Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Piñera won't resign, Chilean town halls debate reform (Nov. 6, 2019)

News Briefs

  • Chilean Presiden Sebastián Piñera told the BBC he will not resign, but expressed potential openness to a constitutional reform process. Piñera said "these problems have been accumulating for the past 30 years ... I am responsible (for) part of it and I assume my responsibility, but I'm not the only one." (Reuters, Infobae, Al Jazeera)
  • With another year before municipal elections, and two more before presidential, Brendan O'Boyle at Americas Quarterly analyzes some of the ways the protests might reshape the political landscape in the medium term: lack of clear leadership in the midst of popular discontent makes partisan gridlock a distinct possibility. But shifts to the left, empowerment of the right and potential renewal of the center are also possibilities he analyzes.
  • In the meantime, Chileans have taken reform debate into their own hands, in a series of town-halls around the country, reports Reuters. More than 10,000 people assembled at different town halls in the last week alone, according to the Social Unity Roundtable.
  • Income inequality has been a major factor behind the protests, but structural inequalities also play a role. "Most elected representatives come from a closed and small elite who are living in a far more privileged reality than the rest of the country," according to Javier Sajuría's research. (Washington Post Monkey Cage)
  • Spacial inequality is another factor to look at, writes Alisha Holland, also in the Washington Post's Monkey Cage: "The dictatorship segregated class groups into different parts of the city — and set things up so that public services like health care, schools, and transit have been delivered unevenly across these neighborhoods."
  • Transport is, in fact, another area where inequalities are felt acutely, writes Dario Hidalgo in the World Resources Institute.
  • Protests are ongoing in Chile, after three weeks, but have reduced in size dramatically. In downtown Santiago yesterday about 2,500 protesters were countered by police who deployed tear gas, water cannons, and hooded infiltrators to disperse the crowds, reports the Associated Press.
  • A sobering statistic about the human rights violations related to protest repression: in nine years the National Institute for Human Rights presented 319 reports against carabineros for torture and other cruel treatment -- 145 of them are from the last 19 days of protests.
  • Further south in Chile, Mapuche protesters have targeted statues of colonizers, a potent symbol deep modern-day grievances felt by the country's largest indigenous group, reports the Guardian.
  • A three-year super cycle of elections in Latin America -- 14 countries had presidential elections -- failed to confirm an expected right-ward shift. Instead the region displays heterogeneous political leanings, writes Carlos Malamud at the AULA blog. Similarly, though popular unrest is a common factor across Latin America at the moment, in each case the diverse local situations mean each country's solution will be different.
  • IMF austerity measure related unrest in Argentina and Ecuador raises the question of whether the international lender learned from past mistakes. But Otavio Canuto argues that scapegoating the IMF is overly simplistic in both cases. (Americas Quarterly)
  • The ambush and killing of a Mormon family -- six children and three women -- in Mexico's northern Sonora state, along with recent prominent episodes of violence, have added pressure to the government, which is struggling to fulfill a campaign promise to reduce bloodshed. For example, Carlos Loret de Mola Álvarez argues that the cases demonstrates the government's irresponsible attitude towards organized crime, in Post Opinión.
  • Yesterday, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador rejected rising criticism that his government is merely improvising against organized crime groups, and struck a defiant tone over his approach, reports the New York Times.
  • The problem is that nothing in AMLO's strategy directly addresses the terrifying power of the country’s criminal underworld, reports the Guardian.
  • And local security forces are cowed, outgunned and enmeshed in alliances with criminal groups -- clearly not up to the job, reports the Guardian separately (it's a series). State and municipal security forces are sidelined, and must be developed, strengthened and integrated with the national force, argues former national security commissioner, Manuel Mondragón y Kalb in the Post Opinión.
  • Cartels are more deeply entrenched than ever and the death rate is increasing -- there's no easy fix, warns a Guardian editorial. "The leftist president correctly identified that the underlying domestic causes of the problems are socioeconomic, and that the country must address entrenched poverty instead of seeking to crack down ever harder. "
  • In the meantime, an estimated 40,000 Mexicans are "disappeared," victims of the country's drug conflict, reports the Guardian. (In podcast form too, for you fans out there.)
  • Brazil's Supreme Court (STF) is expected to reverse recent precedents this week by ruling that defendants can only be put in jail after they’ve gone through all of the appeals processes available to them. The move would be the third time in 10 years that the STF has changed its opinion on the matter, and indicates a newly harmonious attitude between the judiciary and Brazil's political establishment, write Felipe Recondo and Felipe Seligman in Americas Quarterly.
  • Brazil will auction off prime offshore oil blocks today known collectively as the “Transfer of Rights” (TOR) area. The assets up for grabs are among the country’s most desirable oil resources, reports Americas Quarterly.
  • Believers of the the flat Earth theory have thrived in Bolsonaro's Brazil, and will celebrate the country's first ever first ever flat Earth convention this Saturday in São Paulo. The theory has had a revival in the U.S. and Britain too, and critics say the Brazilian embrace of "terra plana" is due to poor public education, copycatting from abroad and to the increased social media use. (Guardian)
  • The Bolsonaro administration announced a bundle of wide-ranging reform bills yesterday, aimed at cutting spending and reducing the size of the state to drive down its chronic fiscal deficit, reports Reuters.
  • Brazil's mining regulator said the Vale dam collapse that killed 250 people in January could have been avoided if its owner had reported defects to authorities, reports the BBC.
  • Peru's Asháninka indigenous community has deployed satellite imagery as a forest conservation tool, along with charity funding that helps communities reject money or blandishments from logging activities. (Guardian, photo essay separately.)
  • The shocking recent killing of an alleged drug trafficker incarcerated in Honduras silences a potential witness who may have had further information linking President Juan Orlando Hernández and his National Party to drug proceeds, reports InSight Crime.
El Salvador
  • Two former members of the Salvadoran military confirmed details given by the victims of the 1981 El Mozote massacre in an ongoing case against 17 high-ranking military officers. The episode is considered the worst mass killing in modern Latin American history: 1,000 civilians were murdered by the military over the course of three days. (Al Jazeera)
  • Loans -- often obtained under false pretenses -- play a key role in Guatemalan migration, the credit allows migrants to pay human smugglers. But migrants who take loans against their land often wind up assuming overwhelming debt burdens, reports the New York Times. (See yesterday's briefs, the Washington Post also reported on the phenomenon.)
  • Guatemalan President-elect Alejandro Giammattei said that he will break off all diplomatic relations with the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro when he takes office on Jan. 14. (Reuters)
  • The U.S. Trump administration added new sanctions against Venezuelan officials, but issued licenses allowing some U.S. companies to pay taxes in Venezuela, reports Reuters.
  • Colombia's government promised to speed up $391.6 million in development funding for the country's Cauca region, which has been hard hit by violence in recent years. (Reuters)
  • An Ecuadorean judge ordered preventive prison for the former lawmaker and left-wing opposition leader, Virgilio Hernandez, yesterday. (Telesur)
  • The latest part of an InSight Crime investigation into how Ecuador became one of the global cocaine trade’s primary dispatch points looks at the province of Esmeraldas, gripped by drug conflict.

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

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