Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Ecuadorean authorities arrest opposition prefect (Oct. 16, 2019)

Ecuadorean authorities arrested the opposition-party prefect of Pichincha state on Monday. She is under investigation for instigating acts of violence during the 11 days of protests against President Lenín Moreno that rocked the country. (El Comercio)

Authorities say Paola Pabón and two others of conspired with former president Rafael Correa, Venezuela's government, and FARC guerrillas to destabilize Ecuador's government.

 Former National Assembly President Gabriela Rivadeneira, another of Correa's allies, sought refuge in the country's embassy in Quito over the weekend. On Monday the Mexican foreign ministry said the embassy offered protection and shelter to six people, including legislators and their spouses. Lawmaker Soledad Buendía, also of the Correa faction, is among those staying in the Mexican embassy. Rivadeneira and Buendía sought to move forward elections during the protests.

The OAS permanent council stated the rejection of member countries of “any action aimed at destabilizing the legitimately established Government and the rule of law, as well as any kind of interference that alters democracy and peaceful coexistence in Ecuador,” and condemns “all acts of vandalism perpetrated” in recent days. (Relief Web)

Eight people died during the 11 days of protest, with Pichincha being the hardest hit locality, reports El Comercio. The deal reached Sunday evening was a bittersweet victory for indigenous groups, reports the Guardian, given the heavy police repression that marked the protests. In addition to the dead, more than 1,300 people were injured and nearly 1,200 arrested, according to the country’s human rights defender’s office. Jaime Vargas, the leader of the Ecuador’s indigenous confederation Conaie, sought to distance his followers from masked men who attacked two TV stations and the El Comercio newspaper, as well as journalists covering the protests.

Thousands of indigenous demonstrators, student volunteers, and local residents launched a mass cleanup on Monday in the Quito park that served as a focal point for protesters. Though Moreno survived the crisis, he comes out significantly weakened in the middle of his four-year-term after having to backtrack on fuel subsidy cuts, 
reports the Christian Science Monitor.

More Ecuador
  • Moreno's administration is expected to present a new plan this week to cut fuel subsidies while maintaining assistance for target communities, reports El Comercio. (See Monday's post.) The IMF applauded the government's move to take different communities into account in order to carry out macroeconomic reform, reports EFE.
  • Yesterday, Moreno and his administration were struggling to figure out how to stabilize the budget, reassure international lenders and put Ecuador on a path of economic sustainability, reports the Associated Press. Without a drastic improvement in 2020, Ecuador may have to start delaying payments to state workers and suppliers, say some analysts.
  • Fuel subsidies were the trigger for the protests against Moreno, but the underlying cause were austerity policies demanded by the IMF that favor the rich at the expense of the middle class and poor, explains Nacla.
  • It was also an opportunity for indigenous groups to demonstrate power and presence, according to New York Times' El Espace.
News Briefs

  • Haitian President Jovenel Moïse said it would be irresponsible to resign, and blamed the country's constitution and Parliament for difficulties in governing. He spoke yesterday in an impromptu press conference, breaking weeks-long silence in the midst of intense protests demanding his ouster that have essentially paralyzed the country. Moïse argued that his leaving office would not solve the underlying problems afflicting Haiti, reports the Miami Herald.
  • The U.N. Security Council permanently ended its 15-year peacekeeping presence in Haiti yesterday. The move comes as the country is on the brink of collapse, reports the Miami Herald. The Haiti National Police force boasts 15,404 officers and a full-time police presence in every one of Haiti’s 145 counties, a per-population number below the U.N.’s objective and international standards.
  • The ambush that killed 13 police officers in Mexico's Michoacán state on Monday involved at about 30 gunmen and is believed to have been carried out by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, reports the Guardian. Mexico's government sent about 80 soldiers and an army helicopter to the western part of the state in the wake of the shooting, reports BBC. (See yesterday's post.)
  • The case has caused backlash against President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, provincial authorities and police commanders, reports the Associated Press. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called the attack “regrettable,” but said he remains committed to his security approach emphasizing tackling underlying social problems in the face of record homicide numbers.
  • Fourteen civilians and one soldier were killed in a separate incident in Guerrero state yesterday,  a shoot-out between the military and suspected cartel members. (Al Jazeera)
  • A new study looks at how community governance structures and a history of activism help some Mexican indigenous communities resist organized crime, reports InSight Crime.
  • El Faro and El País dive into the Guatemalan jungle along the border with Mexico -- considered a key corridor for drug smuggling. The latest installment in "Southern Border" project explores who controls the Petén department's 2.2-million-hectare jungle. "In Petén, everyone tells you to “stay in the center, don’t head to the outskirts, keep away from the jungle.” ... They tell you not to go, and then recite with great detail the names of hamlets, villages and natural areas that are off limits: Las Cruces, Bethel, La Técnica, El Naranjo, the jungle. However, when you ask them what they are so afraid of, all details disappear and everything becomes as dense as the depths of Lacandón. You get the impression that they fear anyone who lives in the jungle."
  • The U.S.-Honduras agreement to send asylum seekers to the Central American country will trap them in a country that has manifestly failed to protect its own citizens, particularly activists, writes Óscar Chacón in USA Today.
  • A year after migrant caravans started making world headlines two new books look at the phenomenon: Caravana, which compiles Spanish journalist Alberto Pradilla's dispatches for Plaza Pública, and Juntos todos Juntos, by El Faro's Carlos Martínez. (El País)
  • The European Union adopted a sanctions framework for Nicaragua over human rights abuses and repression under leftist President Daniel Ortega, reports AFP. The move does not immediately enact punishment on Nicaragua but allows targeted travel bans and asset freezes to be quickly imposed at a later stage.
  • The opposition said it was a significant political strike against the Ortega administration, reports EFE.
  • The lawyers' group Defensores del Pueblo advised exiled Nicaraguans against returning to the country at this time, reports EFE.
  • Lava Jato prosecutors used accusations against former president Luis Inácio Lula da Silva to distract the public from a scandal involving then-president Michel Temer and then-attorney general Rodrigo Janot, reported The Intercept this week.
  • Brazil’s northeastern state of Bahia declared a state of emergency after about 20 of its beaches were contaminated with oil sludge. Brazilian authorities believe the sludge, which has affected about 150 beaches in a total of nine Brazilian states comes from Venezuela, reports the Associated Press. (See last Thursday's briefs.)
  • Some of those beaches are sea-turtle nesting sites, and scientists report that 24 adult-sea turtles have been found coated in oil on Brazilian shores. (PRI)
  • Brazilian police launched a corruption probe into the head of President Jair Bolsonaro’s right-wing Social Liberal Party (PSL) Luciano Bivar, a police source told Reuters.
  • Brazil's central bank president told the Financial Times that Brazil wants to "democratize" the financial sector and usher in more private capital.
  • A seven-story building collapsed in Fortaleza yesterday, killing at least one person. Another 10 people were missing and seven people were found alive, reports Reuters. Collapses have become a recurring problem in Brazil, due to economic-distress related disrepair, reports the Washington Post.
  • In post-CICIG Guatemala, lawmakers are on a witch-hunt of former collaborators of the anti-impunity commission and citizens worry about corruption that affects critical institutions, reports PRI.
  • Chile will implement a blockade against Venezuela if President Nicolás Maduro does not hold free elections, reports the Financial Times.
  • India's Reliance Industries has resumed crude imports from Venezuela, bartering diesel exports to pay for them, reports AFP.
  • After three decades holding significant power, Popular Force is reeling in Peru. President Martín Vizcarra's dissolution of Congress could be a knock-out punch for the party founded by former dictator Alberto Fujimori. Some predict Fujimorismo could garner as little as 10 percent in new Congressional elections to be held in January, reports the Wall Street Journal.

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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