Monday, October 14, 2019

Moreno revokes fuel subsidy cut decree (Oct. 14, 2019)

Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno revoked the controversial executive decree that cut fuel subsidies, and a replacement will be drafted with the collaboration of indigenous groups who had led 12 days of intense unrest in response to the measure. In a meeting with Moreno yesterday evening, representatives of the Confederation of Indigenous Nations of Ecuador (CONAI) agreed to call off ongoing mobilizations. The discussions were mediated by the UN's representative in Ecuador and the national Episcopal Conference, and broadcast live online and on national TV.  (El ComercioAssociated Press)

Moreno deployed the army to enforce a 3 p.m. curfew in Quito, after protesters flouted the emergency measure and clashed with police -- continuing 11 days of unrest yesterday. Moreno said the military would patrol the capital's streets after incidents of violence -- including a group that set fire to the national auditor's office and reports of attacks on media outlets. (Reuters, Associated Press, Al Jazeera) "Explosions and clouds of tear gas engulfed much of the city Sunday afternoon," reports the New York Times.

 In a Saturday speech Moreno said that the protesters who have been causing damage to buildings and clashing with the security forces aren’t from indigenous groups but are instead vandals, members of criminal groups or linked to a former president, Rafael Correa. (Wall Street Journal)

The public ombudsman’s office said Sunday that seven people had died in the protests, 1,340 had been hurt and 1,152 arrested. (Associated Press) Protesters forced the state oil company to shut down several oil fields and pipelines, and paralyzed international sales of crude from Ecuador, a key component of government revenue. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a branch of the Washington-based Organization of American States, has expressed concern over “the excessive use of force on the part of the police,” while the Ecuadorean government rights ombudsman has denounced the “cruel, inhumane and degrading” treatment of protesters.

Though indigenous protests were influential in overthrowing three presidencies in the late 90s and early 2000s, Moreno managed to divide opposition against him, a key factor in his survival thus far, according to NYT. 

News Briefs

  • Thousands of Haitians joined a protest against Moïse called by the art community, yesterday, one of the largest protests against President Jovenel Moïse thus far in weeks demonstrations calling for his resignation, reports the Miami Herald. The massive protest was carried out peacefully and without police intervention, reports the Associated Press. Anti-government protesters promised to keep Haiti paralyzed until Moïse leaves office.
  • Clashes between Haitian protesters and police intensified on Friday, after a Haitian journalist was found shot to death in his car. At least 20 people have been killed in the current round of protests. (Guardian)
  • U.S acting Secretary of Homeland Security Ken McAleenan resigned on Friday -- the fourth person to leave the post in the Trump administration thus far. According to the New Yorker, he resigned on his own terms, after creating a set of international policies and agreements that effectively outsourced immigration enforcement and asylum obligations to Mexico and Central American countries -- the Migrant Protection Protocols (Remain in Mexico) and the network of safe third country agreements with Northern Triangle countries. Despite his position as a moderate, McAleenan carried out some of the most controversial immigration initiatives under the Trump administration, notes Buzzfeed.
  • U.S. immigration policy will likely fall to a hardliner now: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli is being seen as a likely replacement for McAleenan, reports Fox News.
  • The idea that Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are safe places and apt to receive refugees would be a bad joke, if it weren't exactly what the U.S. Trump administration succeeded in a spate of recent migration pacts, argues Nelson Rauda in El País
Political turmoil
  • A wave of political turmoil in Latin America reflects economic slowdown and perennially weak institutions, reports the Washington Post.
Trinidad and Tobago
  • Dozens of people were found last week in squalid conditions, chained and in cages in a Trinidad and Tobago rehabilitation center run by a religious group for ex-prisoners and drug users. Police said some were tortured and held for years, reports Reuters.
  • Venezuelan authorities denied Guatemala's president-elect Alejandro Giammattei entry into Venezuela on Saturday. He was scheduled to meet with opposition leader Juan Guaido, reports Reuters. Giammattei promised to lodge a complaint with the OAS, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
  • Pamela Druckerman's take on Venezuela's political crisis, through the eyes of a Guaidó's envoy to France, part of a shadow diplomatic corps. "I don’t pretend to know what would happen if the opposition ran Venezuela, but it would have to be an improvement." (New York Times op-ed)
  • Women are taking on more prominent roles in Colombia's criminal drug organizations, but they face both the risks inherent to drug trafficking and those specific to the role women play there, according to InSight Crime.
  • An illegal mining crackdown in Colombia's Cauca may only stoke anger among the local Afro-Colombian community, reports InSight Crime.
  • U.S. oil sanctions against Cuba are testing the island's resilience. President Miguel Díaz-Canel has said the Cuba is currently operating with 62 percent of the petrol it needs and announced emergency measures aimed at prioritizing health and education needs. (Guardian, see last Thursday's briefs.)
  • Forest fires in Bolivia are threatening President Evo Morales' chances at reelection later this month (see Friday's briefs), but also demonstrate the unsound nature of his environmental approach in general, writes Nathalie Iriarte in the Post Opinión.
  • Secret recordings of Mexican state-oil company execs shed light on an elaborate pay-to-play system at Pemex, where bribes were accepted in return for contracts, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Argentine presidential front-runner Alberto Fernández hit hard against President Mauricio Macri in a presidential debate last night, but sought to court undecided, moderate voters in a bid to win the Oct. 27 election outright, reports Reuters.
  • Fracking at Argentina's Vaca Muerta site could be a key element to helping Argentina climb out of its economic crisis. But the extraction comes at a high cost for local Mapuche tribes, reports the Guardian.
  • An overwhelming majority of Peruvians support President Martín Vizcarra's recent move to dissolve Congress -- 85 percent. Vizcarra's own popularity soared since, up 31 points to 79 percent. (El Comercio)
  • The New York Times decision to close its Spanish language edition sends a troublesome message to the region's media: if they can't make a subscription-based system work in the region, who can, asks Diego Salazar in the Post Opinión
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...  

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