Friday, August 14, 2020

Coronavirus pushes Bolivia towards chaos (Aug. 14, 2020)


Bolivian demonstrators, many indigenous supporters of the MAS party, began to dismantle over a hundred roadblocks set up around the country in protest of repeated electoral delays by the interim government. In response to the protests, Bolivian lawmakers passed a law yesterday preventing further postponement of the presidential election redo, currently scheduled for Oct. 18. Authorities had pushed forward the vote, ostensibly due to coronavirus concerns, but observers suspect the interim government is angling to prevent MAS party candidate Luis Arce from winning, reports AFP.

Bolivia was already politically unstable, now the pandemic is pushing into chaos, reports the Economist, which notes that the Añez government's lack of credibility means all its measures are viewed skeptically.

The blockades have further complicated supplies for the country's overloaded hospitals, reports the Associated Press.

News Briefs

  • Brazil's Supreme Court made a historic ruling last week forcing President Jair Bolsonaro’s government to protect indigenous peoples during the pandemic. The coronavirus poses a real risk of genocide for the country's isolated indigenous people, and while the decision is a step in the right direction, it might be too indirect to make a practical difference, argues Thiago Amparo in Americas Quarterly.
  • Bolsonaro's government is often portrayed in the media "as perpetually on the brink of collapse, as if a great national epiphany were just around the corner. But a deeper look suggests that support for Bolsonaro ... remains surprisingly resilient, even if he is in many ways utterly failing to deliver positive results for either his base or the country as a whole," writes Brian Winter in Foreign Affairs. The piece delves into Bolsonaro's resilient voter base, as well as his support within the military, both of which make impeachment " impractical, if not physically dangerous, for its proponents."
  • New regulations passed last month by Venezuela's National Electoral Council (CNE) eliminate direct, confidential, and in-person election of representatives of the indigenous peoples. It replaces the current system with a system of delegates who will vote for new representatives in the name of the communities. Indigenous organizations and representatives have rejected the modification, which seems to be aimed at ensuring indigenous communities do not elect opposition lawmakers in December's National Assembly elections, argues Rafael Uzcátegui at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights.
  • The U.S. announced it has seized the cargo of four tankers it was targeting for transporting Iranian fuel to Venezuela, yesterday, reports the Associated Press.
  •  Venezuela is ramping up oil exports, largely because of diesel-for-crude swaps that up until now have been exempt from U.S. sanctions, even as production hits all time lows, reports Bloomberg.
  • Venezuela’s government has negotiated an agreement with Chinese banks for a grace period until the end of the year on some $19 billion in loans that are paid off with oil shipments, reports Reuters.
  • Mexican journalists are often targets of violence in retaliation for their work -- the country is one of the deadliest in the world for press workers. But government investigations into assassinations of journalists all to often start from the assertion that the murders have nothing to do with the victims' work, a stance that precludes investigating complicated criminal networks, writes Sebastián Salamanca of Artículo 19 in New York Times Español.
  • The rise of the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) and it's shadowy leader, Nemesio "El Mencho" Osegura, puts President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in a tight spot regarding his "hugs not bullets" campaign promises. The U.S. is pressuring Mexico to go after the cartel leader, but AMLO has been opposed to the kingpin strategy -- which pushed cartel fragmentation that led to the CJNG's rise in the first place. (Economist)
  • Mexico will gradually phase out use of the herbicide glyphosate by the end of the current government's term, in 2024. (Reuters)
El Salvador
  • El Salvador's violent street gangs deserve at least some, if not all, of the credit for the drastic 60 percent reduction in homicides this year. While President Nayib Bukele has tried to credit his "Territorial Control Plan" for the drop, an International Crisis Group report found municipalities that weren't part of the policy saw a similar decline in homicides. “This reduction of homicides appears to be the result of a decision on the part of the gangs,” Tiziano Breda, ICG’s analyst for Central America and one of the report’s authors, told InSight Crime.
  • Prosecutors in Guatemala raided 26 properties and detained seven people Wednesday in connection to the landmark "La Línea" corruption case, reports the Associated Press.
  • Peru surpassed half a million coronavirus cases and has the highest fatality rate in Latin America, reports Reuters.
  • The United States is suspending private charter flights to Cuba, a move aimed at starving the island's government of revenue, announced U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday. (AFP)
  • Argentina's plans to become a main pork supplier for China have sparked pushback -- nearly 400,000 people have signed petitions opposing a Chinese capital investment of $3.5bn. Activists are concerned about the potential health risks and environmental risks, reports the Guardian.
  • Argentina's Paraná Delta wetlands are on fire, fueled by drought and humans, reports Vice.
  • Covid-19 has exposed the Chilean Piñera administration's blindspot: the country's glaring inequality that already pushed social and political unrest to a boiling point last year, and has now undermined Chile's initially effective pandemic response, reports the Wilson Center's Weekly Asado.

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