey also broke down the data based on gender, age and educational levels. Despite Clinton’s overall popularity with Latinos, the candidate’s numbers barely beat out “Other” with younger Latino voters.

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This week, Latino USA explored some of the reasons why this Latino generation gap exists.

Nonetheless, all the findings in this latest online mobile survey indicate that Clinton’s Latino support over Trump is strong.

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When survey organizers ran a similar survey from April 18–22 and got a response from 7,714 Latino voters, Clinton’s support went from 63% to 65%. Trump stayed at about 12%, while “Other” dipped to 23%.

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In March, Latino USA spoke with FIU Professor Eduardo A. Gamarra about these online mobile surveys and their methodology. At the time, Gamarra was sharing the results of a online survey that had asked about 9,000 Latino voters in Spanish their preference in a head-to-head election between Clinton and Trump. That poll showed Clinton with a 60-point lead, although respondents were only given two choices, unlike the three choices of the April survey. Here is what Gamarra said then about that March poll and its findings:

“What we found about our survey is that results actually paralleled the results’ average of all other polls,” Gamarra said.

Gamarra also noted that even though the FIU survey is not a “probabilistic poll” like Gallup, this new type of survey does add value informing the Latino community, especially since the number of polling organizations that focus on the Latino electorate is very small.

“Probabilistic polls assume that every Latino in the United States would have an equal chance of being polled. This is simply not the case here with this survey,” Gamarra said. “We knew that going in that this was not probabilistic. Probabilistic polls are very difficult to make these days because of the constraints around land lines and other factors.”

“What we are saying is that we have a database that belongs to Adsmovil, which we are polling,” Gamarra continued. “Everyone in that database has an equal chance of being polled. But we are not claiming to speak for all Latinos. We are not in that range. But what we are saying, and this is the important part—because we are getting such large numbers, about 10,000 responses, we are compensating for the fact that this survey is non-probabilistic by getting the huge numbers that we are getting.”

Having such numbers, Gamarra explained, gave his group’s efforts “confidence in the results” of the survey.

Adsmovil shared the following toplines of the April with Latino USA. The survey also asked participants what where the most important issues facing Latinos in the U.S. right now. According to the results, immigration and the economy topped the list.

Rosario Dawson Talks Details of Her Arrest Like It Ain’t No Thing

Rosario Dawson made headlines after she was arrested on April 15, in Washington, D.C., during a protest against money in politics. But the incident doesn’t seem to have fazed her much.

The actress was one of the hundreds who marched on the Capitol as part of “Democracy Spring,” a movement fighting against voter suppression and big money corruption. The “Daredevil” actress was detained after she and other activists crossed a police line to stage a sit-in. Dawson was back in D.C., for Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner where she casually told USA Today she was partly back in town due to her arrest.

“I’m really well,” Dawson said. “I came, I had to go and get fingerprinted yesterday from getting arrested at ‘Democracy Spring,’ so it was really good. We had lunch, actually, at the Capitol. It was really interesting to be there for a different reason. But luckily all is good with that.”

Read more at HuffPost Latino Voices

Puerto Rico Will Default on $422 Million Payment Today

Top Story — Puerto Rican governor Alejandro García Padilla announced on Sunday that his administration has enacted a debt moratorium, meaning the U.S. territory will default today on a $422 million payment—the largest default to date for the crisis-stricken island.

The announcement comes after the U.S. government failed to agree on a restructuring of Puerto Rico’s debt or a financial rescue package. Many fear that this latest default is a good indication that Puerto Rico will also default on a more consequential $2 billion debt payment due July 1, which includes bonds that are explicitly guaranteed by the territory’s constitution.

García Padilla said Sunday that he was unable and unwilling to make today’s payment because doing so would have meant cutting off essential services to Puerto Ricans, including public hospitals and schools.

Puerto Rico is struggling under more than $70 billion in public debt, a large chunk of which is owned by mutual funds and hedge funds in the United States. García Padilla and others have called for Puerto Rico to be granted access to bankruptcy protections or to be offered some kind of financial assistance package. As it currently stands, Puerto Rico —unlike U.S. states and municipalities— is unable to declare chapter 9 bankruptcy, meaning the government is unable to restructure its debts with its creditors.

The crisis has had devastating impacts on Puerto Ricans. Many hospitals have been forced to cut services, hundreds of schools have been closed over the last several years, unemployment is hovering around 12 percent and more than 40 percent of the population lives beneath the poverty line.

Around 60 percent of Puerto Ricans receive benefits under Medicare or Medicaid, although the island reportedly receives significantly less funding than the 50 U.S. states; the resulting government borrowing has contributed to the island’s current debt crisis.

The first death from Zika virus in the United States was confirmed Sunday in Puerto Rico, where the government is bracing for a large outbreak that is expected. There have already been 683 confirmed cases of Zika, 65 of which were pregnant women, and many are worried that financial meltdown will leave Puerto Rico unable to cope.

The territory’s Institute of Statistics released figures on Sunday that show close to 2 percent of the island’s population left for the mainland United States in 2014.

García Padilla slammed the U.S. Congress on Sunday for failing to agree upon assistance to Puerto Rico, which he blamed on ideological divides among lawmakers. He has previously called for the U.S. territory to be granted access to bankruptcy.

“We can’t wait longer,” he said Sunday, according to The Associated Press. “We need this restructuring mechanism now.”

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

Immigrant rights activists took to the streets during a Los Angeles May Day rally carrying piñatas and effigies of U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, just days after protestors in San Francisco blocked Trump’s motorcade from entering a campaign rally, forcing him to go through a back door to get into the convention center.

The relationship between the Mexican government and the international team of independent experts who came to investigate the case of the missing 43 students has been rocky, but took a bitter turn last week with the release of a report condemning the government’s handling of the case, writes Kirk Semple for The New York Times.

Caribbean

The Carnival cruise ship Adonia set sail from Miami to Cuba on Sunday, the first cruise destined for the island to depart from the United States in more than 50 years.

Some 600,000 Cubans participated in a march to celebrate International Workers Day on Sunday, the majority wearing red to demonstrate their resolute socialist ideals even in light of the island’s changing relationship with the United States and the March visit from U.S. President Barack Obama.

Central America

More than 24 Honduran police commanders were fired after a civilian police reform commission found that they authorized the murder of the country’s anti-drug czar at the behest of a drug cartel.

Andes

On Saturday, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced a 30 percent increase in the minimum wage, a measure which is meant to tackle high inflation and a stagnating economy.

Colombian authorities announced the capture of Gerson Gálvez, also known as “Caracol,” who is one of Peru’s most-wanted drug lords and will be facing deportation back to Peru after being arrested in Medellin on Saturday.

Southern Cone

The BBC reports that Brazilian scientists are warning that the Zika virus could be more dangerous than initially expected, with as many as 20 percent of Zika-affected pregnancies potentially resulting in the birth defect microcephaly.

The New York Times reports on Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff and her estrangement from her long-time allies in the Brazilian government, which may play a decisive role in her possible impeachment.

On Sunday, President Dilma Rousseff announced she would raise spending on her party’s hallmark anti-poverty program, a measure seen as an appeal to those who are considering removing her from office.

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The Latinidad of Ted Cruz: Does it Even Matter?

Ted Cruz has gotten further than any other Latino presidential candidate in history. His campaign says he could be the first Hispanic president, yet Cruz has faced criticism for not being “Latino enough.” Cruz has also been criticized for not supporting immigration reform, for not speaking Spanish well, for not using the words “Latino” and “Hispanic” to self-identify, and for not aligning with “Latino values,” which we know can vary from family to family.

Either way, people have been asking just how Latino Ted Cruz is? But even the thought of this question being asked is insulting to some people, because asking someone to prove just how Latino he or she is, goes against an important part of the Latino community: its diversity.

Featured image: Ted Cruz (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The Latino Candidates for Veep

Right now, with Donald Trump leading the pack of Republican candidates, there’s a chance we could have the first Latino vice presidential candidate in Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. On the Democratic side, Mexican-American Julián Castro, current head of Housing and Urban Development, has long been discussed as vice president material. But Castro has been critiqued, and Tom Perez, Secretary of Labor, might be another possibility.

Featured image: Julián Castro (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton and Honduras: The Left’s Benghazi?

On June 28, 2009, Hillary Clinton faced her first major international crisis as Secretary of State when about a hundred members of the Honduran military entered the Honduran presidential palace, arrested President Manuel Zelaya in his pajamas  and put him on a one-way flight to Costa Rica. The incident was widely considered around the world to be an illegal coup of the kind Latin America hadn’t seen since the 1980s.

It was perhaps the biggest Latin American political crisis during her tenure in the State Department. Critics said her actions essentially legitimized a right-wing coup. Recently, her response to the crisis has been coming back to haunt her. Since the change in power, Honduras has dealt with one of the highest murder rates in the world and an embarrassing corruption crisis. And the recent murder of human rights activist Berta Cáceres has journalists drawing a line between the high numbers of politically-motivated murders in the country and Hillary Clinton’s role in executing White House policy towards Honduras back in 2009. You could call the “Benghazi” of the Latin American left.

So what exactly did Hillary Clinton do during the Honduran coup?

Shortly after the removal of Honduran President Zelaya, the position of the U.S. was more-or-less was in step with the Organization of American States and the larger international community. Clinton condemned the move and refereed to the incident as a coup in a press conference the day after.

As time wore on, however, the U.S. stopped using the word “coup” to refer to the incident opting instead for “constitutional crisis.” Eventually, after various negotiations, the U.S. offered support for the post-coup government to hold new elections, and unlike the EU and most of Latin America, the U.S. did not demand reinstatement of ousted president Zelaya. Elections went forward in 2009 with support of the U.S. and just a handful of other countries, and a candidate from the conservative party that backed the coup won. Clinton critics say the Obama administration gave credibility to elections widely seen as fraudulent at the time.

In a 2016 editorial board interview with the New York Daily News, Clinton defended the State Department’s policy, arguing that Zelaya’s removal was legal under Honduran law. “Now I didn’t like the way they did it, but they had a very strong argument that they followed the constitution and the legal precedents,” Clinton said.

Jorge Silva, director of Hispanic media for the Clinton campaign, told Latino USA back in March that Clinton “engaged in active diplomacy that resolved a constitutional crisis and paved the way for legitimate democratic elections.”

But Dana Frank, a Latin American history professor at UC Santa Cruz who follows Honduras closely, disagrees with that. “I think it’s exceedingly terrifying that we have a former Secretary of State and current presidential candidate saying this coup was legal,” Frank said, calling the U.S. policy in Honduras “a reassertion of US military power in the hemisphere and it’s the reassertion of a corporate transnational economic agenda.”

Frank points to a 2009 cable released by Wikileaks from the U.S. Embassy in Honduras advising Clinton that Zelaya’s removal was illegal. She and other critics have also raised eyebrows at the presence of lawyer Lanny Davis, a friend of the Clintons as well as Bill Clinton’s former lawyer from the impeachment trials, in the affair. Davis was contracted as a consultant for a group of pro-coup Honduran businessmen at the time, and emails released by Clinton show she suggested using him to back-channel with the coup government.

And the late Bertha Cáceres called out Clinton for passages in her book Hard Choices that indicate she maneuvered to scuttle the issue of Zelaya’s reinstatement.

However, Clinton supporters say there is little to gain from relitigating the Honduran crisis. Dan Restrepo, who worked in the White House on the U.S. response to the crisis, said this is not an example of the U.S. returning to the bad old days of supporting Latin American military coups.

“One of the the interesting things about this whole experience was how different this was in the sense that the United States was not behind it,” Restrepo said. “The United States came out very quickly and denounced it, and worked very actively to undo it and find the quickest path to restoring democratic and constitutional order.”

For more on the Clinton-Honduras controversy and the Clinton campaign’s response, listen to the Latino USA’s radio piece.

Featured image: Honduras’ President Manuel Zelaya (R) shakes hands with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2006. (ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)

The Generation Gap Between Latino Voters

Latino Democrats are pretty evenly split between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, according to this poll. Within that split, older voters tend to prefer Clinton while younger voters give more support to Sanders.

The reasons why seem to be embodied by activist icon Dolores Huerta, who is strongly supporting Clinton and actress Rosario Dawson who has been hitting the campaign trail for Sanders.

Herta and Dawson recently had a public disagreement that started when Huerta published an article criticizing Sanders. Then there was the situation at the Nevada caucus and the question on whether or not Bernie Sanders supporters were chanting “English Only” at Huerta.

Host Maria Hinojosa, Futuro Media’s politics editor Julio Ricardo Varela and Latino USA senior producer Daisy Rosario hear from two experts, Stella Rouse and Stephen Nuño, about what might be motivating these preferences.

Featured image: Dolores Huerta and Rosario Dawson in 2014 (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Budweiser)

Longtime Resident, First-Time Voter

As the U.S. presidential election draws closer, many Latinos living in the United States will be going to the polls. Some, like Sara López Lara will be doing that for the very first time.

The 30-year-old Mexican native became a U.S. citizen in December 2015 after living here since she was a teenager.

“Everybody told me, Sara, you need to become a US citizen,” she said. “And that was a no brainer, I needed to do it because I wanted to vote.”

López Lara has always been passionate about politics and community organizing. After college, she helped Latinos in Minnesota to register to vote.

Since she became a U.S. citizen, López Lara says her identity has shifted. She no longer feels like a Mexican immigrant. Now she identifies more as a Mexican-American woman.

“There’s a lot of nuance in being Latin American, being an immigrant, and also a lot of nuance in becoming a citizen,” she said.

Featured image: Photo courtesy of Sara López Lara

Voices on Voting in the US Virgin Islands

Despite being American citizens, people on the U.S. Virgin Islands, like on other U.S.-controlled territories, can’t vote for President. Yet they can risk their lives for their country by serving in the military. With their voices unheard in presidential elections, we turned the microphone to a couple of USVI residents to hear about this strange contradiction.

Featured image: Christiansted, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands (Jpheym Jason P. Heym/Wikimedia Commons)