Friday, July 24, 2020

Munguía Payés arrested in El Salvador (July 24, 2020)

Former Salvadoran defense minister General David Munguía Payés was arrested yesterday on suspicion of unlawful association and other crimes linked to the arrangement of a 2012-2014 truce between crime gangs. An arrest warrant was also issued for former Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes. 

Attorney General Raúl Melara alleged that Munguía and Funez organized a pact between two rival gangs - Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 - in order to reduce the number of homicides between 2012 and 2014, in exchange for providing undisclosed benefits to the criminal organizations, reports Reuters.

When Munguía was previously called to testify in another case related to the pact, he said that it was public policy born in Funes’ security cabinet, reports the Associated Press. Munguía and Funes were not charged in a previous case that accused other officials of crimes in relation to the pact.

Melara said Munguía was preparing to flee ahead of yesterday's detention, reports El Diario de Hoy.

Funes, who has been in Nicaragua since 2016 and claims he is a victim of political persecution in El Salvador, denied any involvement in the gang pact. “I never met with gangsters and nor did I order any official to do so,” Funes wrote on Twitter. “I never ordered nor authorized prison privileges for any gang member.”

News Briefs

  • Climate change will almost certainly result in the greatest wave of global migration the world has seen, according to New York Times magazine. Climate change is behind a drought that is decimating agriculture in Central America. The New York Times Magazine and ProPublica joined with the Pulitzer Center created a model that predicts that migration from Central America will rise every year regardless of climate, but that the amount of migration increases substantially as the climate changes. The model offers "a detailed look at the staggering human suffering that will be inflicted if countries shut their doors."
  • Bolivia’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal delayed the country's presidential election redo by more than a month due to the coronavirus pandemic. They had been rescheduled for September, and will now be held on Oct. 18. The president of the tribunal, Salvador Romero, told reporters that Bolivian and international experts had advised the body that the uncontrolled spread of the novel coronavirus in the country made holding the election in September unfeasible, reports the Associated Press. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Chilean President Sebastian Piñera's government is teetering on the edge of collapse, as negative views of the administration's pandemic management pile onto previous discontent with the country's economic model, reports Deutsche Welle.
  • Aritana Yawalapiti, one of Brazil’s most influential indigenous leaders, arrived at a hospital after an arduous journey over rural roads in order to obtain Covid-19 treatment, reports Reuters.
  • So far, 542 Indigenous people have died from Covid-19 in Brazil, reports Telesur.
  • The sharp surge in Brazil's coronavirus cases this week is being driven by the outbreak in São Paulo, long Brazil’s coronavirus epicenter, but also new and sharply ascendant outbreaks that span the country, reports the Washington Post. More than 80 percent of Brazilian municipalities have reported cases of coronavirus.
  • Brazil's community journalists in the country's favelas are a lesson in journalism, writes Carol Pires in the New York Times Español. Not only do they speak directly to their public, but they are also more committed than mainstream publications with the most urgent issues in Brazil at the moment: pandemic and racism.
  • In the midst of the pandemic there are growing calls for debt relief in Latin America -- World Politics Review.
  • Interest in dubious Covid-19 remedies has been particularly high in Latin America, where the virus is raging uncontrolled, few people can afford quality medical care, and many political leaders on the right and left are promoting them, reports the New York Times. Hydroxychloroquine obviously leads the list, but there's also chlorine dioxide, a kind of bleach used to disinfect swimming pools; and ivermectin, which is used to treat intestinal worms.
  • Latin American democratic institutionality has taken steps backwards, according to presenters at Foro Cap, including Claudia Paz y Paz and José Miguel Vivanco, moderated by Carmen Aristegui. (El Faro)
  • Cases of pandemic corruption across the region -- ranging from local to national -- show how officials have taken advantage of relaxed procurement rules designed to speed up spending decisions in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, to award contracts to campaign donors and steal public money, reports the Wall Street Journal.
More El Salvador
  • Twenty-two percent of the medical masks the Salvadoran government purchased from a company owned by lawmaker Gustavo Escalante's family were faulty, reports El Faro.
  • Corrupt networks determined to regain control of Guatemala's institutions are focused on removing obstacles to their power, and also on sending a message that anti-corruption campaigns will not prosper in the country, WOLA's Adriana Beltan told World Politics Review.
  • Mexico’s anti-monopoly commission said it is looking into possible price-fixing or monopolistic practices in the medical oxygen market, after pharmacies reported a spike in prices and difficulties in getting tanks and refills, reports the Associated Press.
  • Covid-19 cases are surging in Mexico, but testing remains sparse, an approach that mystifies experts, according to the Guardian. The country performs just three tests per 100,000 people, with explanations ranging from cost-cutting to a push for herd immunity.
  • Rights groups are skeptical that an Italian United Nations volunteer who had been on a peace mission in Colombia killed himself as authorities claim, reports the Guardian.
  • In Venezuela the coronavirus pandemic is providing a cover for the Maduro government's increasing repression, writes Bibi Borges in Americas Quarterly.
  • Authorities in Colombia have seized a luxury mansion complete with a spa, tennis court and two pools allegedly belonging to businessman Alex Saab, reports the Associated Press.
  • Coronavirus exposed weaknesses that strong economic growth had concealed in Peru, reports the Economist.
  • An Honduran court ordered the release of former first lady Rosa Elena Bonilla de Lobo. Her 58-year corruption sentence and conviction was tossed out earlier this year and is awaiting a new trial, reports the Associated Press.
  • Barbados faces a significant tourism sector hit, thanks to its successful efforts to keep out the coronavirus. Prime Minister Mia Mottley aims to replace vacationers with remote workers, with a program aimed at attracting office workers who are now working from home. Bermuda has also announced a similar scheme, and the Economist reports that other Caribbean islands are looking at such options.

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