Monday, September 30, 2019

Haitian protesters search for Moïse (Sept. 30, 2019)

Haitian opposition leaders are calling for further protests today -- tens of thousands of citizens are expected to paralyze the streets in demand of President Jovenel Moïse's resignation, building on weeks of demonstrations and political clashes that have claimed several lives, reports the Miami Herald. The immediate cause of unrest is gas shortages -- related to government insolvency. But the underlying issue is an inflation ridden economy and unanswered calls for an in-depth investigation into alleged government corruption that in the previous administration is accused of embezzling billions of dollars from a Venezuelan development program, Petrocaribe.

The past year has been marked by turmoil, and the country has been without a confirmed prime minister for over six months.

Opposition leaders asked supporters to keep the country shut-down until Moïse tenders his resignation, reports the New York Times. At a news conference yesterday opposition leaders called on supporters to block streets and help them look for Moïse, whom they contend has gone into hiding. Moïse last week insisted that he will not step down, instead calling for unity in a 2 a.m. televised address. He hasn't been seen in public since last Wednesday morning. On Thursday Moïse tweeted that he had asked Religions for Peace, an inter-religious group of Haiti’s principal religions, to play the role of mediator between him and the opposition pushing for him to resign. (See last Thursday's briefs.)

Protests last week became violent, particularly in the wake of Moïse's televised speech. Opposition leaders said the only dialogue the religious group can mediate is Moïse's exit. Protesters throughout the country burned tires, erected barricades and ransacked and pillaged police stations and set businesses on fire, reported the Miami Herald on Friday. In Port-au-Prince, hundreds of opposition supporters ransacked a police station and an Avis car rental office and Western Union branch were also attacked and burned, reports the Associated Press.

A spokesman for the police, told AFP that all measures were taken to "avoid clashes with the population."

Corruption, shortages, poor economic indicators and natural disasters have all played a significant role in Haiti's current crisis. But experts are also increasingly also pointing to climate change -- or climate injustice -- see for example this piece by Keston Perry at Al Jazeera.

News Briefs

  • A Washington Post photo-essay portrays two of Venezuela's most emblematic environmental disasters -- the Maracaibo and El Paují -- both victims of the economic crisis that has devastated the country. 
Regional Relations
  • On Friday the EU imposed travel bans and asset freezes on another seven people close to Maduro, four of whom are suspected of being behind the abduction of naval commandant Rafael Acosta, reports Deutsche Welle. The EU warned Venezuela that it could face further sanctions if the Maduro government does not move toward a timetable for presidential elections.
  • New U.S. sanctions block Raul Castro and his immediate family from entering the U.S., in retaliation for Cuban support of Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Colombian President Iván Duque gave the United Nations alleged photographic evidence proving Venezuela was sheltering ELN rebels. But media outlets disputed the location and timing of several shots, which were taken in Colombia previous to the current dispute, reports AFP.
  • Venezuelan foreign minister Delcy Rodríguez countered in the U.N. with the supposed coordinates of Colombian paramilitary camps where terrorists are being trained to attack Venezuela -- but two of the locations are at sea, while the other is unlikely to house a militant gathering spot, reports Infobae.
  • Venezuela's government accused Peru of fomenting xenophobia, after a series of reported anti-migrant incidents. (Reuters)
  • Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra announced on Friday that he would ask for a vote of confidence from the opposition-run Congress that would empower him to dismiss lawmakers if it is rejected. The move is in response to lawmakers' shelving of Vizcarra's proposal for early elections, last week. Under Peru’s constitution, presidents can dissolve Congress if the legislative body delivers two votes of no-confidence in his government or its proposed policies. The current Congress has already withdrawn its confidence in the government once. (Reuters)
  • Yesterday Vizcarra said that if lawmakers refuse to address the confidence measure, he would take that as a negative decision. (CNN)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump's migration focus has mostly been directed towards Central Americans, but crackdown measures carried out with Mexico and Central American countries have stranded asylum seekers from around the world, reports the Guardian.
  • The trio of migration agreements that would allow the U.S. to send asylum seekers back to Central American countries they transited through on their way north, along with crackdown measures in the region and policies in which asylum seekers must wait in Mexico, are a dangerous recipe for disaster for migrants fleeing violence at home. (Guardian)
  • The pact the U.S. and El Salvador signed last week regarding asylum seekers was purposely not called "safe third country" due to credibility issues -- but the content is essentially that. So far Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele hasn't paid a domestic political price for going along with U.S. demands, but without concrete gains to show exchange, that could change, according to World Politics Review.
  • In the meantime El Salvador has already deployed police and soldiers to its border to deter migrants, reports NPR.
  • Colombia's border czar said the country must have a development response to the influx of Venezuelan migrants. Colombia currently hosts about 1.4 million Venezuelans, and they are likely to stay for several years, reports Devex.
  • Lava Jato prosecutors are asking for former President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva to be released to house arrest, as he has fulfilled a sixth of his corruption jail sentence, and due to good behavior. Lula has not yet requested the move, and said he seeks to be declared innocent instead. (Bloomberg)
  • Environmentalists see the Brazilian island of Fernando de Noronha as an example of how to carry out green tourism -- but proponents of more massive development have a powerful ally in President Jair Bolsonaro, reports the Washington Post.
  • A caravan of indigenous protesters in Bolivia is marching hundreds of miles to ask President Evo Morales to declare a surge of wildfires a national disaster. Morales has reportedly been averse to the move in an electoral context -- the general election is next month -- but demonstrators are hoping the designation could lead to international aid, reports Reuters.
  • As tends to happen, Ecuador's recent approval of medicinal cannabis opens up a host of regulatory questions, reports EFE.
  • Argentines are quick to protest -- but the current electoral season has showcased new levels of street campaign creativity: Women dressed as Eva Perón, old political anthems blaring in the streets, flash-mobs with step-perfect choreography, reports AFP.
  • Embattled President Mauricio Macri is hoping to channel some of that energy himself and stage an unlikely comeback ahead of next month's general elections. This weekend he launched a series of 30 "Yes We Can" marches around the country. (Reuters)
  • Climate change doesn't just affect people in the Global South -- avocados are vulnerable too. Luckily, scientists are working on genetic modifications to save your toast. (New York Times)

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

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