Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Bolsonaro's calculated upheaval (June 10, 2020)

News Briefs

  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's inner circle has embraced the possibility of democratic rupture in the country, reports the New York Times. Though experts and military leaders do not believe there will be an actual coup, critics say Bolsonaro is using the threat of military intervention to stave off significant judicial and congressional challenges to his presidency. In the process, the country is facing political upheaval that has sent investors running and put military officers increasingly at the helm of the cabinet. (See last Thursday's post as well.)
  • Tensions are running particularly high  as the coronavirus' disproportionate impact on poor and black residents becomes clear -- and as the government doubles down on discourse dismissive of rights, reports the Financial Times.
  • Brazilian favela communities are organizing their own pandemic responses and bypassing government paralysis, reports the Washington Post. The efforts are all the more pressing as data shows black and poor residents are disproportionately affected and likely to die of the coronavirus. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • The Brazilian government restored coronavirus figures on its official website, after a supreme court justice ruled that the full details should be reinstated, reports the Guardian. (See yesterday's briefs and Monday's post.)
El Salvador
  • The government of El Salvador’s decision to suspend public information requests, including for Covid-19 individual test results and quarantine conditions, is putting the health of Salvadorans at risk, Human Rights Watch said yesterday. El Salvador is reportedly one of the countries with the worst access to public information during the pandemic. Between March 21 and June 1, the Ombudsperson’s Office received over 200 complaints regarding violations of the right to access information. More than half of the complaints were from people locked up in quarantine centers seeking Covid-19-related information, such as their own test results.
  • Venezuela's pro-Maduro Supreme Justice Tribunal (TSJ) ruled that the opposition-led National Assembly failed to designate representatives to the country's electoral authority (CNE) in time, and voided its nominees. The move is a setback to hopes of a negotiated electoral agreement exit to the country's protracted political crisis, reports Reuters. The issue of electoral authorities is key, as the country must hold legislative elections by the end of the year, when current lawmakers' mandate ends. (The TSJ had already taken other decisions that boded ill for fair elections, see May 27's Venezuela Weekly.)
  • Constitutional experts questioned the TSJ ruling, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
  • The U.S. executive branch claimed, last week, that individuals linked to Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro have incited violence at protests in the United States spurred by George Floyd’s death. (Miami Herald)
  • Venezuela’s government said that a flight carrying humanitarian aid for the Covid-19 epidemic had arrived from Iran -- increasingly a key ally of the Maduro administration, reports Reuters.
  • The U.S. Trump administration is expanding an effort to choke off oil and fuel trade between Iran and Venezuela, reports the Wall Street Journal. Oil tankers en route to Venezuela turned around and others already in the country's waters left, in response to a U.S. threat to blacklist dozens of ships for transporting Venezuelan oil, reports Reuters.
  • Coronavirus is so prevalent in Haiti now that some top medical authorities are arguing in favor of symptom-based treatment rather than testing, reports the Miami Herald. But critics say the approach responds to Haiti's overwhelmed testing capacity rather than medical objectives.
  • Peru emerged as a global Covid-19 hotspot yesterday, as the health ministry registered more than 200,000 cases, ranking the country as the eighth-highest in the world by number of infections, reports AFP.
  • Honduras began gradually reopening its economy after almost three months of paralysis, this week. Nonetheless, experts warn that the healthcare system is struggling to cope, reports Reuters.
  • Coronavirus cases are expected to continue rising in Mexico for weeks, even as the country heads towards a gradual economic reopening, reports Reuters.
  • Mexico's economy is in trouble, but it was shrinking long before the pandemic came along to offer President Andrés Manuel López Obrador a convenient excuse, argues Luis Rubio in Americas Quarterly.
  • Coca leaf prices have crashed due to the coronavirus pandemic -- by as much as 73 percent in some parts of South America. Though other reports have pointed to the resiliency of the cocaine industry (see May 28's briefs), this article in the Washington Post looks at how lockdowns and supply chain breakdowns have affected the drug's trade.
  • The U.S. resumed deportation flights to Guatemala yesterday, nearly a month after dozens of deportees from the U.S. tested positive for coronavirus even after U.S. officials promised to carry out health screenings, reports the Associated Press. The flights scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday this week will carry fewer deportees.
  • The torture and murder of a respected indigenous Maya spiritual guide in Guatemala has prompted comparisons to the dark history of Guatemala’s genocidal 36-year civil war, in which the indigenous population was subject to systematic cruelty, reports the Guardian. Domingo Choc Che was tortured, doused in gasoline and burned to death after being accused of witchcraft. Police arrested four men on suspicion of murder.
  • Chilean women and gender minister, Macarena Santelices, resigned after a string of controversial decisions that included naming a former tabloid editor to head the ministry's research division and airing a public service campaign deemed overly sympathetic to domestic abusers. Activists have been campaigning against her since May with the  #WeDoNotHaveAMinister. However her replacement doesn't seem very promising in terms of rights: the new minister is Mónica Zalaquett, a former deputy who staunchly opposed Chile's easing of a total abortion ban and applauded an 11 year old girl for giving birth when she was denied abortion rights. (Guardian)
I hope you're all staying safe and as sane as possible, given the circumstances ... And in these times of coronavirus, when we're all feeling a little isolated, feel especially free to reach out and share. 


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