Monday, September 2, 2019

Guatemala's Sandra Torres arrested (Sept. 2, 2019)

Guatemalan police arrested former presidential candidate Sandra Torres in her home today. The attorney general's office said the charges include alleged violation of campaign finance rules during her 2015 presidential run. The warrant was issued Friday. 

The allegations implicating Torres and her UNE political party came to light earlier this year, but, as a presidential candidate, Torres enjoyed immunity from prosecution -- until her defeat in the August second round of election.

Torres, a former first lady and three-time presidential candidate has said the charges are politically motivated, and blamed president-elect Alejandro Giammattei for carrying out a witch-hunt. The UNE party said the detention was disproportionate and unnecessary. Last month Torres' lawyer had already handed her passport.

Guatemala's specialized anti-corruption prosecutorial unit asked the electoral tribunal to cancel the UNE political party, today in the wake of the arrest.

(El PeriódicoLa HoraReutersBBCPublinewsSoy 502Soy 502)

News Briefs

  • Nearly 5,000 bodies have been discovered in more than 3,000 graves since late 2006 in Mexico. The data regarding clandestine sites come from the government’s National Search Commission are well above previous estimates by academics and journalists, reports the Guardian. At least 40,000 people have disappeared in Mexico since 2006 -- though most are believed to be victims of organized crime, in many cases local or state authorities might have been complicit.
  • Nearly a year after assuming office, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's promised transformation has been more rhetorical than real, writes Diego Fonseca in the New York Times Español. AMLO still has time to change, but he will need to accept criticism and negative realities in order to implement lasting change.
Regional Relations
  • In Mexico, Trump's "Sinatra Doctrine" -- everything "my way" -- forces the country to face a triage decision and establish some red lines, writes former ambassador Arturo Sarukhán in a New York Times Español op-ed. Mexico must assert itself strongly on the war on drugs, arms trafficking, and migration -- all issues with strong impact on both sides of the border, he writes. "The time has come to be assertive to Washington: we can't keep eluding confrontation with Trump when it's necessary to do it."

  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been widely criticized for his environmental policies in recent weeks -- the notable exception is U.S. President Donald Trump who wholeheartedly supported the Brazilian leader. In a Tweet, Trump praised Bolsonaro for "working very hard on the Amazon fires and in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil," a sign of the close bond the two leaders have forged, reports the Washington Post.
  • Fires in Brazil's rainforest are just one part of a broader trend of deforestation in the region. "The push by land speculators, ranchers and miners into forests around the Amazon basin also shows how advances in political stability and economic integration can drive deforestation, especially when safeguards remain weak," reports the New York Times.
  • The Amazon crisis demonstrates "the damage that can be done when governments bow unequivocally to business interests. It also highlights an increasingly common phenomenon: the cynical manipulation of anti-corruption efforts to undermine democracy and advance an authoritarian political agenda," writes Kaushik Basu, former Chief Economist of the World Bank, in Project Syndicate.
  • Indigenous tribes in the Brazilian rainforest have set aside differences to unite against a common enemy: "the non-indigenous peoples who have invaded our lands and are now burning even those small parts of the forests where we live that you have left for us," writes Raoni Metuktire, chief of the indigenous Brazilian Kayapó people, in the Guardian.
  • In Bolivia furious locals in the Chiquitano dry forest region are blaming President Evo Morales for widespread destruction in the wake of legislation that encourages that encourages slash-and-burn farming, reports the Guardian.
  • Children in Rio de Janiero's favelas are, reasonably, terrified of military police operations against criminals. Police are responsible for 29 percent of the state's 3,048 homicides in the first half of 2019. Draconian security policies, like those promised and implemented by Governor Wilson Witzel, are a disaster, writes Carol Pires in a New York Times Español op-ed, in which she recommends policies aimed at reducing violence and building on local achievements in favelas.
  • In Salvador an international research program susses out the health issues in local favelas -- where problems are compounded by poverty, unemployment and poor sanitation. (Guardian)
El Salvador
  • August of this year was the least bloody month in El Salvador in recent years -- there were 131 homicides, part of a marked reduction in recent months, reports El Faro. If the rate for this month were sustained for a year, El Salvador's homicide rate would be almost halved, according to Roberto Valencia.
  • Gender inequality is a structural component of Cuba's government system, writes Wendy Guerra in a New York Times Español op-ed. "Endemic machismo in Cuba is politically correct," she says in a call to publicly debate women's rights.
  • The family of slain Honduran activist Berta Cáceres is asking a U.S. court to subpoena bank records linked to a $1.4m luxury house in Texas purchased by the alleged mastermind of the Cáceres' killing. (Guardian)
  • Hurricane Dorian hit northwestern Bahamas on Sunday, causing a “catastrophic” scenario. Three islands endured direct hits Sunday: Elbow Cay, Great Abaco and Grand Bahama Island. (Washington Post)
  • Two months until Argentines actually vote for the next president, but the economic crisis is moving faster than the campaigns. This weekend, President Mauricio Macri implemented currency controls in an attempt to stabilize the peso. But the measures are a particularly difficult move for the administration, which criticized similar practices under the previous government. The measure does not affect individual bank withdrawals, and some Argentines are withdrawing their savings amid fears of more widespread financial instability. (ReutersAssociated PressWall Street Journal)
  • This morning Argentina's international dollar and euro-denominated bonds fell to record lows and the official peso diverged from the black market. (Reuters)
  • Fentanyl has surpassed heroin and prescription pills to become the leading driver of the opioid crisis and is now the top cause of U.S. overdose deaths. The drug, known as "Mexican Oxy" is actually produced in China and smuggled from Mexico, reports the Los Angeles Times.

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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