AFGHANISTAN: Taleban leader Mullah Mansoor dies in Pakistan after a US drone attack
A US drone attack in the Pakistani region of Balochistan killed the leader of the Afghan Taleban, Mullah Mansoor. The US Secretary of State stated the attack had been officially announced in advance to Pakistani and Afghan leaders, although it is unclear whether Pakistan authorised the attack; after the attack came an official communiqué stating that drone attacks are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. Nevertheless, several analysts mentioned that Pakistan might have authorised the attack even if it did not acknowledge this publicly. The attack against Mansoor, who succeeded Mullah Omar at the head of the Taleban, came days after Pakistani, Afghan, Chinese and US diplomats met in Islamabad to promote peace negotiations with the Taleban. Several analyses pointed at the consequences this attack may have on the peace process and at the fact that, in the short term, it would lead to an increase in violence and confrontation. The killing of Mansoor happened on the road leading to Iran, a country he had entered on several occasions recently, proving that the Iranian regime was in some way supporting the Taleban despite the historical differences. After Mansoor’s death, the insurgency group announced that Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada would take the leadership. After he was appointed, the Afghan Government called on the group to participate in the peace process. Also, at the end of the month the insurgency carried out an attack in the province of Helmand, killing 50 police officers, in the first attack in this province in several months. Also, during the Taleban offensive, the armed group took control over several areas in the province. (The New York Times, 22, 23, 25/05/16)
GUINEA-BISSAU: The political crisis in the country worsens
On 12 May, President José Mario Vaz dissolved the government and ordered the ruling party (PAIGC) to form a new cabinet. The decision raised tension when the security forces prevented the ministers from entering their offices the next day. The president has ruled out the option of setting up early elections based on the high costs involved. Vaz began a round of meetings to elect the new prime minister. Faced with opposition from the main PAIGC faction on 26 May, he decided to create a “government of presidential initiative” based on a coalition of the Party for Social Renewal (PRS) and fifteen dissident MPs from the PAIGC. He also appointed dissident PAIGC politician Baciro Djá to be the new prime minister at the end of the month. The main bloc of the PAIGC opposition party accused the move as unconstitutional and asked citizens to stage protests, which led to clashes between protesters and security forces. The UN Security Council said that it is ready to intervene in the country, but also called for dialogue, stressing that it is a better option than military intervention. The UN Security Council has also advised that the country’s military and security forces should not interfere in the political situation, as this could raise tension. (AFP, 12/05/2016; News 24, 13/05/2016; Africa News, 15/05/2016; El Diario, 27/05/2016)
MALI: Instability persists due to armed clashes in the central and northern parts of the country
In the region of Mopti, located in the heart of the country, tensions intensified between members of the Bambara and Fula communities and new armed self-defence groups emerged in Douentza and Konna. The local authorities have reported that violent clashes took place between 30 April and 3 May that caused the deaths of at least 26 people (23 members of the Fula community) and displaced approximately 827 civilians. Three people were killed on 14 May during an attempt by the armed group GATIA to disarm the Ganda Izo militias in Ndaki, in the northern region of Timbuktu. Jihadist groups have continued with attacks targeting the Malian security forces and foreign forces. The Malian security forces confirmed the arrest on 10 May of Yacouba Touré, the head of the group Ansar Dine, who is linked to the attack near the city of Bobo Dioulasso in Burkina Faso last October. On 19 May, the jihadist organisation Macina Liberation Front circulated a video officially confirming its alliance with the armed organisation Ansar Dine, which is linked to al-Qaeda, and threatening France and its allies in the region. That same day, five Chadian soldiers from the UN peacekeeping mission in the country (MINUSMA) were killed in an ambush in Kidal that was blamed on Ansar Dine. Three other people were wounded. On 28 May, five UN peacekeepers from Togo were killed in another ambush on their convoy in the Mopti region. MINUSMA forces came under other attacks during the month: one on 3 May along the Gossi-Douentza axis (region of Timbuktu), where around 20 men assaulted a convoy, wounding two peacekeepers; and the other on 22 May in another ambush on the Dioura-Sevare road, in which five soldiers were wounded. The UN peacekeeping mission in the country is still one of the most dangerous of all those that have been deployed. To date, 68 peacekeepers have lost their lives. In other developments, the attorney of Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, who will be tried in the International Criminal Court in the coming months on charges related to the destruction on world heritage in Timbuktu, has reported that al-Mahdi will plead guilty to charges of war crimes, meaning that he is the first defendant to plead guilty since the ICC was created. Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi is accused of jointly ordering or carrying out the destruction of nine mausoleums and a section of the famous Sidi Yahia mosque of Timbuktu between 30 June and 11 July 2012. (Reuters, 19/05/2016; AFP, 19/05/2016; Jeune Afrique; 20/05/2016; RFI, 20/05/2016; Mali Actu, 24/05/2016; BBC News, 29/05/2016; Fox News, 29/05/2016; UNSC Report, 31/05/2016)
PHILIPPINES (MINDANAO): Government states that 54 combatants of the so-called Islamic State in Lanao are killed in combat
In late May, the armed forces declared that 54 combatants of the so-called Islamic State in Lanao were killed in the Butig region following a number of land and air strikes. The group, led by Abdullah Maute (alias Abu Hasan) and his brother Omar, formerly known as the Khilafah Islamiyah Movement (KIM) and the Maute group, was founded in 2013 and according to a number of accounts it has close ties with the regional Yemaah Islamiyah organisation and a number of factions of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). In mid-May, the group stated it had taken down a drone belonging to the armed forces that was supervising the region of Lanao del Sur. Previously, in April, Islamic State in Lanao beheaded two of the six captives it had kidnapped in the Butig region, while in February the government stated that 45 of the group’s combatants and six soldiers had been killed following a week of fighting in the Butig region, after which the army had taken the group’s main camp. Since the Islamic State in Lanao stronghold is located in areas that had historically been controlled by the MILF, the government called on the latter group, with whom it signed a peace agreement and a ceasefire deal, to reposition one thousand of its fighters in the region in order to avoid misunderstandings and clashes between the parties. Islamic State in Lanao is a group previously known as Khilafah Islamiyah Movement (KIM) and also as the Maute group (as it was headed by Abdullah Maute, alias Abu Hasan, and his brother Omar), which was founded in 2013 and, according to a number of accounts, has close ties with the regional Yemaah Islamiyah organisation and a number of factions of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). The Maute brothers had belonged to the MILF in the past and are distant relatives of Alim Mimbantas, MILF’s current Vice Chairman for Military Affairs. According to some accounts, although Islamic State in Lanao has shown allegiance to Islamic State and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, it is not accepted as part of Islamic State in the Philippines. Nevertheless, according to the same sources, Islamic State in Lanao shares capacity and resources with other groups deemed to be jihadists in Southeast Asia. (Benar News, 16/05/16; Manila Times, Rappler, Ineraksyon y Aljazeera, 30/05/16)
SYRIA: Clashes and attacks involving multiple armed actors operating in the country intensify, including offensives launched by ISIS that kill over 160 people
Clashes, air strikes and bomb attacks continued multiplying in the country throughout May, causing the deaths of hundreds of people. The actions involved government forces and different armed groups operating in the country. These included attacks claimed by the armed group ISIS in late May against the coastal cities of Jablah, in Ladhiqiyah governorate, and Tartus, in the governorate of the same name. The bomb attacks may have killed over 160 people. There is a Russian naval base in Tartus and a Russian air base is located near the city of Jablah. Media reports later indicated that the Russian air base had been damaged in the ISIS attack. At the same time, clashes intensified in Aleppo governorate, as did Syrian government air strikes against rebel positions. In Idlib governorate, an air strike against a camp of internally displaced people south of the city of Sarmada killed at least 30 people in an action blamed on the Syrian regime and Russia, although both Damascus and Moscow denied any responsibility for it. Other reports indicated that Russia had resumed its air strikes over Aleppo near the end of the month. In May, it also emerged that Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine had died in Syria. In this context, in late April, 39 armed opposition groups released a statement threatening to formally withdraw from the cessation of hostilities agreement. Meanwhile, diplomatic initiatives were under way throughout May to try to re-establish the cessation of hostilities agreement signed in late February. Therefore, a partial truce in Aleppo was announced at the start of the month, though it did not have continuity for the rest of it. In mid-May, the International Syria Support Group met in Vienna and agreed to deliver supplies by parachute to get around the obstacles to delivering humanitarian aid, but it failed to set a date for resuming the negotiating process. According to Jan Egeland, the advisor of the special envoy of the UN and the Arab League for Syria, it had only been possible to reach and deliver aid to 160,000 people out of the million they were hoping to help. The diplomat stressed that even in areas where they had received authorisation from the government, various problems and bureaucratic obstacles were imposed that hindered access. He also regretted that they had been unable to reach other areas deeply in need, like Darayya and Duma. (Reuters, 23/05/16; BBC, 24/05/16; UN 01-30/05/16; The New York Times, 04, 05, 13/05/16; The Guardian, 17/05/16; UN News, 26/05/16)
UKRAINE (EAST): Violent incidents increase following the fragile Orthodox Easter truce and alerts of the use of heavy weaponry
Instability continued in eastern Ukraine, with new violent incidents. Despite the ceasefire at the end of April, which was due to take effect at midnight on 30 April to mark the celebration of Orthodox Easter, the parties accused each other of ceasefire violations. On 1 May, the Ukrainian government reported that the eastern rebel forces bombed Ukrainian positions, killing one soldier and wounding several others. Seven Ukrainian soldiers were killed and nine were wounded on 24 May, the day with the highest death toll thus far this year, according to the National Security Council. Its top official, Oleksandr Turchynov, said that the forces of the Donbas had intensified their attacks against Ukraine’s military forces with the use of heavy weaponry. The government raised a warning again at the end of the month regarding an increase in clashes in the east. Meanwhile, the armed actors of the Donbas reported that Ukraine bombed residential areas in the outskirts of Donetsk around this same time. Furthermore, the new report of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which covers the period from mid-February to mid-May, warned of the dismantling of the ceasefire since mid-April and the increase in the use of heavy weapons since mid-April, according to the OSCE monitoring mission. According to the report, eight civilians were killed and another 35 were wounded. Since mid-April 2014, a total of 9,371 people have been killed and 21,523 have been wounded, including armed actors and civilians. (OSCE, Reuters, AP, RFE/RL, 1-31/05/16)
UGANDA: Western leaders walk out of Yoweri Museveni's inauguration to protest for his comments against the ICC
President Yoweri Museveni, winner of the February presidential election, was sworn in as president of the country on May 12. The elections were affected by a general climate of violence and accusations of massive fraud by the opposition. More than a dozen heads of state, including Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya) and Omar al-Bashir (Sudan), were present at the ceremony, which marks his fifth consecutive inauguration and the beginning of his fourth decade in power. Leaders from Chad, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania and Zimbabwe were also present. However, the western diplomatic delegations at the ceremony from the United States, EU countries and Canada left in protest after Museveni made comments against the International Criminal Court (ICC). Meanwhile, the main opposition political leader who lost the election, Kizza Besigye, was again arrested on May 12 during his own inauguration ceremony, which was held in protest for alleged massive electoral fraud. (Daily Nation, 12/05/16; BBC, 13/05/16)
BANGLADESH: Protests break out after leader of Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami is killed
The execution of the leader of the Islamist political party Jamaat-e-Islami, Motiur Rahman Nizami, accused of participating in the massacre of intellectuals during the 1971 armed conflict, led to protests across several cities in the country. Hundreds threw stones at the police in the city of Rajshahi and were dispersed with rubber bullets. In Chittagong there were also clashes between protesters and the police. Several cities stages in absentia funerals and the security forces established check-points along the main roads in the country, after Nizami was hung in Dhaka’s central penitentiary after being condemned by the International Crimes Tribunal, established to judge those responsible for the atrocities committed during the 1971 conflict. 20 people were arrested after the protests. Human rights organisations and governments such as those of Turkey and Pakistan condemned Nizami’s execution; he is the fifth leader of the organisation to have been executed since 2013, after receiving sentence from the International Tribunal. Some media suggested that the Government of Bangladesh was considering outlawing the party Jamaat-e-Islami. (Al Jazeera, 12/5/16)
BURUNDI: Attacks and a climate of insecurity persist in the country
Government sources stated that 77 Burundian police officers and 374 civilians had died in the country since April 2015. Additionally, 59 police officers had been arrested for unspecified behaviour and 38 were expelled from the police force. The UN put the death toll at more than 470, while the Daily Nation newspaper quoted one of the country's leading human rights advocates, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, who said that violence had caused 1,098 deaths in one year. Mbonimpa said that 800 Burundians were currently missing, and another 5,000 were in prison. He provided these figures during a press conference at the UN headquarters in New York. More than 250,000 people have abandoned their places of origin. On May 9, the country's Supreme Court sentenced 21 Army officers to life imprisonment for their alleged involvement in the May 2015 coup. (Daily Nation, 28/04/16, 10/05/16; Bloomberg, 03/05/16)
CHINA (TIBET): Lobsang Sangay re-elected as Tibetan Prime-Minister-in-exile
Lobsang Sangay takes office as PM of the Tibetan government in exile after being re-elected in the elections held last March in some 40 countries, the second time since he was relinquished from his political responsibilities in 2011. Lobsang Sangay, who won with 58% of the vote and welcomed the increased turnout, stated that during his five-year term he would work towards an acceptance from the government of the strategy that the Tibetan government has been working towards for years: the Middle Way Approach, but at the same time pointed out that in the next 50 years China will unavoidably undergo change and, therefore, the Tibetan government needs to prepare its strategy and objectives for the next 50 years. Although there are Tibetan sectors, especially amongst the 150,000 exiled people, who openly defend Tibet’s independence, both Lobsang Sangay and his opponent in the elections, the President of the Parliament-in-exile, Penpa Tsering, openly defend the Middle Way Approach, consisting of accepting China’s sovereignty over Tibet, therefore renouncing independence, but demanding genuine autonomy over the three regions historically inhabited by the Tibetan community which extend beyond today’s Tibet autonomous region. Lobsang Sangay also remembered the 144 people who have self-immolated setting themselves on fire since 2009 in protest against the human rights situation in Tibet and to demand the return of the Dalai Lama. The last self-immolation took place in March and was carried out by an 18-year-old Tibetan monk from Sichuan province. Since August 2015, there had not been any other case of this form of protest. Last month, the new PM made a call for dialogue with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Peace talks have been in deadlock since 2010. Lastly, it should be noted that the Dalai Lama urged the population to remain united and to avoid the disagreements and divisions that have affected other religious denominations, clearly alluding to the personal accusations and reproaches used by both candidates during the electoral campaign in March. (Indian Express, Daily Mail y Express Tribune, 27/05/16; Free Press Journal, 26/05/16)
ERITREA: The UN Commission of Inquiry on the situation of Human Rights in Eritrea decides that crimes against humanity were committed
The UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea has released its second report on the human rights situation in the country. The report, submitted on 9 May, states that there has been no improvement compared to the previous report in June 2015. The Commission has reasonable grounds to believe that since 1991 crimes against humanity have been committed in Eritrea, specifically crimes of slavery, imprisonment, forced disappearance, torture, other inhumane acts, persecution, rape and murder. The Commission concluded that without deep legal and institutional reform Eritrea will not be able to guarantee accountability for these crimes and violations. It therefore recommends that the UN Security Council refer the situation in Eritrea to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for consideration and that UN Member States fulfil their obligation to prosecute and extradite any person suspected of international crimes within its territory. (A/HRC/32/47 de 09/05/16)
GEORGIA (SOUTH OSSETIA): The South Ossetian referendum on incorporation into Russia announced to take place before August is postponed until the new local elections in 2017
The South Ossetian regime announced that it was postponing the referendum on the constitutional changes that would allow South Ossetian leader Leonid Tibilov to ask the Russian government to incorporate the region into the Russian Federation. In April, Tibilov had announced the plans to hold the referendum prior to August. After a meeting between Tibilov, the speaker of Parliament and political party representatives, it was announced that the referendum was postponed at least until after a new presidential election is held in the region, scheduled for 2017. Local discussions revealed the existence of different positions, with groups opposed to the vote before the next presidential election and other groups advocating a direct referendum on incorporation into Russia, instead of the presidential proposal on the referendum on constitutional changes that would enable Tibilov to present the request to join Russia. (Civil Georgia, 26/05/16)
INDIA (JAMMU AND KASHMIR): Clashes persist between Indian security forces and the Kashmir insurgency
In several clashes between the Kashmir insurgency and Indian security forces one soldier and six insurgents were killed. An operation by Indian security forces to intercept a group that had crossed the border into Jammu and Kashmir led to clashes in Kupwara district, killing four insurgents and one soldier. In a second clash in Baramulla district, two insurgents were killed in another operation by security forces. Days earlier, other armed clashes had also been reported. An unidentified insurgent died in a clash with security forces in Kupwara district and a member of the armed opposition group Hizbul Mujahideen was killed in a gun battle in Shopian district. In addition, three policemen were wounded in a grenade attack that took place in Budgam district. A security operation was subsequently launched to capture the insurgents responsible for the attack. (NDTV, 27/5/16; The Times of India, 17/5/16)
IRAQ: Government forces supported by Shia militias and the US-led international coalition launch an offensive to regain Fallujah and encounter stiff resistance from ISIS
Iraqi troops backed by Shia militias and the US-led international coalition against ISIS launched a campaign to expel the armed group from Fallujah, which has been under the control of ISIS since January 2014. This set of forces met with fierce resistance from ISIS, which responded to the attempts to take control of the city located only 50 kilometres from Baghdad by launching a series of counterattacks and deploying death squads ordered to execute anybody who tried to flee or surrender to government forces. Media reports stated that the government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is under intense popular pressure to expel ISIS from Fallujah, especially after a series of bomb attacks against civilian targets early in the month killed over 200 people in Baghdad. Although there is no firm evidence, there are suspicions that the bomb attacks in the Iraqi capital came from Fallujah. Local sources estimate that the total population of Fallujah, which numbered around 350,000 people in 2011 but may have dropped to around 50,000 or 60,000, is suffering from severe humanitarian deprivation. After the offensive began, the UN warned of the great risk for civilians in the form of violence and the lack of water, food and medical attention. Media reports indicated that the population of Fallujah fears both ISIS and the Shia militias. Prime Minster al-Abadi ensured that the offensive to take the city back from the control of ISIS had been delayed by political divisions in Baghdad and asked that the weekly anti-government demonstrations be suspended until Iraqi troops secure control of Fallujah. (Al-Jazeera, 01/06/16; ICG, 01/06/16; The Independent, 23/05/16)
MOROCCO – WESTERN SAHARA: The historical leader of the POLISARIO Front dies in a context of uncertainty regarding the conflict in the Sahara and the future of MINURSO
The secretary-general of the POLISARIO Front, Mohamed Abdelaziz, died on 31 May after a long illness. The head of the organisation for 40 years, he devoted most of his life to fighting for the independence of Western Sahara and also held the title of president of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). The POLISARIO Front declared 40 days of mourning, after which it would elect Abdelaziz’s successor. His death came at an especially delicate time for Western Sahara, given the diplomatic deadlock in the UN-sponsored talks with Morocco and the tension generated in the area by Rabat’s decision in April to expel most of the MINURSO contingent in response to statements made by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The POLISARIO Front accused Morocco of endangering the ceasefire by kicking out the members of the UN mission. In this context, Abdelaziz warned Ban Ki-moon that if the UN Security Council did not put enough pressure on Morocco to restore the MINURSO mission, Rabat could interpret that as a green light for military aggression. A senior official of the organisation, Bachir Mustafa Sayed, warned of the possible resumption of the armed conflict if the UN did not define a timeline for a referendum on self-determination. Morocco, which considers Western Sahara to be the “southern provinces” of its territory, insists that it is only willing to provide a framework of self-determination to the Sahrawis, but not an option of independence. (Al-Jazeera, 31/05/16; Reuters and AP, 06/11/16; BBC, 01/06/16; El País, 31/05/16)
MYANMAR: Clashes between the Myanmar Armed Forces and the ethnic insurgency persist
During the month of May there were several clashes between the Myanmar Armed Forces and several opposition armed groups. In Mandalay division, clashes between the Army and the Shan armed group SSA-N killed 28 soldiers and forced more than 500 people to be displaced, although it was not possible to verify the total figure of casualties independently. SSA-N, one of the armed opposition groups that did not sign the national ceasefire agreement with the Government, has constantly been fighting with government troops over recent months. Also, government bombings using helicopters in Shan and Kachin States have also caused the civil population to be displaced. The attacks sought to weaken the positions of the SSA-N and KIA armed groups and went ahead despite the contacts held with the first group to try and downscale the violence. Also, the Armed Forces were accused of being responsible for killing several Shan civilians, whose bodies were later found burnt in Shan State and who had previously been arrested and accused of belonging to the SSA-N, while local organisations denied this belonging. At the start of the month, the Armed Forces captured two KIA bases near Hpakant, one of the epicentres of the conflict. Clashes were also registered between the TNLA and SSA-S armed groups, who are currently fighting over territories in the northern part of Shan State, and also between the RCSS and the TNLA, at war since November 2015 because the TNLA accuses the RCSS of using the ceasefire agreement signed with the Government to increase its number of combatants. (The Irrawaddy, 6, 9, 16,19, 23/05/16)
REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Re-elected President Denis Sassou-Nguesso defines his new government
Re-elected president Denis Sassou-Nguesso has set up his new government and appointed a former opposition leader as the new prime minister. Clement Mouamba, President Pascal Lissouba’s former finance minister between 1992 and 1993 and expelled from power by Sassou-Nguesso himself in 1997, has been appointed prime minister in the new government. Mouamba was a member of the opposition party Pan-African Union for Social Democracy (UPADS), but he was expelled from the party in 2015 for taking part in the talks that facilitated the constitutional referendum that allowed Sassou-Nguesso’s mandate to be extended and his participation in the March elections, which he won. During the election, as in the previous one, the president was accused by the opposition of committing massive fraud. The new Cabinet was announced on May 1 and, in a small break with the past, four of the five state ministers were replaced. (AFP, 24/04/16; Jeune Afrique, 10/05/16)
TAJIKISTAN: A referendum is passed on eliminating term limits for the president and on banning religious-based parties, restricting the space for opposition
A referendum was passed approving constitutional changes that eliminate the restriction on the number of presidential term limits. The measure only affects current President Emomali Rahmon due to his status as “leader of the nation”, a title that was granted to him by Parliament in 2015. The referendum also approved reducing the age required to run for the presidency, from 35 years to 30. Some media outlets indicate that this decrease could allow Rahom’s son Rustam Emomali to run for the presidency in 2020, when he will be 33 years old. Another ratified change that is especially important for the political and social situation in the country is the ban on the creation of religious-based political parties. This referendum follows the designation in 2015 of the opposition Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) as a terrorist group and the opening of judicial proceedings against prominent representatives. Thus, it deepens the dismantling of the post-conflict political framework marked by the peace accords in 1997, which guaranteed the political participation of the IRP, one of the main forces of the anti-government alliance during the conflict. The referendum had turnout of 88.3% of the population. According to preliminary data from the Central Electoral Commission, 94.5% of the voters were in favour of the 41 proposed amendments. The referendum took place in a political and social context in which organisations and activists have denounced restrictions on civil and political rights. (Reuters, RFE/RL, 1-31/05/16)
VENEZUELA: The government declares a state of exception and economic emergency in the country
Political tensions between the Venezuelan government and the opposition, grouped under the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) alliance, have intensified due to the opposition’s attempts to hold a referendum to recall the president. The MUD submitted 1,850,000 signatures to the National Electoral Council (CNE) to request activation of the procedures for a referendum revoking the president’s mandate. In response, President Nicolás Maduro decreed a state of exception and economic emergency, which resulted in the suspension of constitutional guarantees for 60 days. The government justified the decree as a means to combat the opposition’s attempts to try to overthrow it. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles has asked the Venezuelan people to ignore the state of emergency decree, saying that the opposition-controlled Parliament has not approved it on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. Days later, however, Venezuela’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) declared the presidential decree “constitutional”. Catherine Ray, the spokeswoman for the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, asked that the state of exception and economic emergency respect human rights and basic freedoms. Former Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero arrived in Venezuela together with the former leaders of Panama, Martín Torrijos, and the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernández, in an attempt to mediate between Caracas and the opposition. Venezuela’s National Assembly (AN) formally asked the secretary general of the Organisation of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, to invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter given the “institutional and humanitarian crisis”. Believing that the only way out of the crisis was the recall referendum, Almagro, who has seriously clashed with Maduro’s government in the past, invoked the Inter-American Democratic Charter on 31 May. The ultimate consequence of this move against the Venezuelan government’s desire, which is unprecedented in the instrument’s 15-year history, is to suspend its membership in the OAS. The Venezuelan government has harshly criticised Almagro and denounced the attempt to promote alleged intervention in the country. Meanwhile, on 28 May, under the aegis of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the government and the opposition met in the Dominican Republic. The meeting was mediated by former leaders Zapatero, Torrijos and Fernández in an attempt to slow down the crisis, but no progress was made. (EFE, 01, 04, 12, 15-17, 19, 21, 30-31/05/2016)
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