Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Mexico airport showdown (Oct. 30, 2018)

Mexican citizens voted to shut down a partially completed Mexico City airport project. (See yesterday's briefs.) President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador promised to shut down works at the Nuevo Aeropuerto Internacional de México (NAIM) in Texcoco.  The majority of about a million citizens (1.2 percent of registered voters) who participated in the consultation said they preferred the option to build new runways in Santa Lucia to complement the existing Benito Juárez airport. AMLO said studies for the Santa Lucia project and what to do with Texcoco will begin immediately. 

President Enrique Peña Nieto said the works at Texcoco, which are about 30 percent complete, will continue through the end of his mandate, next month. The project was intended to be his administration's signature public work, but AMLO has long questioned whether the contracts for its construction were awarded transparently. And environmental groups have raised concerns over the impact of the site.
The decision to suddenly cancel the $13 billion project angered the business community, which said it would affect the country's economic stability and allure for investors.The news impacted markets, pushing down the value of the peso and and the Mexican stock market.  

AMLO intends to seek citizen input for policy decisions. But critics say the consultation lacked rigor. Incoming interior secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero discounted issues of irregularities, calling the vote a political tool, not a legal one. But, investors fear such consultations could be used to justify other controversial economic decisions.

News Briefs

  • Mexico and the U.S. moved to fortify their respective southern borders as increasing numbers of migrants move north in large groups, dubbed caravans, reports the Wall Street Journal. Mexico sought to stop about 1,500 people, mostly from Honduras, who sought to push into Mexico from Guatemala on Sunday. Another group of about 500 Salvadorans entered Guatemala over the weekend. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Mexican authorities detained two young Hondurans -- a 22-year-old and a 17-year-old -- accused of firing at police. The Mexican Secretaría de Gobernación said criminals were infiltrating migrant caravans, and preparing Molotov cocktails to throw at police at the Guatemala-Mexican border, reports Animal Político. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Are we there yet? UNICEF Mexico estimates that a quarter of the migrants in the main caravan heading through Mexico are children -- they are more vulnerable to illness and more easily fatigued, while the adults accompanying them must bear the burden of carrying them often. (Animal Político)
  • Though the original caravan was mostly made up of Hondurans, they have been joined along the way by other Latin American migrants, mostly from Central America. (Al Jazeera)
  • Violence and poverty are the known drivers of migration from Central America -- one of their underlying causes is climate change, which is exacerbating existing issues of poverty and creating new ones, such as crop failures. A surge in migration in agricultural workers and farmers from Honduras' west can partially be traced to changing weather patterns, reports the Guardian.
  • And the violence Hondurans are fleeing is not just from gangs -- it's also the U.S. allied government, reports VICE.
  • Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro will give the military the most prominent role its held in government since Brazil's return to democracy. On Sunday he confirmed retired Gen. Augusto Heleno as his future defense minister, a break in a tradition of civilian leadership in that post. But polls show Brazilians trust the armed forces, in the midst of strong voter rejection of the political establishment, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • In a televised interview yesterday, Bolsonaro ratified his desire to make gun laws more flexible -- and his opinion that restricting gun ownership makes the country safer. He also said that violence goes down in regions where killings by police increase. (Guardian)
  • His proposals fly in the face evidence, and don't address the actual drivers of violence, reports InSight Crime. However most of the proposals would require congressional approval, which could stall or water them down.
  • That being said, Bolsonaro allies won a majority in the lower chamber of congress and possibly in the Senate as well -- which could help the president-elect push through legislation, reports the Washington Post.
  • Bolsonaro opponents have promised to make themselves heard, and are planning protests for this afternoon. (Guardian)
  • Thinkpol: A lawmaker-elect for Bolsonaro's party has launchd a campaign encouraging students to denounce teachers expressing anger over Bolsonaro's victory. (Guardian)
  • Chicago Boy: Bolsonaro will appoint University of Chicago trained Paulo Guedes to head the country's finance ministry, but experts question whether his neoliberal ideology will be a match for more statist minded members of the government and a congress filled with political newbies. (Americas Quarterly)
  • Bolsonaro promised to tackle pension reform, a key promise for the business community. (Associated Press)
  • Bolsonaro criticized China during his campaign, but Chinese analysts believe he will be more pragmatic when he's actually in government, writes Oliver Stuenkel at Americas Quarterly.
  • Nonetheless, Bolsonaro's affinity with U.S. President Donald Trump raises the potential to reshape politics in the region, notes the Guardian.
  • Colombia denied a report in Folha de S. Paulo that Colombian President Iván Duque suggested to Bolsonaro that the Brazil and Colombia undertake a joint military effort against Venezuela. (Caracol)
  • Human Rights Watch called on the Colombian National Liberation Army (ELN) to unconditionally release all kidnapped people and reveal what happened to any who have died. 
  • The ELN is expanding into Venezuela's southern mining areas, and is responsible for the massacre of seven miners two weeks ago -- though the Venezuelan government denies the presence of guerrillas in Bolivar state, reports the Guardian.
  • Venezuela's government is seeking to return to a dialogue process with the political opposition, which is skeptical of negotiations, reports Reuters.
  • Russia sent a high-level delegation to advise Venezuela on economic reform. (Reuters)
More from Mexico
  • AMLO was criticized at home for including Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on the guest list for his Dec. inauguration. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Mexican fútbol player Marbella Ibarra was assassinated -- her body was found last week a month after her disappearance. In a New York Times Español op-ed Marion Reimers explores the overlaps of indifference faced by female sports players and femicide.
  • Guatemala's Public Ministry and the CICIG presented an investigation into three extrajudicial executions and four cases of torture, allegedly perpetrated by a parallel structure operating under the Ministerio de Gobernación between 2004 and 2007, reports El Periódico. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel will meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. They'll sign an agreement for Cuba to receive a $50 million loan to buy Russian military equipment, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Haiti incorporated the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (or PCV) into its national immunization program, aimed at reaching as many as 270,000 Haitian children each year. (Miami Herald)
  • Buenos Aires, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City are members of the Urban 20, a group that brings together mayors of 26 global cities belonging to G20 nations. The inaugural summit takes place this week in BA. (Americas Quarterly)
  • Ana González, a Chilean human rights activist, died at the age of 93. (New York Times)
  • Cacao use is older and originated further south than originally believed. (Guardian)

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... Latin America Daily Briefing

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