Monday, May 13, 2019

Cuban activists hold independent pride parade (May 13, 2019)

At least three Cuban gay rights activists were arrested after holding an unauthorized pride parade in Havana Saturday -- an unusual show of civil disobedience on the island. About 100 demonstrators were stopped by plainclothes security officers, and there were reports of violence. (BBC and El Estornudo) The state-run National Centre for Sex Education (Cenesex) denounced the alternative parade as a "provocation." Several activists said they were threatened by authorities before hand in an attempt to dissuade participation. (Reuters)

Activists organized the independent march on social media, after the government suddenly cancelled the annual “Conga against Homophobia and Transphobia,” which has been held since 2007. (See last Wednesday's briefs.) Cenesex, run by Mariela Castro, said the parade was cancelled because of "new tensions in the international and regional context." Cenesex said anti-government groups were planning to subvert the original event -- possibly attacking demonstrators and forcing police to make arrests. It might sound far fetched, but "years of US-backed terrorism, economic strangulation, as well as more recent attempts to create “smart mobs” to stir unrest have contributed to a siege mentality," reports the Guardian. Castro cited the U.S. Trump administration's escalation of aggression against Cuba and Venezuela. She later said Saturday's independent march was an example of foreign manipulation.

Activists say the original parade was likely canceled due to pressure from Evangelical churches, rather than international relations. Last year religious movements demonstrated growing clout in a campaign against a move to legalize gay marriage. Authorities may have sought to avoid confrontation with the Evangelical groups that could further strengthen their influence.

However, other anti-homophobia events scheduled this month appear to be running on schedule, reports the Washington Post.


Cuba begins widespread rationing

Cuba's deep economic crisis pushed the government to announced widespread rationing of basic products, including chicken, eggs, rice, beans, soap. Government authorities blamed the U.S. Trump administration's hardening of a long-standing trade embargo. Cuba imports roughly two-thirds of its food at an annual cost of more than $2 billion. The U.S. embargo forces the island to buy food from distant markets, which raises prices, said a government official. (Associated Press)

But experts say cuts in Venezuelan aid are likely just as responsible. Subsidized oil shipments from Venezuela fell to about 47,000 barrels a day in March from a high of 105,000 in 2012, reports the Wall Street Journal. Nonetheless, experts do not expect an economic contraction comparable to the so-called special period after the fall of the Soviet Union, when the island experienced near-famine conditions.

The new restrictions will likely hurt the islands entrepreneurs who run private restaurants catering to tourists.

News Briefs

  • The U.S. increased sanctions against Venezuela's government on Friday. U.S. and foreign companies working with Venezuela’s defense and security services sectors can now be sanctioned, adding to penalties for companies working in the oil and banking sectors, reports Reuters.
  • Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó asked his U.S. envoy to meet with U.S. military commanders, reports the Associated Press.
  • Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro his former intelligence chief, General Manuel Cristopher Figuera, of being a CIA infiltrator. (Guardian)
  • Maduro is targeting opposition leaders who sought to overthrow him in an aborted April 30 uprising -- an attempt to quash dissent with fear, said Guaidó in an interview with the Guardian. (See Friday's briefs.)
  • Guaidó's chief of staff, Roberto Marrero has been detained by Venezuela's intelligence agency for nearly two months. His family was able to see him yesterday for the first time in 52 days, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
  • A Haitian longshoreman is the first and only defendant to face prosecution so far in a massive Miami cocaine and heroin distribution case -- but his real value might be as a witness in the U.S. criminal case and the separate Justice Department investigation into allegations of wrongdoing by Drug Enforcement Administration agents who are suspected of bungling the so-called sugar boat case, reports the Miami Herald. (See last Tuesday's briefs.)
  • Judicialization of politics is a major challenge for Guatemala ahead of June's general election. Former Costa Rican president Luis Solis, who is heading Organization of American States’ electoral mission to Guatemala, pointed to national legislation that "allows legal measures to be filed permanently and throughout the electoral process." With just a month left before voters head to the polls, two presidential candidates -- former attorney general Thelma Aldana and right-wing Zury Rios -- have yet to be confirmed due to legal challenges. (EFE)
  • Panamanian president-elect Laurentino Cortizo promised to fight against corruption. He was officially declared the winner of last week's election on Friday, reports EFE. (See last Monday's post.)
  • Recent protests in Honduras -- which through repressed forced lawmakers to backtrack on health and education reforms -- are "part of a broader crisis of legitimacy and governance that has been dragging on in the country for years," writes Ricardo González in a Washington Post opinion piece.
  • Colombian filmmaker Mauricio Lezama was killed in Colombia's Arauca department while shooting a documentary on victims of violence. Authorities blamed a dissident FARC group, reports the BBC.
  • Mexican homicides are fueled by structural violence that belies solutions targeting just one cause. "Sometimes violent actions are consequences rather than causes; practices at the service of political and economic interests, legal and illegal. In Mexico, killing has become a transversal solution that serves not only to eliminate an enemy, but also to end any current or future bother that crosses those powers: fear as a form of social control," writes José Luis Pardo Veiras in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • Mexican police have arrested on manslaughter charges the owner of a school in Mexico City that collapsed during a devastating 2017 earthquake. (Reuters)
  • A Brazilian Supreme Court judge asked President Jair Bolsonaro to explain a decree loosening gun regulations, in response to a constitutional challenge presented by an opposition party, reports AFP.
  • Twenty-five-year-old lawmaker Tabata Amaral is being called Brazil's AOC -- with a bold, education focused agenda. (Americas Quarterly)
  • In recent years hundreds of women have been prosecuted under Ecuador's near total abortion ban law. Most of the women affected live in deep poverty, and The Nation reports that many of these cases are marked by serious violations of the rights of the accused.
  • "Each day almost 70,000 unsafe abortions are carried out around the world, and they are vastly more likely to happen in countries with strict laws," notes the Guardian in an editorial.
  • Argentine President Mauricio Macri suffered a heavy electoral defeat yesterday in Cordoba province's gubernatorial elections, where the ruling party candidate lost by a landslide. (AFP)
  • On the spectrum of femicides, abortion and sexual harassment in several industries, payment for women who play soccer might seem like a low-ranking priority. But, in Americas Quarterly I argue that Argentine feminists' push for equality on the playing field has meaning even for those women who never plan to set foot on a pitch. The fight for professionalization strikes at the heart of a national soccer culture that is emblematic of the chauvinism that underlies gender violence across Latin America.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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