Thursday, October 10, 2019

Ecuador protests continue (Oct. 10, 2019)

At least one person was killed yesterday in the midst of a national strike and protests against Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno's austerity measures. Activists say more people were killed yesterday in clashes between indigenous protesters and police. (Reuters) The indigenous-led demonstrations were mostly peaceful, but clashes occurred yesterday in Quito and other cities. The national interior minister apologized after police fired tear gas near two universities and a cultural center in Quito where safe areas for protesters had been set up. (Reuters) Ecuador's Red Cross said it was suspending paramedic and ambulance services because of security concerns.

Photo-essay of protests and clashes at the Atlantic.

Protests have been ongoing for over a week, since Moreno announced cuts to fuel subsidies. Protesters have been marching and barricading roads with burning tires, while police in armored vehicles have responded with water cannon and gas. Over 700 people in a week of unrest. Some 86 police and 360 civilians have been wounded in the unrest so far, according to Ecuadorean authorities. “The Ecuadorian authorities must put an immediate end to the heavy-handed repression of demonstrations, including mass detentions, and conduct swift, independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of arbitrary arrests, excessive use of force, torture and other ill-treatment of those who have been detained in the context of the protests," said Amnesty International's Americas director, Erika Guevara-Rosas.

Indigenous protests played a key role in toppling Ecuadorean presidents in recent decades, notes the Guardian. The leader of the Ecuador’s indigenous confederation Conaie, said there would be no dialogue until the government rolled back its order ending the subsidies. Nonetheless, Moreno aides said they were engaging in early-stage negotiations with indigenous groups, with United Nations and Catholic Church mediation, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Though the fuel subsidy cuts are part of IMF agreement imposed austerity measures, the government has leeway to grant special credits to indigenous groups to help them cope with higher gasoline prices.

In Guayaquil thousands of demonstrators dressed in white held a "peace march," rejecting violent protest tactics. Moreno temporarily moved the seat of government to Guayaquil this week, but visited the capital, Quito, in the midst of yesterday's protests, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Military backing has been key for Moreno in the unrest, and warned protesters against resorting to violence yesterday, reports the Associated Press.

News Briefs

  • At least 18 people have been killed in Haiti's anti-government riots, which have been ongoing for over a month. The opposition has called for a march against President Jovenel Moïse for tomorrow, adding to the pressure against his paralyzed government, reports Vice News
  • In a last ditch effort at conciliation, Moïse yesterday named a team to lead negotiations with opposition leaders. Opposition figures rejected the move, saying the commission has no credibility. (Associated Press)
  • In the midst of the power vacuum, dozens of politicians are vying to become Haiti's next leader, reports the Associated Press. Though the opposition is unified by anger at Moïse, protesters say the absence of a charismatic leader and a clear strategy is fueling chaos and the sense of an unending crisis.
  • If you've forgotten what the crisis is about in the first place, the AFP has a handy overview of what's going on in Haiti.
  • A new report by Human Rights First revealed that there were at least 340 report of rape, kidnapping, torture and other violent attacks against people returned to Mexico while they wait for their case to be heard in US immigration court. Advocates say it's just a hint of the dangers faced by people in the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP), known as Remain in Mexico program. (Guardian)
  • Dominican immigrants are subject to police profiling and brutality in Puerto Rico and are also being targeted for deportation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) on the island, reports the Guardian.
  • Foreign aid is ever more central to the battle for political power in Venezuela, according to the latest Venezuela Weekly. This week the U.S. Agency for International Development announced  $98 million dollars in development aid to Venezuela. (Associated Press) Added to previous commitments, the total amount will be $116 million. "The amount and the very public announcement of the aid will likely revive efforts by the Maduro government to restrict foreign funding for civil society," warn David Smilde and Dimitris Pantoulas.
  • The CAF development bank has proposed a $400 million loan to Venezuela that would be administered by opposition leader Juan Guaidó, considered the country's interim president by a chunk of the international community. (Reuters)
  • Russia is playing a key role in propping up Venezuela's Maduro administration, and undercutting the impact of U.S. sanction. Washington needs to change tack quickly, argues Ryan Berg in Foreign Policy.
  • The U.S. Trump administration is preparing new sanctions against Cuba over its support of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, reports Reuters.
  • U.S. sanctions, including those targeting Venezuela, have already caused severe fuel shortages and other difficulties in Cuba, reports the New Yorker. But experts say the U.S. hardline approach to Cuba is counterproductive in reaching a solution for the Venezuela crisis: “The Trump Administration has it backwards when it comes to the linkage between Venezuela policy and Cuba policy,” according to the International Crisis Group’s Venezuela expert, Phil Gunson. "By making it clear that once they have dealt with Maduro, their next objective is Cuba, they eliminate any incentive Cuba might have for contributing to a sustainable transition in Venezuela. And by defining the objective not as the promotion of democracy so much as the elimination of socialism, they alienate many other potentially useful allies."
  • Crude oil polluting more than 130 Brazilian beaches probably originated in Venezuela, according to the Brazilian government. Over the past month an estimated 100 tons of crude has drifted toward land, polluting pristine beaches and forcing the government to face another environmental crisis in the wake of the Amazon fires, reports the New York Times. Environment minister Ricardo Salles said a foreign ship near Brazil’s coastline appeared to have caused the spill “accidentally or not." The accusation will likely further strain relations between the two countries, reports the Guardian.
  • A federal judge determined that Brazil's government must resume funding for about 80 films including a handful with LGBT+ themes, halted in August after the country’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro criticized four LGBT+ themed films and said that supporting such movies was “throwing money away.” (Reuters)
  • Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva called on Brazil's largest labor federation to expand the fight against Bolsonaro's administration, reports EFE.
  • Former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe testified before the country's Supreme Court on Tuesday. The closed door questioning lasted seven hours, reports Al Jazeera. (See Tuesday's briefs.)
  • Heavy rains helped put out fires that have raged in Bolivia's Amazon for two months, reports Reuters. Complaints over the official handling of the environmental crisis have dented the popularity of President Evo Morales ahead of this month's general election.
  • Bolivians vote on Oct. 20, and no matter which candidate is declared winner in Bolivia’s presidential election this year, the opposite side is likely to contest the validity of the result, warns the Latin America Risk Report.
  • The Five Hundred Year Rebellion: Indigenous Movements and the Decolonization of History in Bolivia, looks at Morales' roots, rise, and presidency -- Nacla.
  • A new broad-based coalition including unions, professionals, students, feminists, farmers, and opposition parties is forging a sustained campaign of resistance in Honduras, reports The Nation
  • A confessed drug trafficker said he attended meetings with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández to discuss the use of drug money in his election campaigns. Alexander Ardon spoke this week in the New York trial of Hernández's younger brother, former lawmaker Tony Hernández, who is accused of large-scale drug trafficking, reports Univisión. (See last Thursday's post.)
Organized Crime
  • The ongoing Hernández trial in New York has provided a glimpse of how Honduran politics is infiltrated by corruption and organized crime. But it is also exposing the details of how the Sinaloa Cartel has operated in Central America over the past decade, according to the Latin America Risk Report.
  • Peruvians widely supported President Martín Vizcarra's move to shut down Congress last week, reports the Wall Street Journal. Peru's top court is expected to rule on the legality of the move in coming weeks. 
  • President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and other top officials met this week in Mexico City with a U.S. congressional delegation to lobby for U.S. approval of the pending USMCA treaty, reports the Associated Press.
  • A fact-checker sponsored "deep fake" video in Argentina aims to educate voters about how easily misinformation can spread, reports Poynter.
  • Archeology has been transformed by light detection and ranging, or lidar, technology, which permits researchers to scan entire regions for sites. (New York Times)
  • Colombian film director Alejandro Landes' Monos "comes off like Lord of the Flies in hell," according to the Guardian review. "The story is a nightmare in which nothing – gender, sexuality, political allegiance – is muddled or irrelevant."

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

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