Devastating images of Hurricane Irma's impact in the Caribbean at the New York Times. Half of Barbuda's residents were left homeless, and officials declared a state of emergency yesterday. Almost all of the island of St. Martin was destroyed, according to the president of the country’s French territorial council. Survivors speak of scenes out of a horror movie, reports the Guardian, and several of the islands hit were left barely habitable.
Dutch authorities are dispatching troops to contain "serious" post-storm looting on the island of St Martin, reports the BBC. British officials announced that the British navy, along with several Royal Marines and a contingent of military engineers, had been dispatched to the Caribbean with makeshift shelters and water purification systems, reports the Washington Post.
A Haitian official called the storm a nuclear hurricane, reports the Washington Post, though damage there was not as bad as initially expected. Haiti is particularly vulnerable in the wake of Hurricane Matthew's destruction last year, and still hasn't recovered from a 2010 earthquake, notes the Washington Post separately. Resurgence of a cholera outbreak that has already killed thousands is a pressing concern.
Hurricanes José and Katia are threatening to hit the same areas of the Caribbean, raising the possibility of ongoing emergencies, reports the New York Times separately.
- A magnitude 8.2 earthquake hit of the Mexican Pacific coast yesterday night. The quake is being called the strongest in a century for the country. Tremors were felt in Mexico City, but the brunt of the damage will be in the southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, reports the New York Times. At least 15 people were reported killed, but the toll is expected to rise, reports the Wall Street Journal. The Guardian had 26 people killed as of this morning. At least 1 million people were left without electricity after the quake, but it was rapidly restored in most cases.
- The three year anniversary of the disappearances of 43 Ayotzinapa students is coming up. The Mexican government's "historic truth" narrative -- in which the students were handed over by local police to a drug gang, which killed them, burned the bodies and threw the ash into a river -- has been repeatedly debunked by independent experts. Now, "a new project by an international team of investigators has taken the most damning of those inquiries and visualized them, offering a means of seeing the night of September 26 for what it truly was: a coordinated, lethal assault on the students involving Mexican security forces at every level, and grave violations of international law," reports the Intercept. The interactive platform, constructed by the research agency Forensic Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London, pulls from a voluminous body of investigations into the crime to illustrate how the night unfolded. The platform was commissioned by the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense, EAAF) and the Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez (Centro Prodh), both of which have played a prominent role in the Ayotzinapa investigations. "The “web-based cartographic tool,” as Forensic Architecture describes it, overlays roughly 5,000 individual incidents and data points onto an interactive map. These include 520 instances of communications between individuals, publicly available information concerning the activities of 93 students and nearly 500 mentions of other individuals and vehicles known to be involved in the events that night — from individual police officers and Mexican soldiers, to civilian bystanders and first responders. The data points are broken down, cataloged, and tagged based on a range of criteria, including types of movement, medical assistance and communication, legal processes or investigative efforts, and finally, instances of violence or obstruction of justice. Together with a rolling timeline, the platform allows users to watch police and military units respond to the students’ presence in Iguala, both physically and in electronic communications."
- Pope Francis urged Colombians to avoid "the thirst for revenge" and finally accept peace, reports the New York Times. Speaking in Bogotá, the pontiff hopes to bridge the bitter divide the peace accord has driven in Colombia. This is a key moment for the peace deal, as 7,000 demobilized guerrilla fighters prepare to integrate into a society that is still smarting from five decades of violence. Part of the papal mission will be to reconcile Colombia's opposition to Santos' policy initiatives, "which they see as the first step on a slippery path to Venezuelan-style authoritarianism," according to the Washington Post. Today the will go to Villavicencio, where he will beatify Bishop Jesús Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve, killed by the ELN 28 years ago. The case is symbolic of the paradoxical relationship between the Catholic Church and the guerrillas, according to La Silla Vacía, which notes that Jaramillo was killed by a front bearing the name of Spanish priest Domingo Laín, who fought with the ELN. (See yesterday's briefs.)
- Trump's newest sanctions on Venezuela will make a sustained economic recovery without outside help -- or a new Trump approved government -- nearly impossible, argues Mark Weisbrot in The Nation. However, this week Rick Waddell, the White House's deputy national security adviser, said the sanctions weren't aimed a regime change. Instead, he said, they seek push the government to restore democratic standards, reports the Associated Press.
- Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced that the government will seek to "free" itself from the U.S. dollar in favor of the Chinese yuan and a basket of currencies, reports Reuters.
- Venezuela's new attorney general Tarek Saab is targeting Pdvsa executives and expects more arrests in an investigation of oil sector bribes, reports Reuters.
- Brazilian police keep stumbling across huge piles of cash in the corruption investigations they're carrying out as part of Operation Car Wash. This week was the largest bust -- $16 million in cash in boxes and suitcases in an empty apartment. (See Wednesday's post.) But "since the start of the investigation three years ago, Brazilian politicians have been caught stashing money everywhere from pantyhose worn under their suits to horse stables in exclusive country clubs," writes Marina Lopes in a Washington Post Monkey Cage piece. "Meanwhile, as corruption scandals topple the country’s top politicians one by one, outraged Brazilians are struggling to find leaders they can trust ahead of the 2018 elections."
- Brazil's chief prosecutor accused former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff of running a "criminal organization," along with other Workers' Party (PT) allies. (See Wednesday's post.) "But the accusations seem like a stretch and may establish a dangerous precedent for future prosecutions," warns InSight Crime. The indictment paints a picture of conspiracy, and "paints not only Lula, but Rousseff as well, as key leaders of a vast "criminal organization" uncovered by the Car Wash investigation. But as InSight Crime has previously reported, the corruption affecting Brazil's economic and political systems is so deeply-entrenched and decentralized that it is unlikely that a handful of individuals actually managed the activities revealed by the probe, as the indictment seems to suggest."
- Mexico lost a total of nearly 650,000 net jobs over a 20-year period due to its economic relations with China, although the Latin American region as a whole gained 1.8 million net jobs, the International Labor Organization told EFE. (See yesterday's briefs on Mexico's potential prioritizing of trade with China.) However, the net impact in the region was more positive: Between 1990 and 2016, at least 1.8 million net jobs (roughly 4 percent of employment creation in the region for that period) were created as a result of trade, FDI and infrastructure projects involving China.
- Bolivian President Evo Morales inaugurated a 120 MW hydroelectric dam yesterday that was partially financed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), reports EFE.
- In the midst of a wave of homicides this year, Jamaican authorities are creating special security operations zones, permitting heightened security measures in impacted areas, reports the Caribbean News Now. Experts are hopeful but wary, noting the potential to push crime into other areas.
- The case of Argentina's disappeared social activist, Santiago Maldonado, "has become a political Rorschach test in a divided country where “disappearances” have a grim history," according to the Economist.