Monday, April 27, 2020

Bukele authorizes lethal force against gang members (April 27, 2020)

Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele authorized security forces to use "lethal force" to combat street gangs, after an uptick in homicides this weekend. Via twitter, as usual, Bukele assured military and police troops that they were authorize to use lethal force to protect lives, and that the government would legally defend anybody "unjustly accused of defending the lives of honorable people." (El País

The  move came after an unusual increase in violence, which has fallen drastically since the middle of last year. There were at least 40 homicides in a 72 hour period -- 24 on Friday alone -- prompting Bukele to accuse the street gangs of taking advantage of the pandemic situation. He also ordered a state of maximum emergency in the country's penitentiaries, with inmates locked in their cells for 24 hours in an attempt to clamp down on communication with the outside. Authorities also placed rival gang members into shared cells, a moved also aimed to break up communication within gangs, reports Reuters.

A new report by El Salvador's human rights ombudsman's office found evidence that security forces carried out arbitrary detentions and human rights abuses while enforcing the country's coronavirus quarantine measures. There have been 778 reports of abuses by security forces. (El Faro

The government has not been deterred by repeated Supreme Court orders to stop detentions until they are regulated by lawmakers -- as of last week, there were 60 detentions carried out after the April 15 court order, reports la Prensa Gráfica.

All of this weekend's moves come after the National Assembly abruptly suspended a session on Thursday evening after Bukele tweeted that there was suspicion of contagion within the lawmakers' chamber. The tweet interrupted lawmakers who were on the brink of overriding a series of presidential vetos on social security measures. (El Faro, El Diario de Hoy, Revista Factum)

While everybody knows that the numbers don't necessarily mean much (or anything) it is probably worth noting that, as of today, El Salvador has 328 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 8 deaths -- roughly 0.125 per 100,000.

News Briefs

  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro faces increasing challenges to his political survival, after his justice minister Sergio Moro resigned on Friday. (See Friday's post.) Moro publicly accused the president of attempting to improperly meddle in the operations of the federal police by sacking the federal police director, Maurício Valeixo. The move came amid media reports that federal police investigators have identified one of Bolsonaro's sons -- Carlos -- as one of the alleged key members of a “criminal fake news racket” engaged in threatening and defaming Brazilian authorities. And now, Bolsonaro's reported pick  to head the national police is Alexandre Ramagem, the head of Brazil’s intelligence agency, who is allegedly a friend of Carlos Bolsonaro’s, reports the Guardian. (See also Folha de S. Paulo)
  • Moro’s accusation prompted Attorney General Augusto Aras to ask the Supreme Court to open a criminal investigation into the conduct Mr. Moro had described, saying that if confirmed, it amounted to obstruction of justice and other crimes, reports the New York Times.
  • But Bolsonaro may be far better poised to weather the Moro episode than analysts initially believed, reports Brian Winter in Americas Quarterly. Moro, a crusading anti-corruption judge was wildly popular among conservatives, in large part due to his (controversial) role in detaining former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. His resignation last Friday was seen as a significant blow to Bolsonaro's moderate base. (See Friday's post.) "But don’t underestimate the power of tribalism in the Age of Social Media - particularly a tribe that has much of the military, the police, truckers, and other formidable groups in its corner," warns Winter.
  • Another of Bolsonaro's sons, Flavio, financed and profited from the illegal construction of buildings by illegal militias using public money, reports The Intercept
  • Thousands of indigenous people postponed the annual "Terra Livre" protest that was supposed to start today in Brasilia, due to concerns of coronavirus contagion. Though Brazil's economy has been paralyzed by Covid-19, illegal activity in the Amazon is stronger than ever, reports El País.
  • Perhaps the fear of infection that everybody in the world now feels is similar to that the Amazonian Yanomami feel always -- a tribe that is no stranger to lethal epidemics, writes Bruce Albert in a New York Times Español op-ed. Indigenous Amazon tribes are doubtless among Brazil's most vulnerable populations. There has already been one coronavirus death among the Yanomami people, likely introduced by illegal miners who are devastating their territories.
  • Chile will push forward with "survival certificates," for patients who have recovered from Covid-19, despite a warning from the WHO that there is no evidence that recovery grants immunity from reinfection, reports Reuters. (See last Friday's post.) Chilean officials are emphasizing that the "Carné Covid" doesn't certify immunity, but it will, nonetheless, permit holders to move freely, without restrictions and quarantines affecting other portions of the population. (El Mostrador)
  • Though Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has steadfastly refused to implement social distancing measures, the country did shut down its borders to repatriation of citizens -- many economic migrants who have lost their jobs in neighboring countries due to the coronavirus pandemic, reports El País.
  • Haitians are going about their daily lives without social distancing, despite a government shut down five weeks ago of airports and borders. This is in part because Covid-19 contagion is still low, but experts predict a huge coronavirus impact in the country, warns EFE. (See last Thursday's post.)
  • Corruption allegations related to coronavirus aid -- everything from food to medical supplies -- are proliferating as governments step up their purchases drastically in an emergency time frame, reports the Washington Post.
  • Latin America and the Caribbean will be set back more than a decade, in terms of inequality, by the economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic, which will push nearly 29 million people from the region into poverty, said ECLAC head Alicia Bárcena. (Financial Times)
  • In one of the most recent "Postales" series in the New York Times Español, José Natanson writes a love letter to a local Buenos Aires café in the midst of the coronavirus shutdown. 


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