Monday, May 25, 2020

Suriname votes -- Bouterse on the line (May 25, 2020)

Suriname votes today in a legislative election that is a major test for President Desi Bouterse who seeks reelection. Bouterse was convicted of murder in a military court earlier this year, and could face jail-time if he doesn't renew his immunity. Bouterse has been in power for the past forty years, either through military dictatorship or the country’s first multiethnic political coalition. Though a negative economic situation and corruption scandals play against his bid to remain in power, Bouterse is charismatic and retains high support, reports the New York Times. (See last Thursday's post.)

Suriname's 380,000 voters today choose the 51 members of the National Assembly, who then elect the country's president. If Bouterse's National Democratic Party (NDP) retains its narrow majority in the legislature, the 74-year-old former military dictator is likely to remain in power, reports AFP.

Measures are in places to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, but pandemic social distancing rules also played a role in the campaign, and the opposition said it limited their ability to reach voters and organize. (See last Thursday's post.)

The election will be observed by the Organization of American States and Caribbean Community. Initial results are expected tomorrow, but the official tally could take a month.

News Briefs

  • The U.S. banned flights from Brazil yesterday, a move aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus. The indefinite ban, which comes into force on Friday, will apply to all non-US citizens who have been in Brazil within the last 14 days. Brazil has the second-highest number of confirmed coronavirus infections in the world — trailing only the United States — with more than 350,000 cases and 22,700 deaths. The move is a blow to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has tried to parlay warm relations with U.S. President Donald Trump to bolster his political standing. (New York Times, Guardian)
  • No, nothing will stop Bolsonaro from flouting social distancing recommendations -- in case there was any room for doubt. On Saturday evening he popped out onto the streets of Brasilia for a can of coke and a hotdog, reports the Guardian. One of his sons, lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro, followed suit -- he reportedly attended a party at a luxury beachfront property in São Paulo state on Friday.
  • Communities and civil society are filling government gaps in pandemic responses in many of Latin America's informal neighborhoods, reports Reuters. While the piece mentions cases in Argentina, Peru and Chile, the main focus is Brazilian favelas, and projects carried out Redes da Mare and Nossas.
  • "As help from the state failed to reach the most vulnerable segments of Brazil’s population, activists at the local level jumped into the breach, using social media to respond to pressing issues now facing their communities," reports NACLA, noting the difficulties imposed by Bolsonaro in terms of government response to Covid-19. 
  • Rio de Janeiro governor Wilson Witzel suspended police operations in the state's communities for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis, amid mounting criticism of lethal victims that have occurred recently, reports Globo. (See last Friday's briefs, and last Monday's.)
Indigenous Peoples
  • The COVID-19 pandemic is cutting a swath through indigenous communities in Latin America, groups that are already vulnerable from poverty and official neglect, reports EFE. Amazon basin communities are particularly at risk, according to the Pan-American Health Organization.
El Salvador
  • Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele's approach to the pandemic has been uniquely punitive, Human Rights Watch Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco told El Diario de Hoy.
  • More than 1,300 indigenous people have abandoned their homes the Colombian indigenous reserve of  Catru due to clashes between armed groups, according to the Organization of American States’ Mission to Support the Peace Process (MAPP OAS). (EFE)
Regional Relations
  • Growing U.S. hostility towards Cuba puts Caribbean countries in a tough spot diplomatically, writes Sir Ronald Sanders in the Jamaica Observer.
  • Emmanuel “Toto” Constant — a former strongman who once boasted that Vodou and the CIA protected him— is among 78 Haitian nationals scheduled to be removed from the United States, reports the Miami Herald. Rights activists have urged the U.S. State Department to backtrack the deportation flight due to his human rights record and the risk of spreading Covid-19 in Haiti.  Immigration advocates say at least nine other deportees who are scheduled to fly tomorrow have tested positive for the disease.
  • The coronavirus pandemic has pushed Chile's healthcare system "very close to the limit," according to President Sebastián Piñera. (BBC)
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said coronavirus could cost as many as a million jobs in the country. (Reuters)
  • It is hard governing in a pandemic, in part because there are no right answers -- people who make directly opposing arguments are both write, notes María Esperanza Casullo in her Cenital column. She notes the issue of "genderization" of pandemic policies: leaders who have opposed quarantines tend towards a macho discourse, rejecting a health perspective that, for being associated with care, could be considered more feminine. In this sense, the much vaunted success of female-led countries has less to do with the gender of their leadership than that they are societies that value care, solidarity and shared responsibility, she argues.
It's odd how holidays seem to take on a simultaneously heightened and lessened significance under lockdown. Nonetheless: ¡Happy Memorial Day in the U.S., Spring Bank Holiday in the U.K, and 25 de Mayo in Argentina and Bolivia!



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