Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Correa convicted of corruption (April 8, 2020)

An Ecuadorian court convicted former president Rafael Correa guilty on corruption charges, and sentenced him to eight years in prison. He is accused of accepting $8 million in bribes in exchange for public contracts from 2012 and 2016, along with 19 other high profile politicians and business leaders. Judge Iván León said prosecutors had successfully proved the existence of a “structure of corruption” led by the 20 accused. (Associated Press, AFP)

Correa denies the charges, which he says are politically motivated, and is expected to appeal. (Nodal) He has resided in Belgium, his wife's native country, since leaving office. Ecuador is not expected to request his extradition until the appeals process is complete.

The decision also bars Correa from running for office for 25 years, and will impact next year's presidential elections. Whether or not Correa is on the ballot, his support for another candidate could significantly sway voters, reports the New York Times. He could also try leverage his kingmaker role and angle for a presidential pardon from the next president, argued the Economist in a February piece.

News Briefs

  • Guyana is in the throws of a fraught transformation, as new oil riches exacerbate ethnic tensions and environmental concerns, reports the New York Times.
  • In the midst of Guyana's protracted dispute over the contested results of the March 2 general election, the question is increasingly what will it take for the results to be considered legitimate. Experts in the Latin America Advisor point to long-standing problems with the country's "winner-take-all" system, which exacerbates ethnic tensions, and has become more high-stakes with the country's new oil wealth. "The best outcome would be the installation of a government of national unity in which the two sides share executive power," writes David Hinds. "Such a government should move swiftly to overhaul the country’s electoral laws and governance system to ensure that all ethnic groups and their representatives are guaranteed a place at the table of national decision-making."
  • Nicaragua's government is still promoting mass events, such as football games, reports Al Jazeera. Public schools remain open and so are the borders. President Daniel Ortega has been absent from the public eye (prompting rumors of his demise), but many others believe it is likely part of a political strategy, reports the New York Times.
  • The PAHO voiced specific concern over Nicaragua, where social distancing measures have not been implemented and testing is minimal. We "have concerns about what we see as inadequate infection prevention and control," said Dr. Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization. “Formally and informally we have raised those concerns with the national authorities of Nicaragua,” she added. “But let me say that Nicaragua is a sovereign country. The government makes decisions for its people and decides what and how its response will be structured.” (Miami Herald)
  • The criticism is insufficient, according to former Nicaraguan health minister Margarita Gurdián who said there should be a more proactive approach to ensuring Nicaraguans' health in the pandemic. (Confidencial)
  • There have been criticisms of Etienne's allegedly friendly stance towards the Ortega government in the past, reported el Confidencial last week. (See also this piece in Confidencial.)
  • Now is not the time for war games in Venezuela, rather U.S. policy should be aimed at staving off humanitarian disaster, write Michael Shifter y Michael J. Camilleri in the New York Times Español. (See last Thursday's post.)
  • Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said he ordered all Covid-19 patients in the country to be hospitalized, and that infrastructure is adequate to meet their needs -- a fact disputed by public health experts. The patients will be in military-controlled hospitals without press access, reports Infobae.
  • A quarter of inmate deaths in Venezuela’s police holding cells in 2019 were due to tuberculosis and other treatable illnesses, according Una Ventana a la Libertad. The data bodes ill for detainees during the coronavirus pandemic, notes InSight Crime.
  • Venezuelan migrants are suffering as countries in the region implement quarantines, which have significantly affected their ability to work and find shelter. (See yesterday's briefs.) Francisco Rodríguez proposes that the opposition-led National Assembly grant them direct cash transfers, as well as aid for medical attention, financed with Venezuelan assets in the U.S. banking system. (Efecto Cocuyo)
  • A third Guatemalan deportee has tested positive for the coronavirus after being flown home by the United States, announced Guatemalan authorities yesterday. Guatemala asked the U.S. to suspend deportation flights this week, and to resume them with fewer occupants as of next week, reports the Associated Press.
  • The U.S. deported 61 Haitians yesterday, despite concerns about spreading Covid-19 in the ill-equipped country, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Residents of informal neighborhoods -- slums -- are far more vulnerable to infectious respiratory diseases. Neglect of these populations by governing elites is a key factor that enables the spread of worldwide pandemic, argue Lee W. Riley, Eva Raphael and Robert Snyder in the New York Times.
  • The number of infections and deaths from the coronavirus pandemic in Latin America and the Caribbean doubled over the past week, according to the Pan American Health Organization. As of yesterday, there were more than 385,000 positive cases and 11,270 deaths. (Miami Herald)
  • Experts are predicting the deepest recession in modern history for Latin America, a development that could amount to a lost decade and push fragile democracies to the brink, reports Bloomberg. The coronavirus catches governments at a poor economic moment, with few resources to provide stimulus packages. The piece notes the added difficulties of protecting jobs in Latin America, where more than half the work force is informally employed.
  • Indigenous communities in the Amazon region and elsewhere in Brazil are in danger of being "wiped out" by the coronavirus, according to health experts. (BBC)
  • Mexico's government must ensure safety for farmers, truckers and supermarkets in order to guarantee the food supply in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, said the the head of the main agriculture lobby. (Reuters)
  • Chile's government has been granted a reprieve from intense social discontent and protests by the coronavirus, but a prolonged crisis could exacerbate discontent, warns Rossana Castiglioni in Americas Quarterly.
  • Cuba's private sector is pitching in to the Covid-19 response on the island, particularly with solidarity initiatives for the country's poorest, reports Reuters.
  • The New York Times Interpreter column explores why conspiracy theories and fake news are particularly prolific now. "The belief that one is privy to forbidden knowledge offers feelings of certainty and control amid a crisis that has turned the world upside down. And sharing that “knowledge” may give people something that is hard to come by after weeks of lockdowns and death: a sense of agency," writes Max Fisher.


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