Monday, June 3, 2019

Nayib Bukele swears in, defends historical memory (June 3, 2019)

Nayib Bukele swore in as El Salvador's newest president on Saturday. (AFP) His first act in office was to strike the name of a military commander responsible for a horrific civil war-era massacre from a barracks. He tweeted that the name of Coronel Domingo Monterrosa, responsible for the 1981 El Mozote massacre in which at least 986 people were killed, must be immediately removed from a San Miguel barracks. (El País) The armed forces did not publicly respond, but images on social media yesterday showed troops erasing the name. (BBC)

The symbolism is striking, coming on the heels of a bipartisan attempt to shield human rights violators from jail time, last week. Perpetrators of the El Mozote massacre, on trial for the first time, are at the heart of the new attempt at amnesty, which has been criticized by victims groups, human rights organizations, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. (See last Friday's briefs and May 24's post.)

The move indicates a clear break with El Salvador's established political parties since the civil war, reports El Faro. The demand to remove honors from Monterrosa has been ongoing for over a decade, but previous governments hesitated to generate instability or conflict with the military, who consider him a hero, according to La Prensa Gráfica.

Honduras protests grow

Protests against Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández have grown in intensity. Human rights organizations -- including Amnesty International -- condemned excessive use of force against demonstrators opposed to the government's education and health reforms. (Criterio)

Over recent days U.S. symbols have been the target of anger: On Friday demonstrators set fire to tires and objects in front of the U.S. embassy, and yesterday protesters burned and looted some 30 shipping containers marked with the logo of the Dole Food Company. (CNN and Reuters)

News Briefs

  • Representatives of the Lima Group will meet with counterparts in the International Contact Group to discuss the Venezuela crisis in New York today. A group of international human rights organizations applaud the outreach effort, and said the ICG could benefit from more collaboration with Latin American countries. (WOLA)
  • Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaidó is "very much an accidental President," writes Jon Lee Anderson in a masterful review of this year's prolonged legitimacy crisis in the country in the New Yorker. After months of intense posturing against Nicolás Maduro, the U.S. Trump administration appears to have lost interest, leaving the opposition push to oust him somewhat adrift.
  • Russia's state defense contractor, Rosetec, drastically reduced its staff in Venezuela -- a significant move on the diplomatic chessboard, as Russia has been one of President Nicolás Maduro's strongest international backers, reports the Wall Street Journal. The pullout is due to waning Russian support and also lack of cash for Venezuela to pay for services. Rosetec denied the report, and said its representation in Venezuela has remained stable. (EFE)
  • Never one to give up, the Wall Street Journal's Mary Anastasia O'Grady argues that "the case for the use of force by Venezuelans—with organizational and intelligence support from the U.S. and regional allies—has never been stronger." 
  • The Venezuela central bank published economic data last week, for the first time in years. According to its account, by the end of last year the annual rate of inflation had reached 130,000%, for April of this year, the most recent data, annual inflation was at 282,973%. (Quartz)
  • Canada will suspend operations at its embassy in Venezuela immediately because its diplomats will no longer be able to obtain visas, the Canadian foreign minister said yesterday. (Reuters)
  • Brazil withdrew an invitation to the envoy for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to present her diplomatic credentials last week. (Associated Press)
  • Guatemala is a crucial piece in the Latin America migration puzzle: More Guatemalans than migrants from any other country — and many of them traveling in families — are seeking to enter the United States along its southwestern border. The country is also a crucial transit point for migrants headed to the United States from Honduras or El Salvador, reports the New York Times. The U.S. cut aid to the country, but signed an agreement last week to provide security support to train local migration authorities and tackle human trafficking rings. The Department of Homeland Security personnel will work as “advisers” to Guatemala’s national police and migration authorities, and they will aim to disrupt and interdict human smuggling operations, reports the Washington Post.
  • Mexican diplomats have gone into overdrive hoping to avoid the blanket tariffs announced by U.S. President Donald Trump in retaliation for migrants crossing border between the two countries, reports the Washington Post. (See Friday's post.) Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard announced a high level meeting in Washington for this Wednesday.
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has studiously avoided overt confrontation with Trump since assuming office last December, even when they hold conflicting views or the U.S. moves unilaterally. (New York Times) On Saturday AMLO hinted that his country could tighten migration controls in order to reach a deal with the U.S. (Reuters
  • The exact terms for quantifying improvement in migration numbers were intentionally left hazy, said White House chief of staff Mike Mulvaney this weekend. "There’s no specific target, there’s no specific percent, but things have to get better. They have to get dramatically better and they have to get better quickly." The goal is to work with the Mexican government to achieve improvement, he said. (Guardian)
  • Mexico City lawmakers moved to decriminalize sex work, in hopes of cracking down on sex trafficking, reports the Guardian.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is dialing down his confrontational style -- just a notch or two. It appears to be an attempt to save his presidency and the country's economy, though the change is hardly expected to be permanent, writes Bria Winter in Americas Quarterly.
  • Bolsonaro is pulling out all of the stops in his attempt to pass a controversial pension reform considered vital for the country's economy, reports Bloomberg, focusing on a savvy social media campaign. 
  • Hundreds of demonstrators called for cannabis decriminalization for personal use in Sao Paulo, after the Brazilian Supreme Court postponed a drug decriminalization analysis indefinitely. (EFE)
  • YouTube's recommendation algorithm -- which drives most of the platform’s billions of views -- has increasingly directed viewers to videos of young and partially clothed children, then a near-endless stream of them drawn primarily from Latin America and Eastern Europe. Often the videos are uploaded by families themselves, who consider them harmless, but are shocked to find they engage a completely different audience. (New York Times)
  • Argentine opposition candidate Alberto Fernández promised not to default on the country's debt if he wins in October, an attempt to calm international investors, reports Bloomberg.

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

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