Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Haiti's long election process finally over (Jan. 4, 2017)

News Briefs
  • Haitian businessman Jovenel Moïse was confirmed the winner of the country's November election yesterday, after an Provisional Electoral Council dismissed accusations of massive fraud by supporters of other candidates, reports Reuters. Moïse officially obtained 55.6 percent of the vote, far outdistancing the second place candidate, Jude Célestin who obtained 19.57. Judges did find evidence of irregularities, but not enough to affect the final outcome of the vote, notes the Miami Herald. The declaration of a winner comes more than a year after the initial election in Oct. 2015, which was scrapped due to widespread irregularities. Moïse was the official winner of that election as well. Haiti has been governed by an interim government since last February. Some supporters of losing candidates led protests after the decision yesterday, but were overtaken by Moïse supporters in Port-au-Prince, reports the Associated Press.
  • Brazil's jails are notoriously overcrowded, and form part of a "parallel state" controlled by drug gangs -- some of the context that helps explain how at least 56 people were slaughtered this week in a Manaus prison riot, explain Robert Muggah and Ilona Szabó de Carvalho in a New York Times op-ed. "There are an estimated 656,000 incarcerated people in state prisons, where there is officially space for less than 400,000. Yet roughly 3,000 new inmates are added to overcrowded penitentiaries each month. The prison population has increased by more than 160 percent since 2000," they write. And the leading cause of imprisonment is minor drug offenses. "The government urgently needs to regain control of public security, and the prison system in particular. Rather than imposing more draconian laws and building new prisons, Brazil needs to enforce existing legislation — including ensuring that suspects are provided hearings within 24 hours of their arrest and expanding the network of public defenders. This is not just about ensuring the humane treatment of inmates. Strategies to decriminalize drugs, ensure proportional sentencing and provide rehabilitation for offenders are vastly more cost-effective than putting nonviolent offenders in jail and throwing away the key." (See yesterday's post.)
  • Shadowy right-wing militias are blamed for a wave of killings affecting left-wing activists, indigenous leaders, and human rights advocates in the Colombian countryside. At least 58 community supporting the peace process with the FARC were killed over the past year, and many fear the homicides could affect the recently passed peace pact's chance of sucess, reports the Washington Post. The deaths come as FARC fighters must begin to demobilize, but sow doubts as to the government's ability to protect them. (See briefs for Dec. 1, 2016.)
  • Tens of thousands of Venezuelans are migrating to Colombia and Brazil, pouring across the border to towns ill prepared to receive them, reports the Washington Post. Services are swamped, and locals complain they can't compete with Venezuelans looking for informal employment. And neighbors fear that Venezuela could move farther towards a humanitarian crisis, pushing even more people to migrate. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Latin Americans have a long list of demands for the newly sworn in U.N. Secretary General, António Gutterez, argues Raul Salgado Espinoza in the Conversation. Critical issues include tackling economic inequality, sustainable development, and the homicide epidemic afflicting several of the region's cities and countries. But also the reform of U.N. institutions, such as the nomination and selection process of the secretary general and the expansion of the Security Council.
  • A group of U.N. experts condemned the Ecuadorian government for cracking down on a land rights advocacy group that supports an indigenous community protesting mining plans in land they claim as their ancestral home, reports Reuters.
  • Ecuador kicked off its presidential race this week. President Rafael Correa's handpicked successor is leading in the polls. But it will be tough for Lenín Moreno to win outright in the first round of voting in February, and an opposition alliance would likely defeat him in a run-off, reports the Miami Herald. Experts are watching to see whether Ecuador continues the region's rightward swing.
  • Benign neglect might be the best bet for Latin America in the Trump era, argues Guardian correspondent Jonathan Watts. Though the region definitely swung to the right last year, those new governments -- including Argentina's Mauricio Macri, Brazil's Michel Temer, and Peru's Pedro Pablo Kuczynski -- support free trade agreements of the type rejected by the U.S. president-elect. "In an age of uncertainty, anti-globalisation movements, internet rumours, fake news and shifting political sands, it will be tough for Latin America to avoid being sucked into bigger conflicts. But its relative isolation, modest importance to the global economy and weak strategic importance could all prove a blessing if hostilities erupt over the share of the global spoils elsewhere."
  • Mexicans generally oppose the wall U.S. president-elect Donald Trump has promised to build along the two countries' shared border. But in Ciudad Juárez, where extensive fencing was actually built between 2007 and 2010, residents have a more nuanced vision of the benefits and hazards of the division, reports the Associated Press. On the one hand, it's diverted trafficking (human and drugs) to more remote locations, on the other, it's created a whole new crime scene as thwarted drug dealers peddle their wares locally.
  • Animal Político has a report denouncing that the Peña Nieto administration does not release the numbers of civilians killed by the military. 
  • Protesters have blockaded fuel storage terminals in Mexico due to gas price increases, leading to distribution problems in several states, reports Reuters. A couple of dozen blockades snarled traffic around the country, where people spend considerable portions of their income on gas, reports the Los Angeles Times. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Honoring the maternal line: a couple in Mexico's Nuevo León state obtained an injunction allowing them to register their baby with both their maternal surnames, rather than the traditional paternal ones, reports the Associated Press.
  • A last-ditch plan to save Mexico's endangered vaquita porpoise could employ U.S. Navy trained dolphins to locate the elusive species, which would then be held in a safe bay to breed in protection from illegal fishing which has decimated its population, reports the Associated Press.

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