Monday, February 3, 2020

Four Chileans killed in protests (Feb. 3, 2020)

News Briefs

  • Four people have died in the latest wave of protests in Chile, over the past week, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Off the world headline radar, hundreds of, mostly young, Chileans continue to protest and clash with security forces. A constitutional rewrite project is expected to tackle at least some of the concerns that brought people to the streets in the first place, reports the Washington Post. But the still-unwritten document won’t be submitted for approval for nearly two years, and there are already questions over whether government can afford the new public spending that might be required by policy changes.
  • The discontent has spread from the streets to the stage, reports the Guardian.
  • Two reports by international forensic experts point to possible destruction of crime scene evidence by police in the killing of nine people during a February 2019 operation in poor communities in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, according to Human Rights Watch. The expert analysis commissioned by Human Rights Watch also points to other serious failures in collecting and preserving critical evidence in the case.
  • Brazil's celebrated conditional cash-transfer anti-poverty program, Bolsa Familia, has slowed the acceptance of new beneficiaries and started canceling payments to existing ones. To critics of President Jair Bolsonaro, this is evidence of his indifference to poverty, reports the Economist. "The Bolsa Família squeeze is the most important contributor to the recent increase in inequality, according to a study by economists at Fundação Getulio Vargas, a university in São Paulo."
  • A year into his presidency, Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro is facing accusations of genocide against his country’s indigenous minorities, reports the Huffington Post.
  • Bolsonaro's push to authorize mining in indigenous reserves has him on collision course with 12,000 members of the Mura indigenous group over a big potash mine in a remote area of the Amazon rainforest, a potential indicator of future troubles with his policies, reports the BBC.
  • Yanomami leader Davi Kopenawa said Bolsonaro "does not understand the value of the Amazon forest... nor like the people who live in it." (AFP)
  • Two former government officials, granted safe passage by the Bolivian interim-government, were briefly detained in the La Paz airport. Former Mining Minister César Navarro and the former deputy minister of rural development, Pedro Damián Dorado, were ultimately allowed to leave the country, headed to asylum abroad. They were escorted to the airport by diplomats from the European Union and Mexico, as well as a Catholic bishop, reports the Associated Press.
  • Exiled former Bolivian president Evo Morales said in an interview published Sunday that he wants to return home and run for senator in May elections. (AFP)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump snubbed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó -- opting not to attend the Venezuelan's Miami rally this weekend, though the U.S. leader was at his South Florida resort. (Washington Post) Trump's decision not to meet with Guaidó "will certainly be seen, and spun, in different ways," noted the Washington Post in a separate piece on Friday. "Analysts warned that the lack of an encounter — even a photo opportunity — could be taken as a sign of Trump’s lack of interest in Venezuela at a time when Guaidó is seeking to keep his crusade against Maduro alive."
  • "Trump’s Venezuela policy is less about Venezuela than it is about winning reelection in the U.S. in November, and it is not clear that a close association with Guaidó is a net positive for that goal," wrote David Smilde in World Politics Review. "Radical members of Venezuela’s opposition, many of whom live in the key swing state of Florida, blame Guaido’s willingness to negotiate with the Maduro government for undermining foreign pressure and even reducing the possibility of military intervention."
  • Most of Venezuela is falling apart -- residents are struggling with  food and medical shortages, and lack even the most basic state services, like security and electricity. But U.S. economic sanctions had the unexpected side effect of creating an economic boom for the country's richest, by forcing President Nicolás Maduro to loosen private sector regulations. The boom has eased hardship for families with access to remittances from abroad -- and for Maduro's supporters among the elite -- but the new free market economy completely excludes the half of Venezuelans without access to dollars, reports the New York Times.
  • A loophole in Venezuela's bonds could make creditors lose billions, reports Bloomberg.
  • Venezuela's government-loyal Supreme Court rejected a move by the opposition-led National Assembly to reorganize state media company Telesur, reports Telesur.
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador closed off his first year in government as a fiscal conservative: flat government spending and a bigger-than-expected surplus before debt payments, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Mexicans get involved in drug cartels because, among other things, they want "more," found Karina G.Garcia Reyes in interviews with former "narcos." They see themselves as free agents who chose to work in the drug trade, she writes, though they also shared feelings of social exclusion and a lack of a life purpose, she writes in the Conversation.
  • The daughter of cartel kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán was married in an ostentatious, closed-door ceremony -- an uncomfortable reminder of organized crime’s power, reports the Guardian.
  • Mexico's National Guard is a strange hybrid: legally civil, and military in practice, says Alejandro Hope in an interview with Nexos.
  • In the aftermath of destructive hurricanes, many hoteliers in the Caribbean have regrouped and rebuilt — and are ushering in a new age of hospitality, according to the New York Times.
El Salvador
  • The boyfriend of a murdered Salvadoran journalist was found guilty of femicide and given the maximum 50-year prison sentence on Friday. It is a rare conviction in a country where gender violence generally remains unpunished, reports the Guardian.
  • The United Nations suggested an international anti-impunity commission with the ability to support El Salvador's prosecutors with corruption investigations. President Nayib Bukele's government preferred an OAS model limited to technical advising and, three months later, has yet to respond to the United Nations, reports El Faro.
  • Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno apologized for saying women only report harassment "when it comes from an ugly person." In a speech to investors, Moreno said men were under threat of being denounced for harassment and added, “at times, with harassment, they torment ugly people. (BBCAssociated Press)
  • Argentine economy minister Martín Guzmán is due to meet with the International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on the sidelines of a conference at the Vatican. Argentine President Alberto Fernandez said Pope Francis had promised him to do everything he could to help with his homeland's debt crisis, reports Reuters.
  • Fernández's government has only been in power for two months, but symbolic moves regarding abortion and gender issues reflect a progressive stance in a region where right-wing governments are lately more preoccupied with defending “family values” than expanding women’s rights, I write in Americas Quarterly. The main question for the new government, perhaps, is what the rhetorically ambitious gender agenda will actually look like in concrete terms – and what might happen when the diverse governing coalition is asked to back actual policies rather than offer lip service.

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

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