Monday, August 10, 2020

Colombian court detains Uribe (Aug. 10, 2020)

 Colombia's Supreme Court ordered the pre-trial detention of former president Álvaro Uribe, in relation to an investigation into allegations of witness tampering. The current senator accused of bribing a former paramilitary member to retract damaging allegations against him -- Uribe denies the accusations.

Uribe's house arrest has exposed Colombia's strong political polarization and tensions regarding the 2016 peace deal with the FARC, according to the Associated Press. The detention -- lauded by Uribe's critics and denounced by his supporters -- threatens the country's "fragile reconciliation," reports the New York Times.

El País calls the detention of Uribe, a mentor of current Colombian President Iván Duque, a test of the country's political maturity, while Human Rights Watch calls it a test of Colombia's rule of law. Uribe could face a prison term of six to 12 years if he is convicted of witness tampering, as well as fraud, another of the allegations the Supreme Court is investigating. (Wall Street Journal)

The ruling Centro Democrático party responded with calls for a constituent assembly to reform the justice system, a move experts say would ultimately weaken democratic institutions, reports El País.

A sign of our times? The Centro Democrático party announced Uribe tested positive for Covid-19, immediately after the court ordered his detention.

News Briefs

  • Brazil’s death toll from Covid-19 surpassed 100,000 this weekend, the second country in the world, after the U.S. to pass the grim marker. Brazil accounts for approximately half of Latin America's deaths and confirmed cases, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • An outspoken and vibrant community of scientists, journalists and opinion-makers is battling against the Brazilian government's mixed messages on the virus, particularly President Jair Bolsonaro who has repeatedly downplayed the pandemic threat, reports the Guardian.
  • Bolsonaro’s former health minister has accused the Brazilian president of failing to offer any comfort to the families of the 100,000 Brazilians who have lost their lives to Covid-19, reports the Guardian.
  • Pop star Anitta is Brazil's  third-most influential political figure in the country, and she is speaking out about environmental challenges, the Black Lives Matter movement and Brazil's structural racism. (Guardian)
  • Brazil's democracy is under threat from the seeds of hatred and division sown by the so-called "'office of hate,' an operation run by advisers to the president, who support a network of pro-Bolsonaro blogs and social media accounts that spread fake news and attack journalists, politicians, artists and media outlets that are critical of the president," writes Patrícia Campos Mello in a New York Times op-ed.
  • A Venezuelan court sentenced two former U.S. Special Forces soldiers to 20 years in prison for their part in a failed attempt to overthrow the Maduro government earlier this year, dubbed "Operation Gideon." In the only official statement on the previously unannounced trial, Tarek William Saab tweeted late Friday that Airan Berry and Luke Denman admitted “to having committed the crimes of conspiracy, association, illicit trafficking of weapons of war and terrorism.” (Associated Press, Washington Post)
  • Legislative elections later this year in Venezuela mean the Maduro government will seek to resuscitate the late Hugo Chávez, or at least loyalty to his (threadbare) legacy, writes Alberto Barrera Tyzska in the New York Times Español
  • State oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA is rationing fuel nationwide and Venezuela is back to where it was in March, when residents in Caracas -- usually the last to experience fuel shortages -- lined up for days or paid as much as 4 dollars per liter to fill up their cars in the black market, reports Bloomberg.
  • Bolivian anti-government protesters have blockaded three highland regions, including La Paz. Bolivia’s main workers’ union and indigenous and campesino movements have called for marches today. Clashes could occur between supporters of ousted president Evo Morales and security forces responding to the interim government of Jeanine Ánez. Protesters are focused on an election re-do that has been repeatedly postponed due to the ongoing pandemic. (New York Times, GuardianPágina 12)
  • The number of immigrants arrested at the U.S.'s southwestern border has more than doubled since the northern hemisphere spring, fueled by Mexico’s economic slump and a Trump administration policy that quickly returns migrants to Mexico where they can try to illegally cross again, reports the New York Times. U.S. emergency pandemic measures that rapidly “expel” most detainees have had the unintended consequence of allowing them to try repeat illegal crossings, reports the Washington Post.
  • An Honduran special appeals court has ended the prosecution of nearly two dozen people accused in the Pandora case, a vast corruption scheme that saw $12 million in public money embezzled for political ends. The move, announced last week, is a final blow to Honduras' already foundering efforts to battle corruption, reports InSight Crime.
  • Argentina's government reached an agreement with its main creditors to restructure $65 billion in foreign debt, last week. The deal is a major milestone in the country's struggle to manage an intense economic crisis that has been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic. Next on the agenda? Renegotiating the terms of a $44-billion loan with IMF. (Associated Press, Buenos Aires TimesBuenos Aires Times)
  • A collective of activists in Argentina who help women get abortions have had to adapt to Covid-19 lockdown, but Socorristas en Red won't let pandemic stop their work, reports Vice.
  • Latin America’s economy is expected to contract 9.4% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund, and the pandemic threatens to derail social and economic gains made over the past two decades, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Economic reforms in Cuba will allow private restaurants to buy wholesale, for the first time, and also permit private business people to import and export goods through dozens of state-run companies. (Associated Press)

Trinidad and Tobago
  • Trinidad and Tobago's general election, today, has been defined by Covid-19 -- the virus is at the center of the campaign rhetoric of each political party and was used to justify the exclusion of international election observers, reports Global Americans.
  • Trinidad and Tobago’s authorities have deported at least 165 Venezuelans in recent weeks, a move Amnesty International called “an outrageous violation” of the country’s international law obligations. “The authorities of Trinidad and Tobago are pushing a xenophobic narrative, which associates people fleeing Venezuela with the COVID-19 virus in a way that risks further stigmatizing and discriminating against people in need of international protection,” according to  Louise Tillotson, Caribbean researcher at Amnesty.

  • A Jamaican Supreme Court decision permitting a school to bar a child sporting dreadlocks has sparked a national conversation on dreadlocks, Rastafarianism and identity, in the context of the broader global conversation on racism in the wake of George Floyd's killing. (Washington Post)

  • Irfaan Ali took office as Guyana’s new president last week, after a five month standoff following the country’s March 2 election. Outgoing president David Granger promised to take his challenge to court, but experts say the case is unlikely to prosper. (BBC, Economist, Jamaica Observer)
  • The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights warned against a bill that would limit prosecution of human rights violators in Uruguay. The project, proposed by the far-right Cabildo Abierto party allied with the government, would reinstate a law that protects human rights violators from the country's military dictatorship era. (Nodal, Telesur)

Critter Corner
  • The New York Times reports on a Buenos Aires zoo elephant's journey to a Brazilian sanctuary in the midst of lockdown. "And so Mara, after a long and complicated life, found herself in a box, in a pandemic, waiting at the closed border between nations."
Note: I'm playing news catch-up after a week off -- it could take a couple of days to get everything in.

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