Thursday, February 13, 2020

Bukele's "cool" image tarnished (Feb. 13, 2020)

News Briefs

El Salvador
  • Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele's brief military takeover of the National Assembly last Sunday is the final proof that he is not the innovative political disrupter he has carefully presented himself as, writes Carlos Dada in a New York Times Español op-ed. "There is nothing cool about threatening a self-coup or militarizing the Assembly, or calling on the population to rise up in order to obtain a loan approval." Even during the country's troubled history of military dictatorship troops remained outside of the legislative building, notes Dada.
  • "The president’s military-backed intimidation was an alarming violation of democratic norms," according to a critical Washington Post editorial
  • Though Bukele relies on his popularity to ensure governability -- he has a minority in the National Assembly -- it's curious that he "was willing to compromise the integrity of democratic institutions and risk a constitutional crisis to score political points—all for a vote that was going to happen anyway," writes Christine Wade at World Politics Review.
  • But Bukele had already indicated his vision of a popular takeover of the National Assembly, backed by security forces, over a year ago, while campaigning for the presidency, reports El Diario de Hoy
  • National Assembly head Mario Ponce said the United Nations would send a high-level mediator to facilitate dialogue between lawmakers, the executive, and judicial branches in the wake of Bukele's pressure tactics, reports El Diario de Hoy.
  • And the attorney general's office said it would investigate people instigating a takeover of the National Assembly next Sunday. (El Diario de Hoy)
  • Salvadoran Army captain Luis Parada resigned his post, earlier this week, in response to the Armed Forces' participation in the takeover. (El Diario de Hoy) In a subsequent letter, made public on his Twitter account, Parada accused the defense minister of staining the military's reputation, and carrying out actions that he should have known were likely unconstitutional.
  • Venezuela's political opposition denounced the detention of leader Juan Guaidó's uncle. Juan José Márquez, traveled with Guaidó on a flight from Lisbon that arrived Tuesday. (See yesterday's post.) National Constituent Assembly leader Diosdado Cabello said Márquez was detained for carrying explosives, a charge Guaidó rejects. (Efecto Cocuyo, Washington Post)
  • Over 50 organizations of civil society presented candidates for the Commission of Electoral Postulations -- part of a long process to renew the country's national electoral commission (CNE), reports Efecto Cocuyo. (See post for Nov. 7, 2019, and briefs for Nov. 8, 2019.)
  • Bolivia's interim-government is failing to organize transparent and fair elections for May. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Diego García-Sayan, wrote in El País last week. He points to concern over interim-president Jeanine Áñez's decision to run in the presidential election, and a number of cases of persecution against lawyers and former Morales administration officials. (See Feb. 4's post.)
  • AS/COA has an explainer on the May special elections, in which Bolivians will choose a president, vice president and the entire legislative assembly.
  • Eight people died after heavy rains, floods and mudslides hit swathes of Bolivia earlier this week. (Reuters)
  • The former head of Mexico’s state-run oil company, Emilio Lozoya, was arrested in Spain yesterday. Lozoya, a close ally of former president Enrique Peña Nieto, faces charges of tax fraud and bribery. The arrest is an important boost to current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's push against government corruption. (New York Times)
  • It is a politically relevant victory for AMLO, and Carlos Loret de Mola hypothesizes that the president might even move against his predecessor eventually -- Post Opinión.
  • Whether they like him or hate him, most Mexicans think that AMLO is a political anomaly. The question is what will come next, and the midterm elections next year will be a key indicator, writes Luis Rubio in Americas Quarterly.
  • Spanish conquistadors, not the Aztecs, were driven by bloodlust, according to a revisionary history based on historical indigenous texts. (Guardian)
  • Mexico's migration policies have focused on preventing Central Americans from crossing the country's southern border, but have largely ignored the desperate plight of migrants trapped at the country's northern border with the U.S., writes Nadia Sanders in the Post Opinión.
  • In the U.S., President Donald Trump has made immigration -- legal and illegal -- ever harder over the past three years, reports the Washington Post.
  • A U.S. court sentenced former Guatemalan presidential candidate Mario Estrada to to 15 years in prison, after he was convicted of taking part in a plot to import and distribute tons of cocaine in the United States, reports Reuters.
  • Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno met with his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump, in Washington. Trump said they are working on a trade deal, reports the Associated Press.
  • Moreno's recent comments that women are more likely to denounce sexual harassment if it comes from ugly men (see Feb. 3's briefs), are exemplary of his administration's broader lack of interest in combating gender violence, writes María Sol Borja in the Post Opinión.
  • Argentina opened debt renegotiation talks with an IMF team yesterday. Economy Minister Martín Guzmán presented his fiscal plan to Congress yesterday, and questioned the sustainability of the country's debt to the international lender. (AFP)
Regional Relations
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro proposed a meeting with his Argentine counterpart, Alberto Fernández, in March in Montevideo -- a signal of potential warming between the historic allies after verbal sparring between the two politicians last year. (La Nación)
  • Bolsonaro's unorthodox public relations strategy consists of warm personal encounters with supporters on the street, contrasted with a scolding and combative relationship with the press, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Brazilian economy minister Paulo Guedes defended the devaluation of the real against U.S. dollars with the infelicitous argument that the previous exchange rate meant "even" domestic employees could travel to Disney. His later clarification that everybody should go once to Disney, but that there were people going four times a year, did little to pacify criticism. ( Agência Estado, HuffPost Brasil)
  • Evangelist drug gangs increasingly target Afro-Brazilian religious groups, reports EFE.
Organized Crime
  • The PCC's expansion from Brazil to Paraguay heralds the prison gang's transition into a transnational organization, with alarming consequences, reports InSight Crime. (See also last Friday's briefs on the PCC's regional impact.)
Middle Classes
  • The most recent issue of Nueva Sociedad looks at Latin American middle classes. The expansion of the so-called "new middle class" in the region during the first decade of the century was seen as a move towards more equal societies, but the term is an umbrella for a heterogenous group of social and economic situations, write Gabriel Kessler and Gabriela Benza. Other articles in the issue looks specifically at middle classes in Peru, Bolivia, and Cuba.

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


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