Distribution of aid and evacuations continued throughout the Caribbean today -- with at least two dozen Hurricane Irma deaths reported so far, according to the Associated Press. One of the strongest storms ever to hit the region caused "untold billions of dollars in property damage," reports the Los Angeles Times. British billionaire Richard Branson proposed creating a "Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan" to help aid in the region's recovery and reconstruction.
St. Martin and Sint Maarten were particularly affected, as was Barbuda. The U.S. and British Virgin islands and Anguilla are also among the hardest hit. About 95 percent of Barbuda's buildings were destroyed, and the island was "barely habitable," according to Antigua and Barbuda's prime minister. The island was completely evacuated over the weekend ahead of Hurricane Jose.
Looting broke out in St. Martin on Friday"... Social fabric is starting to fray on some of the hardest-hit communities" in Hurricane Irma's Caribbean path of destruction, reports the New York Times. "Residents of St. Martin, and elsewhere in the region, spoke about a general disintegration of law and order as survivors struggled in the face of severe food and water shortages, and the absence of electricity and phone service."
British, French, and Dutch governments, which all oversee territories in the region, promised aid and troops to response to the crisis. European governments were criticized for their slow response, reports the Washington Post. French President Emmanuel Macron will be visiting St. Martin tomorrow.
Though Hurricane Jose did not affect the worst hit areas over the weekend, the storm prevented aid efforts to assist Irma victims, notes the NYT.
Areas of eastern Cuba were hard hit over the weekend -- one story houses in Matanzas were underwater and parts of Havana were affected with floodwater. Popular tourist islands were also severely affected. But organized relief efforts began immediately, a stark contrast with the rest of the region, according to the NYT. And CNN notes evacuation measures carried out ahead of the storm in Cuba, as well as the preparedness of residents who stayed in affected areas. More than a million people were evacuated ahead of the storm, and no deaths were reported yet, according to the AP.
Haiti was spared a direct hit by Irma, but the storm caused extensive damages in the northwest, one of the poverty-stricken nation's poorest regions, reports the Miami Herald. Initial estimates pointed to 30,000 people in need of immediate assistance. Small-scale farmers in the area were particularly affected.
- At least 90 people were killed in the 8.1 magnitude earthquake that hit Mexico last Thursday night. President Enrique Peña Nieto declared three days of mourning on Friday. Its the strongest quake in living memory and hundreds of aftershocks have been recorded since Thursday, including a 4.4 earthquake on Sunday morning near the Oaxaca coast, reports the Wall Street Journal. About 2,000 troops were deployed to take food and water and other basic supplies to Oaxaca and Chiapas, the most affected areas. Hundreds of municipalities have been declared disaster zones across the southern states of Oaxaca, Chiapas and Tabasco, reports the Washington Post. About 71 people were killed in Oaxaca alone, and the 100,000 inhabitant city of Juchitán was devastated, reports the New York Times. Many Oaxaca residents were left essentially homeless due to concerns about the structural integrity of their houses after the quake.
- A Guatemalan congressional commission recommended lifting President Jimmy Morales' immunity from prosecution so he can face charges of illicit campaign financing, reports Reuters. The five-member commission voted yesterday, which means a full congressional vote could happen later this week. Two-thirds of legislators need to back the measure in order to lift the president's immunity. (See Sept. 5's post.)
- Last week, the Inter-American Commission onHuman Rights (IACHR) released a report on measures aimed at reducing the use of pretrial detention in the Americas, emphasizing the chronic nature of the measure's "arbitrary and illegal use." It's non-exceptional use is one of the graver problems facing OAS member states' in relation to the rights of rights of persons deprived of liberty, according to the IACHR. "In the region, the average number of people in pretrial detention is 36.3% of the total prison population, surpassing 60% in some countries. The measures necessary to reduce the abusive use of pretrial detention and respond to the prison crisis are known, and to some extent already proven. However, the IACHR expresses its concern about the general lack of political will on the part of the States to make effective the implementation of such measures and urges States to take the necessary actions to ensure that preventive detention is used in accordance with its exceptional nature, thus reducing the high levels of overcrowding that characterize the region." Recommendations to reduce the use of pretrial detention emphasize "the application of alternative measures that allow the accused person to be released while the criminal procedure goes forward," notes the IACHR.
- Trump's threat to consider military force in Venezuela has been a boon for Maduro's crisis-ridden government, which is using the U.S. president's offhand comments to attempt to leverage unity against imperialism, reports the Washington Post. "In recent weeks, pro-government broadcasts and social media posts have featured images of elderly women learning to shoot rifles and middle-aged men running military obstacle courses. Fishermen have gathered in boats to practice repulsing a sea offensive by “Los Yanquis.” Nearly two weeks ago, the government encouraged citizens ages 18 to 60 to sign up for pro-government militias."
- The United Nations human rights chief said that Venezuelan security forces may have committed crimes against humanity against protesters and called for an international investigation, reports Reuters.
- Brazilian millionaire Joesley Batista was arrested this weekend after the country's attorney general accused him of reneging the terms of a plea-bargain agreement that protected him from detention, reports the Wall Street Journal. Batista, former chairman of meatpacking giant JBS, turned himself in to legal authorities after a Supreme Court decision approving the arrest. High court Justice Edson Fachin said there are indications that Batista is "part of an organization dedicated to the systematic practice of crimes against the public administration and money laundering." He is accused of hiding evidence of wrongdoing that should have been given to authorities as part of a leniency deal. A tape in which Batista apparently admits hiding key evidence was accidentally sent by his lawyers to prosecutors, and subsequently leaked to the press, reports the BBC. Recordings made by Batista incriminating President Michel Temer were key in an accusation of corruption against the president made by attorney general Rodrigo Janot earlier this year. The new arrest strengthens Temer's arguments that Batista is an unreliable witness. Fachin denied a request for the arrest of former prosecutor Marcelo Miller, who was accused by Janot of helping Wesley and Joesley Batista with their plea deal before leaving the prosecutor's in April to a private law firm, reports Reuters. (See last Wednesday's post.)
- On Friday Janot charged six lawmakers from Temer’s Brazilian Democracy Movement Party (PMDB) with forming a criminal organization, the latest in a slew of charges against leading politicians, reports Reuters. (See last Wednesday's post.) Janot is expected to level new charges against Temer soon. And the Supreme Court said it would consider a request from Temer to block further charges from Janot.
- Brazilian federal prosecutors are investigating a reported massacre of 10 members of an "uncontacted" indigenous Amazon tribe by gold miners. The Brazilian agency on indigenous affairs, Funai, said it had conducted a preliminary investigation and lodged a complaint with the Amazonas prosecutors office after the miners boasted about the killings in a bar, reports the New York Times. It's the second such episode this year under investigation by authorities. The small size of such tribes means the killings could be considered a genocidal massacre according to one advocacy group.The killings and the investigations occur as Temer's government has drastically reduced funding for the Funai and courted the powerful agricultural, ranching and mining lobbies' support in congress.
- Rio de Janeiro's Olympic Games last year should be considered a success -- at least if you "recognize that the true goal of the Games was to funnel tons of public money into private pockets via the slew of lucrative construction contracts generated by the event," argues Juliana Barbassa in Americas Quarterly.
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu started a 10-day trip to three Latin American countries in Argentina today, reports Haaretz. He will also visit Colombia and Mexico on this trip.
- Pope Francis wrapped up his Colombia visit with an appeal against modern day slavery, such as forced labor and prostitution, reports Reuters. The visit was intended as a "gentle nudge" towards Colombians to forgive the crimes committed during the country's five decade civil conflict as the implementation of the FARC peace deal continues, reports the New York Times.
- Uruguay's Vice-President Raúl Sendic has stepped down over accusations he used public funds for personal use while heading a state company, reports the BBC.
- Two former Panamanian cabinet ministers were arrested as part of a probe into bribes paid by Brazilian construction group Odebrecht, reports AFP.
- Chile created one of the world's largest marine protection areas off of the Easter Islands. The Rapa Nui marine park spans 740,000 square km, roughly the size of Chile's mainland, reports the Guardian.
- A controversial road through Bolivia's Isiboro Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (Tipnis) has pitted indigenous inhabitants of the protected area against coca growers who want more access, reports the Guardian. A 2011 study by the Programme for Strategic Investigation in Bolivia forecast 64% deforestation of the park within 18 years if the road is built.
- A 20 meter tall cutout photo of a toddler peering over the border fence between Mexico and the U.S. is intended by French artist JR to spur discussion on immigration, reports the Associated Press.
- Malnutrition and obesity are afflicting a significant portion of Ecuadorean children. And the unhealthy, prepackaged snacks handed out in schools is only making the problem worst, argues Irene Torres in the Conversation. Interestingly, underinvestment is not the problem, she writes, rather the policy's focus on caloric intake instead of quality is.
- "Always ask before grabbing a pussy," reads former Mexican President Vicente Fox's cap for his spoof U.S. 2020 presidential campaign, reports the Washington Post.