Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Guaidó said military uprising underway (April 30, 2019)

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for a general uprising in a short video released today. He said members of the armed forces had agreed to back the constitution and participate in what he’s calling "Operation Liberty," reports the Miami Herald

He was flanked by soldiers, but called on citizens to come out on the streets in a show of non-violent force, a likely indication that he has only obtained the support of a portion of the military, reports the Guardian

The National Assembly president, considered the country's legitimate ruler by over 50 countries, said the video was shot in the Carlota Air Force Base, where he was with the “the main military units of the Armed Forces." Guaidó has called on supporters to demonstrate against President Nicolás Maduro tomorrow, May 1. (Efecto Cocuyo

(Guardian live updates as the story develops today.)

Guaidó was accompanied in the video, by opposition leader Leopoldo López, who was apparently released today from house arrest on a presidential pardon by Guaidó, reports EFE.


Honduran police repress protests in Tegucigalpa

Honduran police clashed with 10,000 student and teacher demonstrators protesting education and health reforms, yesterday. Reports said one person was gravely wounded, and dozens injured. Police used tear gas and water cannons to repel demonstrators attempting to reach Congress. (Criterio) Some reports said rubber bullets were also used. (Paso de Animal Grande)

Protests in Tegucigalpa started Friday, along with strikes in schools and hospitals -- after lawmakers passed bills demonstrators said amounted to privatization of health and education, and will result in thousands of layoffs. Yesterday's mobilizations stopped Congress from ratifying the new restructuring law. (AFPLa PrensaLa Prensa again and La Tribuna)

Police used tear gas against the demonstrations yesterday. And hooded protesters reportedly threw rocks and Molotov cocktails. At least four buildings were set on fire, including the Tegucigalpa mayor’s office. About 250 people were evacuated from the municipal seat yesterday. (ReutersProcesoLa Prensa and El Heraldo)

Social leaders identified 70 protest points around the country, 

In light of the unrest, the Partido Liberal de Honduras and the Partido Alianza Patriótica called to backtrack on the reforms in search of consensus. Debate over the reforms last week pitted the governing Partido Nacional against Libre in a heated discussion. (Proceso and El Heraldo)

Two journalists said they were attacked by protesters in the city center. (Proceso)

The Colegio Médico de Honduras, one of the protest leaders, promised to continue demonstrations today. (Proceso) Schools in Tegucigalpa were suspended for today in order to protect students. (Proceso)

News Briefs

  • Mexican senators unanimously approved a labor overhaul required by U.S. lawmakers in order to ratify the renegotiated Nafta treaty. (Animal Político)The timeframe aims to give the U.S. congress time to discuss U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement, before their August recess, reports Bloomberg. The reform empowers workers to choose labor leaders, and eliminates government discretion in registering unions. (See April 12's briefs.)
  • The new National Guard can begin operations in Mexico already, but until complementary laws regulating the new security force's recruitment and training are passed, it will only be able to function with military transfers. (Animal Político)
El Salvador
  • Two Salvadoran police officers were wounded by an MS-13 car-bomb attack that lured security forces near with a fake body. (Associated Press)
  • Human Rights Watch said that Bolivia has undermined judicial independence by arbitrarily dismissing nearly 100 judges since 2017 and it asked the Organization of American States to address the issue. Judges are dismissed without justification by Bolivia’s Magistrates Council, a challenge to judicial independence said HRW. (Associated Press)
  • Haitian citizens demonstrated this Friday outside the Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes to demand the publication of the final report on the embezzlement of funds received through Venezuela’s PetroCaribe program, reports EFE.
  • The US embassy in Haiti reported gunfire yesterday near its diplomatic compound in Port-au-Prince. (AFP)
  • The Haitian parliament’s Justice and Security Commission is investigating a series of phone calls between a prominent senator and a notorious gang leader, reports Voice of America.
  • Nearly a decade after Haiti's Notre Dame cathedral was partially destroyed by the 2010 earthquake, its citizens seem less able than ever to contribute to its rebuilding. And unlike the Paris cathedral, there is little international interest. Nor is it clear that it should even be a priority given the country's pressing problems, writes Amy Wilentz in The Atlantic. "Maybe Haiti’s Notre-Dame de l’Assomption should get, as reparations from France, part of the millions raised for the reconstruction of Notre-Dame de Paris. If Haitians don’t have to pay to rebuild it, using money better spent elsewhere, then the cathedral, as a symbol, is probably worth rebuilding. A new cathedral isn’t all that France owes the Haitians, by any means, but it would be a beginning."
  •  A total of 19 Latin American countries -- with the recent inclusion of Peru -- are now a part of China's Belt and Road initiative, an ambitious multi-billion dollar global infrastructure and investment plan. (EFE)
  • Ecuador's indigenous Waorani community won a landmark case against three government bodies for conducting a faulty consultation process with the community before putting their territory up for sale in an international oil auction. The ruling, which sets an important precedent, immediately suspends any possibility of selling the community's land for oil exploration, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Ecuador's government said it will appeal the ruling. (AFP)
  • Panama's electoral authorities determined that former President Ricardo Martinelli, who is awaiting trial on wiretapping charges, cannot run in next month’s elections, reports Reuters.
  • Colombian social activists have increasingly become targets in the years since the FARC peace deal, a situation that will only continue if the government maintains its opposition to the peace accord, reports PRI.
  • Colombian photographer Ivan Valencia captures trafficked animals in a New York Times photo-essay.
  • Brazil's Labor Inspection Secretariat, responsible for the fight against slavery and labor infractions, is severely underfunded, which has hampered its ability to save victims, reports Reuters.
  • Former Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner appears to have launched her candidacy for this year's presidential race with the release of an instant best-seller memoir -- Sinceramente. She will present it at the Buenos Aires book fair next week. (Associated Press)
  • A greater Santiago commune mayor is experimenting with a pharmacy that sells goods at accessible prices -- a socialist laboratory, reports The Dig.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

Monday, April 29, 2019

Guaidó's diplomats angle for Russia, China and Cuba (April 29, 2019)

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó's appointed diplomats -- supported by the Lima Group -- are scheming to win over the Venezuelan government's international allies, namely Russia, China, Cuba and Turkey. Diplomats met in Colombia this weekend, and will seek to support Guaidó's call for a massive May 1 march against President Nicolás Maduro. (Miami Herald and Efecto Cocuyo)

The U.S. Trump administration announced new sanctions against Venezuela's foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, on Friday. The U.S. government has already imposed sanctions on more than 150 Maduro administration officials and revoked visas from hundreds of Venezuelan officials, reports the Miami Herald.

Guaidó said government forces prevented him from reaching Barquisimeto in Lara State, where he had planned to attend mass at the city's cathedral yesterday and lead an anti-Maduro march. Allies said he was stopped by armed groups. (Efecto Cocuyo and Efecto Cocuyo)

More from Venezuela
  • There is lots of evidence of large-scale corruption involving PDVSA, the question is what the global impact will be in a post-Maduro scenario, argue Roberto Simon and Emilie Sweigart in Americas Quarterly.

News Briefs

  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador promised, during his campaign last year, to protect journalists who work in one of the world's deadliest countries for reporters. But he's been confrontational with media outlets -- a situation that has heightened their vulnerability. After AMLO complained about a Reforma article, the newspaper's editor Juan Pardinas was threatened and harassed, reports the Guardian. (See Friday's briefs.)
  • AMLO's unorthodox governing style, combined with strong congressional majorities, is a definite danger for Mexico's fragile democratic institutions, argues Shannon O'Neil in Bloomberg.
  • Mexico has become the U.S.'s number one trade partner, despite Trump's disparagement of the country, reports the Washington Post.
  • In the midst of panic about Central American migration to the U.S., dramatic drops in Mexican migration over the past two decades indicate a reassuring historical trend, reports the Washington Post. Experts emphasize that drops in migration respond to greater economic development at home, which gives residents increased opportunities and lessens the relative benefits of leaving.
  • A Honduran transgender woman asylum seeker was detained again by U.S. immigration authorities -- less than a week after she was released following a year of incarceration in immigration centers. She was granted asylum in October of last year, but US Immigration and Customs Enforcement refused to release her and appealed the case, arguing there were inconsistencies in her narrative of death threats, sexual assault and attempted murder linked to her gender identity at home. (Guardian, see last Tuesday's briefs.)
  • Brazil's Supreme Court sought to block an article about corruption that named one of its judges recently. The court quickly backtracked in the midst of a strong backlash (see last last Monday's post), but the episode raises concerns about the judicial credibility and ability to function as a check on the Bolsonaro government, reports the New York Times.
  • Residents in 1,400 towns in Brazil have worrying levels of pesticide in their drinking water. A new report by Repórter Brasil and Agência Publica journalists, with Swiss non-profit group Public Eye, found that eleven of the pesticides it found traces of are prohibited in Brazil and 21 of them banned in the European Union. The data comes from public tests conducted by municipal authorities, released to investigators following a request under Brazil’s information access law. (Guardian)
  • Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Mourão is in a vicious turf war with the Bolsonaro administration's more extreme ideologues, which include President Jair Bolsonaro's sons. The battle has played out on social media recently, with the presidential family hitting hard against Mourão, a retired general who has unexpectedly come to represent the government's more moderate voices, reports the Guardian. 
  • Brazil is being governed by “a bunch of lunatics” and United States “lackeys” said former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in his first media interview since his arrest last year. Lula is serving a corruption sentence, and the interview was granted after a lengthly media battle, reports the Guardian. (See last Monday's post.) Speaking with two Brazilian journalists for Folha de S. Paulo and El País, Lula lamented the deterioration of Brazil's international leadership. He remains unbowed by his time in jail, reports El País, and is "obsessed" with proving his innocence.
  • The OAS is moving towards applying the Inter-American Democratic Charter to Nicaragua, in response to the Ortega administration's illegal infringements of citizen rights, report Confidencial and La Prensa.
  • The political trial of journalists Miguel Mora y Lucía Pineda Ubau begins today. The two have been in detention for 129 days without evidence presented in support of government accusations that they incited terrorism and hatred, reports Confidencial.
  • The FARC peace process could still fail, argues Jeremy McDermott in a Semana opinion piece. (Republished by InSight Crime.) "The government’s perceived lack of commitment in fully implementing the peace accords, and challenges to the agreement’s judicial framework, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz- JEP), have undermined faith in the process for many former guerrillas, who are returning to what they know."
  • Cuba's economic reforms have created a series of discriminatory labor practices that must addressed in order to guarantee inclusion for Afro-Cubans, argues Alejandro de la Fuente in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • Americas Quarterly interviewed Argentine fact-checking site Chequeado's executive director Laura Zommer. Argentina is polarized and heading into a heated presidential election campaign. "In this context, fake news goes viral more quickly," said Zommer. 
  • Times Insider column details how the New York Times gained access to the Ecuadorean Intelligence Agency's surveillance bunker. (See last Wednesday's briefs for the piece on how Chinese surveillance systems are used for domestic spying.)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

Friday, April 26, 2019

Prosur vs IACHR (April 26, 2019)

A group of Latin American conservative government appealed to sovereignty in a private letter that asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to respect local realities when it comes to enforcing the region's human rights protection system. Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Paraguay asked both the IACHR and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to grant a greater margin of independence for each country to resolve on its own the best ways to guarantee citizen rights and processes. 

Such a course of action would gravely compromise the international organs' work, said Human Rights Watch in a critical response. Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco said the sovereignty argument contains language and rhetoric that seems adapted from Hugo Chávez and Rafael Correa's play-books, and that the push would greatly weaken the IACHR and the Inter-American court's ability to protect human rights.

News Briefs

  • Five people were killed by suspected gang members in a surprise Port-au-Prince attack late Wednesday. Seven people were injured in the shooting. Nobody has been arrested, reports the Associated Press. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Reforma editor Juan Pardenas was the target of death threats, harassment and doxxing attempts, said Article 19. An online campaign against the newspaper and Pardenas -- accusing them of collusion with drug cartels -- started after President Andrés Manuel López Obrador criticized the paper in a morning press conference, reports Animal Político. (In a recent NYT op-ed, Jorge Ramos expressed concern about AMLO's consistent criticism of journalists in a country that is one of the world's deadliest for reports. See April 18's briefs.)
  • Mexico's Chamber of Deputies passed a bill that would eliminate teacher evaluations and return some power to unions, overturning key aspects of a 2013 education reform bill. (Associated Press)
  • AMLO said the government will backtrack a contract to buy books from a close friend of his, in order to avoid perceptions of wrongdoing. (Animal Político)
  • About 1,300 migrants broke out of a Mexican detention center yesterday. It's a sign of how the immigration surge is over-stretching the country's resources, in the midst of a U.S. pressured crack-down, reports Reuters. Over half of the migrants returned to the Siglo XXI facility in Chiapas, but 600 remained unaccounted for. Most of the center's migrants hail from Cuba, but also Haiti and Central America, said authorities. (See Wednesday's briefs and yesterday's.)
  • The number of Central American women fleeing domestic and gang violence is rising. Many face additional trauma, abuse and violence before they cross the U.S. border seeking asylum, and then again in detention by U.S. immigration authorities. (Conversation)
Central America and Climate Change
  • Central America's "Dry Corridor" -- which runs from Panama to Guatemala -- is extremely vulnerable to climate change and is undergoing a largely overlooked food crisis, reports EFE. (See April 8's post.)
  • PRI reports on how climate change is affecting El Salvador's coffee industry, yet another factor pushing migration.
El Salvador
  • Salvadoran prosecutors seized 61 properties linked to a massive corruption case against former president Mauricio Funes. He is accused of embezzling $351 million from state coffers, but was granted asylum in Nicaragua. (AFP)
  • Former Salvadoran officials on trial in relation to a gang truce in 2012 were just following orders from Funes according to a defense lawyer. (Associated Press)
  • U.S. sanctions against Venezuela have disproportionately harmed the poorest and most vulnerable Venezuelans, according to a new CEPR report. "The sanctions reduced the public’s caloric intake, increased disease and mortality (for both adults and infants), and displaced millions of Venezuelans who fled the country as a result of the worsening economic depression and hyperinflation."
  • More than 30 Venezuelans are missing, feared drowned, after their boat sank attempting to reach Trinidad, reports the Guardian. At least nine others from the sunken boat had been pulled alive from the water, reports the Associated Press.
  • Venezuela's largest landfill, La Bonanza, "is now the scene of a range of criminal activities, including extortion, vehicle theft, homicide, drug trafficking and kidnapping," reports InSight Crime.
Regional Relations
  • Cuba denied U.S. allegations that the Communist island has troops stationed in Venezuela, and said new U.S. sanctions against Cuba will hurt but not vanquish its people, reports Reuters. (See April 18's post.)
  • Four years after the start of a wave of anti-corruption protests that forced then-Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina to resign, activist Álvaro Montenegro recaps the evolution of the movement since 2015 in El Faro. He notes that the initial outpouring had no counter-vision. Since then, opposition to anti-corruption reforms has been fierce and powerful. The backlash against the CICIG and efforts to dismantle powerful mafias within the state has been potent, and is currently focused on unraveling advances.
  • The U.S. arrest of Guatemalan presidential candidate Mario Estrada (see yesterday's briefs) has put a spotlight on Estrada's connection to President Jimmy Morales. But it's not clear whether the link will cause the U.S. to reconsider its support of Morales and his attack on the International Commission against Corruption in Guatemala, reports InSight Crime
  • Thousands of Colombians protested against education budget cuts and the government's pension reform plan. (Al Jazeera)
  • A week of market panic has positioned Argentina the world’s second-riskiest borrower Venezuela, reports the Wall Street Journal.  
  • Over 150 indigenous leaders met with lawmakers to discuss land rights and the role of their communities in the protection of the environment yesterday, reports the Associated Press. The meeting came on the second day of the Free Land Encampment, an annual three-day protest by indigenous groups held in Brasilia. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Activists accused Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's of inciting LGBT hatred after his declaration that  "we can’t let this place become known as a gay tourism paradise. Brazil can’t be a country of the gay world, of gay tourism." (Guardian)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Indigenous people protest Bolsonaro's Amazon onslaught (April 25, 2019)

Land and environmental rights in Brazil's Amazon are rapidly becoming a flashpoint in President Jair Bolsonaro's administration. Up to 4,000 indigenous people from all over Brazil are expected to join the annual Brasilia rally --  the Free Land Camp. (Al Jazeera

This year demonstrators are galvanized by the Bolsonaro administration's assaults on indigenous rights and the environment, reports the Guardian. Bolsonaro has promised to weaken indigenous land protections and free up commercial farming and mining in environmentally protected areas.

"This government came in immediately attacking us and our rights in a way we haven't seen before," said Paulo Tupiniquim, executive coordinator of the Articulation of Indigenous People of Brazil, which organized the event. "We are here to show that we will resist and will not accept our rights being taken away."

Brazilian loggers and cattle ranchers are pushing Amazon deforestation, and dominated statistics for worldwide clearcutting of primary forest, according to a new report by the Global Forest Watch network. (Guardian

A report by Amazon Watch tracked supply chain flows between 56 Brazilian companies complicit in illegal logging and the Western firms that trade with them. It showsEuropean and North American importers bought from suppliers whose subsidiaries or owners have recently been fined by Brazil's environmental enforcement agency for illegal logging, reports Deutsche Welle.

Earlier this week Heriberto Araújo argued that Bolsonaro is the greatest threat to the Amazon rainforest since Brazil's military dictatorship. His plan to exploit the area's resources for economic development is environmentally disastrous, but will also foment already crushing inequality, he wrote in a New York Times Español op-ed. (See also this Deutsche Welle report, and Common Dreams.)

Bolsonaro's damage to the Amazon and the indigenous tribes who live there is well underway and is likely lethal, writes Alma Guillermoprieto in a stirring review of Claudia Andujar’s photographs of the Yanomami tribe for the New York Review of Books. "Beyond the legislation turning over the Amazon and its indigenous communities to the Agriculture ministry, beyond the spending cuts and hostile decrees, beyond whatever legal predations are to follow, there is a new sense that any landowner or industrialist who feels like shooting an Indian or two, or clearing a few thousand acres for cattle-ranching, may do so with impunity."

And Bolsonaro's push to cut scientific research funding could have dire implications for the fight against climate change, reports National Geographic.
News Briefs

More Brazil
  • Bolsonaro's contentious pension reform passed a lower house committee vote yesterday, but overhaul still has a long legislative path ahead, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Monday brief referenced the anti-crime legislation that Bolsonaro's justice minister recently proposed to Congress. Reader Benjamin Fogarty-Valenzuela, an Anthropology doctoral candidate at Princeton University, pointed out a critical aspect of the bill: that "it widens the legal protection for police officers who kill on-duty, with the option to waive legal consequences." (See more at Estadao and The Intercept.)
  • There are increasing reports of appalling gang-related violence in Haiti, including stories that gangs set homes in Port-au-Prince's La Saline neighborhood on fire last week, reports the Miami Herald. Last month, a bipartisan group of 104 U.S. lawmakers called for an independent investigation into the extrajudicial killings, as well as allegations of human-rights violation by the Haitian National Police during February’s violent protests. (See Margaret Prescod's reporting on a massacre in La Saline in November that killed at least 77 people.)
  • Guatemala's electoral court annulled Mario Amilcar Estrada Orellana's presidential candidacy yesterday, reports the Associated Press. Estrada was detained in Miami last week, on on drugs and weapons charges, accused of illicit electoral financing and plotting to assassinate political rivals and let traffickers use Guatemalan ports and airports if he were to be elected. (See also Nómada, which reports on President Jimmy Morales's relationship with Estrada.)
  • Guatemalan presidential candidate and former attorney general Thelma Aldana said the DEA alerted her in March to an alleged assassination plot against her orchestrated by Estrada. Aldana, who is currently in El Salvador, said the DEA recommended she stay out of Guatemala. (Prensa LibreCNNSoy 502)
  • Nicaragua's government rejected early elections yesterday, after a meeting with the OAS, reports Reuters. Opposition groups and the OAS insist on early elections as an exit to the country's year-long political crisis, reports Confidencial.
  • Nicaragua's economy is in free-fall as a result of the political crisis and government repression, said the country’s leading business association. (Associated Press)
  • Peruvian authorities should immediately take action to ensure the safety of journalists at news website IDL-Reporteros, and officials should refrain from making inflammatory statements blaming the outlet and its director, Gustavo Gorriti, for the suicide last week of former President Alan García, said the Committee to Protect Journalists. Multiple political figures, including a former minister and a sitting member of Congress, publicly named Gorriti as one of the people responsible for García's death. (See last Friday's briefs.)
  • Seven people were shot dead inside a gold-mining tunnel in Peru's La Rinconada. (Reuters)
  • Over the past four months, Venezuela's National Assembly has attempted to create a legislative framework for a democratic transition, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
  • Several dozen diplomats walked out from the UN General Assembly Wednesday to protest a speech by Venezuela's foreign minister, reports AFP.
  • Argentina's peso fell to a record low yesterday, and stocks and bonds also dropped, amid rising market panic over President Mauricio Macri's ability to contain inflation with increasingly unorthodox economic strategies and win the October presidential election. (ReutersFinancial Times and Financial Times)
  • Peru will sign a memorandum of understanding to join China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative in coming days, reports Reuters.
  • And Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Mourao will travel to China next month ... (Reuters)
  • Reuters has an in-depth report on Mexico's campaign to save NAFTA after Trump's election. Early on, leaders decided to avoid confrontation, instead focusing on convincing dozens of American politicians and business executives that scrapping the free-trade agreement would hurt U.S. workers and companies.
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the government could hold an informal referendum for citizens to weigh in on whether five ex-presidents should be subject to investigations and possible prosecution for corruption, reports EFE.
  • AMLO's promise to treat migrants humanely and distribution of humanitarian visas for Central American asylum seekers crossing the country contributed to a 300,000 person flood in the first months of this year, reports Animal Político. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • A Mexico city lawmaker proposed banning cold beer sales in an effort to reduce public and underage drinking. Needless to say, there was social media backlash: The hashtag #ConLasCervezasNo (Don’t mess with our beers) trended on Twitter, reports the Guardian.
  • Brazilian police captured a parrot trained to alert its drug gang owners about police raids -- the bird has not cooperated with authorities, reports the Guardian.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Venezuela's electrical crisis (April 24, 2019)

Venezuelan authorities have accused 19 people of "electrical sabotage," and detained five people the government said contributed to nation-wide power outages starting in March, reports Bloomberg.

Venezuela's Maduro administration and Russia maintain that the electrical system's crisis is a result of terrorist attacks, though experts point to chronic lack of investment and brain drain. President Nicolás Maduro said authorities are working on securing the electric grid from cyber and electromagnetic attacks -- an unlikely avenue of resolution, according to Efecto Cocuyo.

In fact, Venezuela's electricity system is on the brink of collapse, according to Colombian El Espectador.

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó said he has a plan to stabilize the national electricity system with assistance from the U.S., Japan and Germany, if Maduro is ousted. He also said Colombia could supply electricity while broken equipment in Venezuela is replaced. (Efecto Cocuyo)

In the meantime: EFE chronicles how shortages are afflicting citizens and their electrical appliances, particularly in Maracaibo. And generator sales are booming, reports the BBC.

News Briefs

  • Mexico has detained hundreds of Central American and Cuban migrants in recent days, the asylum seekers were rounded up in the country's south and sent to overcrowded stations near the Guatemalan border. The radical shift in policy is related to pressure from the U.S. Trump administration, reports the Wall Street Journal
  • On Monday 367, mostly Honduran, migrants were detained. The formed part of the tail end of the latest migrant caravan, and it was the largest single raid against one of the large groups of asylum seekers, report AFP and the BBC. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Authorities said yesterday that 11,800 migrants had been deported in the first 22 days of April. That compares with 9,650 for all of April last year. (Reuters and Animal Político)
  • Their efforts are apparently not enough -- U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to close part of the southern border and send more “armed soldiers” to defend it if Mexico fails to block a caravan of migrants crossing the country, reports Reuters.
  • Mexican officials, including President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, have said they are restricting migrants movements for their own safety. Despite widespread criticism after coverage of Monday's raid showed security agents targeting women and children, authorities insisted yesterday that the government's humanitarian migration policy remained in place, reports Animal Político.
Regional Relations
  • AMLO told the U.S. to invest in the region if it hopes to stem migration from Central America, reports AFP.
  • The Republican and Democratic leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee asked U.S. President Donald Trump to reconsider a plan to cut aid to Central America. The move risks increasing Chinese influence in the region, they said in a letter that also marked the risk of increasing migration from affected countries, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's briefs on China and Lat Am.)
  • Mexico's moves to stem fuel theft earlier this year saved the government $635 million said AMLO. (Reuters)
More Venezuela
  • Venezuela's legitimacy crisis is playing out in a physical struggle to control the country's diplomatic posts around the world. (Washington Post)
  • A pioneering grassroots campaign in Honduras seeks to debunk myths about emergency anti-contraceptives. The pills have been outlawed in Honduras since 2009 -- after Catholic and evangelical leadership said they were abortive -- since then teenage pregnancies have risen to one of the highest rates in the region. (Guardian)
  • A former Odebrecht executive said the Brazilian construction giant helped finance former Peruvian president Alan García's 2006 campaign, said Peruvian prosecutors. García killed himself last week when authorities arrive to arrest him in connection to corruption charges. (AFP)
  • Illegal logging on indigenous lands in the Amazon has increased since Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro came into office. According conservation group Imazon, deforestation in the Amazon increased 54 percent in January -- the first month Bolsonaro was in office -- as compared with a year earlier, report AFP. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • A Brazilian appeals court reduced former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's 12-year sentence for bribery and money laundering, which could make the popular leader eligible for semi-open prison later this year, reports AFP.
  • About 3.6 million Haitians are affected by food insecurity, including 1.5 million who are in a serious situation, according to a government report. (Prensa Libre)
  • Bolivia released a new banknote, a sign of financial stability said authorities pointing to the country's low inflation rate. (EFE)
  • Chinese surveillance systems are being exported to the world -- oftentimes so is their abuse, according to a New York Times investigation. In Ecuador, security cameras used by police send footage to the the country's feared domestic intelligence agency, for example.
  • CELS's Paula Litvachky emphasized how authorities around the world are utilizing technology to dissuade protesters, as well as use of non-lethal force. Pussy Riot's Nadya Tolokónnikova participated as well.
  • Sociologist Pablo Semán warns against simplistic views of an evangelical tidal wave sweeping Latin American politics to the right in Nueva Sociedad, in a piece that looks at how the region's evangelical churches have evolved in recent decades.

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

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Bolsonaro's Amazon destruction (April 23, 2019)

News Briefs

  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is the greatest threat to the Amazon rainforest since Brazil's military dictatorship. His plan to exploit the area's resources for economic development is environmentally disastrous, but will also foment already crushing inequality, argues Heriberto Araújo in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • Bolsonaro's damage to the Amazon and the indigenous tribes who live there is well underway and is likely lethal, writes Alma Guillermoprieto in a stirring review of Claudia Andujar’s photographs of the Yanomami tribe for the New York Review of Books. "Beyond the legislation turning over the Amazon and its indigenous communities to the Agriculture ministry, beyond the spending cuts and hostile decrees, beyond whatever legal predations are to follow, there is a new sense that any landowner or industrialist who feels like shooting an Indian or two, or clearing a few thousand acres for cattle-ranching, may do so with impunity."
  • Militias run by rogue police officers are increasingly influential in Bolsonaro's Brazil, reports Bloomberg.
  • Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Mourão is increasingly viewed as a moderate voice in the government, countering Bolsonaro's more extreme views, reports AFP. (See last Thursday's briefs for Americas Quarterly's take on the same issue.)
  • Bolsonaro's latest publicity stunt -- an Easter motorcycle ride -- appears to have infringed on several transit laws, at the very least setting a terrible example of how to drive a motorcycle, reports the Guardian.
  • Russia accused the U.S. of orchestrating crippling blackouts in Venezuela. In an interview, Russia's deputy defense minister backed President Nicolás Maduro's claim that a series of outages in recent months are part of a U.S. sabotage program aimed at ousting the legitimacy-challenged leader. (Guardian)
  • It's been three months since Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself the country's interim president. Efecto Cocuyo has a recap of what's happened since.
  • Venezuela's Maduro government announced two marches to counter a massive demonstration Guaidó is planning for May 1, reports AFP. (See yesterday's briefs.)
Regional Relations
  • The newest Americas Quarterly issue is dedicated to China's relationship with Latin America -- "deep, sophisticated and increasingly under some strain," according to editor Brian Winter. "China is now Latin America’s second-biggest trading partner behind only the United States ... But there are also signs of a backlash."
  • Reuters reports on how China's Belt and Road initiative is powering clean energy developments in Argentina.  
  • Cuban authorities appear to have consulted many other countries’ constitutions in redrafting their own. But China's 1982 constitution, which formalized the country’s economic reforms appears to have particularly influenced President Miguel Díaz-Canel, write Luis Carlos Battista and Ricardo Barrios in World Politics Review. They argue that this suggests "Cuba's leadership are hoping to follow the Chinese experience of embedding market economics into a socialist state," but that "Cuban authorities’ lackluster record of reform stands in contrast to China’s decisive efforts leading up to 1982."
  • U.S. tightening of the economic embargo against Cuba will impact the island's private sector, but authorities have little choice but to double-down on economic reforms, argues Ricardo Torres at the AULA Blog.
  • Escraches -- grass-roots organized public protests focused on humiliating individuals -- have become a potent anti-corruption weapon in Paraguay. In a country where anti-corruption measures have lagged behind others in the region, several prominent senators have resigned as a result of the protests, and prosecutors have opened investigations and filed charges against several other officials as a result, reports the New York Times.
  • A new Plaza Pública investigation does a deep-dive into Guatemala's arms markets -- the country is over armed and unsafe, a situation that has proved lucrative for private security companies.
  • Violence is still increasing in Mexico, and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is facing a backlash over his muted reaction to a criminal gang related massacre this weekend, reports the Washington Post. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Critics are concerned that AMLO's energy and big infrastructure-focused policies clash with his campaign promises to fight climate change, reports U.S. News and World Report.
  • Mexican police and immigration agents detained about 500 Central American migrants yesterday. They targeted the the tail end of a caravan of about 3,000 migrants traveling through Chiapas en route to the U.S. border, reports the Associated Press. Migrant reception has gotten colder in Mexico, after an initial warm welcome last year. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • An Honduran transgender woman who was granted asylum in the U.S. was released from Ice custody last week -- she was held for a further seven months while U.S. authorities appealed the asylum. (Guardian)
  • Chile's leftist political parties have been in disarray and in conflict since President Sebastián Piñera took office last year. Party leadership is out of touch with citizen concerns and have proved unable to offer a coherent  opposition vision, writes Viviana Giacaman in Nueva Sociedad.
  • Argentina's recurring economic woes "are related to two long-run economic handicaps: insufficient exports and a feeble currency," writes economist Eduardo Levy Yeyati in Americas Quarterly.
  • Argentina's economic crisis is once again pushing educated youths to try their luck elsewhere, mostly Europe. (Associated Press)
  • Colombian president Iván Duque is "an ode to nothing" writes Omar Rincón in a New York Times Español op-ed that rips into the leader, accusing him of obeying his political mentor former president Álvaro Uribe and playing Donald Trump's game.
  • The death toll of a Cauca region mudslide on Sunday rose to 28 yesterday, reports the BBC. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • A science experiment aims to test how the rain forest will react to increased carbon dioxide levels in the future. (Guardian)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...