Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Latin America Daily Briefing (July 21, 2020)

News Briefs

  • Solid international recognition of Juan Guaidó's leadership claim in Venezuela doesn't change the fact that Nicolás Maduro controls the country's territory, public institutions, security forces and resources, write Abraham F. Lowenthal and David Smilde in a New York Times Español op-ed. Venezuela's democratic opposition must develop a realistic, unified strategy for ousting Maduro, they argue. "A highly autocratic government cannot be overthrown just because it is widely recognized as illegitimate, not even because it is very unpopular, but only when there is national support for a credible alternate force, capable of winning the backing of the armed forces and a big part of the business sector, civil society and public opinion, and demonstrate managerial and technical capacity to run the country."
Regional Relations
  • U.S. policymakers "need to stop, recalibrate, and design an entirely new approach to inter-American relations" argue Medea Benjamin and Steve Ellner, citing FDR's “Good Neighbor Policy”, at Common Dreams.
  • A marine was killed in a fierce shootout between smugglers and the Paraguayan military last week, in an episode which then allegedly led to the detention and torture of 35 civilians, reports the Guardian. Smuggler-related violence in the triple border region between Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil has increased due to pandemic restrictions affecting transit between the countries.
  • High ranking officials in Bolivia's interim government have rapidly adopted the persecutory tools of their predecessors -- in a pandemic context, their reactionary expressions are good news for the party of ousted president Evo Morales, writes Raúl Peñarada U. in a New York Times Español op-ed. The interim-government's many failures make it difficult for opponents of the MAS party to capitalize on the Morales' presidency's problems, argues the author, who urges the interim-president Jeanine Áñez to form a coalition with the second-place presidential candidate Carlos Mesa in order to avoid a MAS first-round win.
  • The Áñez government's mismanagement is directly benefiting the MAS party's presidential campaign, former Morales official Vidal Gómez told Jacobin.
  • The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights asked Brazil's government to take steps to protect the indigenous Yanomami and Yekuana peoples from the spreading coronavirus pandemic, reports Reuters.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s low approval ratings rose for a third consecutive month, according to a new poll, as the perception of his handling of the coronavirus crisis and the economy’s direction continued to improve gradually, reports Reuters.
  • Brazil will begin advanced clinical testing of a Chinese-made vaccine against the new coronavirus today, reports AFP.
  • Four indigenous Garifuna leaders were kidnapped in Honduras' Triunfo de la Cruz community, near Tegucigalpa. The country's human rights ministry and activists said apparent police officers carried out the kidnapping, reports Deutsche Welle.
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he will not take a war-like approach to the country's drug gangs -- as tensions rise with the increasingly belligerent Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG), reports Reuters. The statement comes in the wake of a viral video apparently portraying a heavily armed unit of CJNG gunmen. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • "The CJNG is not bluffing here ... but the fact they feel the need to send the message of this video also suggests that they are concerned that a crackdown is coming," according to the Latin America Risk Report
  • The video is likely real, writes Alejandro Hope in El Universal, but the situation is hardly unprecedented he notes. Hope recommends that the government focus on improving territorial control, battling impunity, and addressing underlying social conditions that permit criminal groups to flourish.
  • Homicides have increased in Mexico during the coronavirus pandemic, including a 9.2% spike in killings of women, according to government figures released Monday. (Associated Press)
  • Farmers clashed with Mexican military forces on Sunday to protest releases of water from a dam to repay a water debt owed to the United States, reports the Associated Press.
  • Former Pemex boss Emilio Lozoya's trial in Mexico threatens to expose years of alleged malpractice at the state oil company, reports Reuters. It will also be an opportunity for AMLO to highlight government corruption he has promised to crack down on.
  • The recent rape of an indigenous girl by soldiers in Colombia is a timely reminder that the country's armed forces are overdue for reform, writes Sinar Alvarado in New York Times Español.
  • Americas Quarterly explains why Peruvian lawmakers' move to strip themselves of parliamentary immunity would in practice have strengthened lawmakers’ protections in various circumstances.
  • Peru acted quickly and decisively against the coronavirus in March, but has become a poster child for how not to fight Covid-19 -- Americas Quarterly.
  • Argentina’s government rejected a counterproposal from the country’s three main creditor groups yesterday to revamp around $65 billion in foreign debt, doubling down on its own “final” offer as bondholders appeared to close ranks, reports Reuters.
  • Uruguay is a resounding coronavirus success story -- officials and analysts credit stable and united leadership, a robust national health system and a voluntary but broad lockdown, reports the Washington Post.
Puerto Rico
  • Puerto Rican governor Wanda Vázquez announced yesterday that she plans to hold a referendum on whether public pension payments should be protected by the U.S. territory’s Constitution for the first time in the island’s history. (Associated Press)
  • Vázquez and other top officials became the formal targets of an in-depth government investigation into recent corruption allegations, yesterday, reports the Associated Press.

I hope you're all staying safe and as sane as possible, given the circumstances ... Comments and critiques welcome, always.


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