Tuesday, March 6, 2018

FMLN's loss in El Salvador (March 6, 2018)

News Briefs
  • Lack of national and international investment, insecurity and political polarization are among the main causes that led the ruling FMLN party to lose in El Salvador's legislative and municipal elections on Sunday, reports El Diario de Hoy. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Another factor was the FMLN's break with popular San Salvador mayor Nayib Bukele, who will now run for president next year as an independent, reports Revista Factum. Citizens heeded his call to cast blank ballots, and in the capital city blank votes were the third most popular option. (See yesterday's post.)
  • A Guatemalan court opened proceedings against five former military officials accused of human rights violations under the country’s former military regime. The CICIG was instrumental in bringing the Molina Theissen case to trial, writes Erica Witte of the Open Society Justice Initiative in Americas Quarterly. The international anti-impunity commission, together with daring local prosecutors, have made inroads into a corrupt system, but "corrupt old guard is now making a back door attempt to defang it," warns Witte, who calls for continued U.S. support of the CICIG and its head Iván Velásquez. "In mid-May, Morales will select a new attorney general. A nomination commission has been installed to ensure a transparent, merit-based selection process. But Morales’ political allies have stacked the commission with opponents of CICIG and reform. In recent weeks, the commission has adopted rules that will allow it to make arbitrary decisions, with no requirement to explain them. Between the Molina Theissen trial, attacks on CICIG, and the attorney general selection, the coming weeks could determine whether Guatemala continues the process of reform, or the corrupt old guard stages a comeback. Also at stake is the ability of Guatemala to provide justice to the Molina Theissen family and others."
  • Americas Quarterly convened Latin America’s top corruption fighters and corporate leaders -- including Sérgio Moro, Néstor Humberto Martínez, Rodrigo Janot, Iván Velásquez, and Thelma Aldana -- in a a conference last week: "Latin America’s Battle against Corruption: What Comes Next." Videos on the site.
  • Hyperinflation, accompanied by rising criminality, has spurred a national "every man for himself" mentality that is expressed via the exchange rate and and the average citizen's frantic search for basic foodstuff and medication to survive, writes Hugo Prieto in a New York Times Español op-ed. The latest statistics on quality of life indicate that the average Venezuelan has lost an average of 11 kilos over the past two years, that 87 percent of the population is below the poverty rate, and 8.2 million Venezuelans eat two or less meals a day. "In Venezuela there is a moral and social crisis in the midst of hunger."
  • More than half of Venezuelan's youth dream of moving abroad, reports the Guardian.
  • A cycle of female leadership in Latin America draws to a close this month with the end of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet's mandate. The female presidents in the region were subjected to harsher standards and incessant, gender-biased attacks, writes former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla in a New York Times Español op-ed. The errors of female leaders are blamed on gender, she notes, while voters are never asked if they would trust a male again after an economic crisis. Nonetheless she is optimistic about the impact women leaders have had over the past decade and that politics have become more gender equal.
  • The battle against fake news is anything but straightforward. Google changed its algorithm in an effort to steer users clear of "conspiracy theories," but the new search results have also resulted in fewer pages from left-wing, progressive and anti-war news sites, writes Lucas Malaspina in Nueva Sociedad. "... it cannot be denied that for the 'first class' digital citizens Google is practically synonymous with Internet, as it is what allows us to access its contents in an organized fashion. In this way, the darkness of the algorithms is an elemental democratic problem. After a decade of populist and progressive governments in Latin America, there have been no measures to control the power of these information monopolies, and the discussion on this topic is completely delayed."
  • A new law in Antigua and Barbuda moves to abolish Barbuda's communally owned land system. Critics say the government has set up a land grab in the wake of forced evacuation after Hurricane Irma last year, reports the Guardian.
  • Trump Organization executives abandoned the management offices of a luxury Panama hotel after a tense, 12-day standoff with owners, reports the Associated Press.
  • Weapons and narcotics seizures along Brazil's border increased significantly last year, potentially indicating changing criminal underworld dynamics, reports InSight Crime, which notes that border security has actually been defunded in this time period.
  • The costs of Brazil's postponed pension reform are high, especially considering the Temer administration's budget cap, which limits how much government spending can increase. In Americas Quarterly, Rodrigo Zeidan and Fabio Giambiagi compared the situation to a game of chicken with deadly repercussions for Brazilians. (See Feb. 20's post.)
  • Roads are known to contribute to deforestation, but in the Amazon they also harm waterways, "affecting the fish that thrive in this delicate habitat and endangering local communities," writes Cecilia Gontijo Leal in the Conversation.
  • Gunmen broke into a Cancún hospital and killed a suspected Gulf Cartel leader and his wife. The Jalisco New Generation cartel has been moving into the resort city over the last year, pushing out other gangs, reports the Associated Press.
  • A shootout on Mexico's UNAM campus that killed two people show how organized crime groups are spreading in the country, reports InSight Crime.
  • Wake up, because mosquitos never sleep! Yellow fever is threatening to become Brazil's first-blown urban epidemic since 1942, and efforts to stop it have been hindered by slow public sector response, reports the New York Times.
  • An Academy Award for a Chilean film starring a transgender activist could help push forward a stalled bill that would give transgender Chileans the right to change their name and gender marker in official documents, reports the New York Times.
  • Former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and members of her government will face trial over an alleged cover-up of Iranian involvement in a 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center, reports the Guardian. No date has been set yet.
  • A bill that would legalize abortion within the first 14 weeks of gestation was presented in Argentina's lower chamber of congress for the seventh time -- but with the support of 71 lawmakers from across the political spectrum, reports Página 12. Campaigners are hoping the project is approved this year, and activists are planning a demonstration for March 8 in support. President Mauricio Macri said last week he was "in favor of life" but said he would welcome debate on the issue in congress.

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