Thursday, August 13, 2020

Latin America Daily Briefing (Aug. 13, 2020)

 News Briefs

  • "The Repression Clock: A Strategy Behind Autocratic Regimes," a new Wilson Center report, by Venezuelan human rights leader Alfredo Romero, chronicles the use of state repression by the Venezuelan regime as a strategy and essential pillar of regime stability. "Romero argues that Chávez’s charisma and popularity helped him maintain power without the need for harsh repression, which was deployed selectively and strategically.  However, when Nicolás Maduro took power in 2013, he was already unpopular and the deepening Venezuelan economic crisis was furthering popular dissent. Under Maduro, harsh political repression increased quantitatively and even qualitatively as a weapon against protesters and dissidents."
Indigenous Peoples
  • The Covid-19 pandemic and related lockdown are making it even harder for the Wayuu, an indigenous group in Colombia and Venezuela, to get adequate food, water, and health care at a time when they need them more than ever, Human Rights Watch and the Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health said in a joint report out today. An accompanying multimedia piece, “People of Resilience: Colombia’s Wayuu Indigenous Community Confronts a Malnutrition Crisis Amid Covid-19,” exposes the struggles that some Wayuu families face in a region marked by food and water insecurity and limited health care.
  • Mexico's government set up a Justice Commission for the Yaqui People, looking to solve the land, water and infrastructure problems of what President Andrés Manuel López Obrador calls Mexico’s most persecuted Indigenous group, reports the Associated Press.
  • Some Indigenous communities in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca are drawing on local Indigenous traditions of cooperation, self-reliance and isolation to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, reports the Conversation.
  • It would be a significant victory for Mexico's López Obrador administration if allegations of bribery made yesterday against former Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto lead to formal charges. (See yesterday's briefs.) But if they don't, the allegations that Peña Nieto funneled bribes into his presidential campaign will simply join a long list of "the same machinations that have defined bare-knuckle Mexican politics for generations," reports the New York Times.
  • López Obrador said that Peña Nieto, and his predecessor Felipe Caldedrón should testify about corruption allegations linked to Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. (AFP)
  • Mexico is trying to lure U.S. businesses to move production from China to Mexico, pointing out advantages in times of pandemic and also the growing rift between the U.S. and China. But economists say Mexico’s efforts to lure firms from China are hamstrung by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s own policies, which have created an uncertain investment climate. (Washington Post)
  • Mexico's push to put health warnings on processed food and drinks has met with pushback from the United States, European Union, Canada and Switzerland, home to some of the world’s biggest food companies, reports Reuters.
  • The Amazon has seen the worst start to the fire season in a decade, reports the Guardian. There were 10,136 fires spotted in the first 10 days of August, a 17% rise on last year. Analysis of Brazilian government figures by Greenpeace showed fires increasing by 81% in federal reserves compared with the same period last year.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro angrily denied the existence of fires in the Amazon rainforest yesterday, calling it a “lie,” though it is the government's own data that has charted the blazes.(Reuters)
El Salvador
  • United Nations rapporteur Diego García-Sayan voiced concern over Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele's tirade against Supreme Court judges. Bukele accused the magistrates of acting like dictators after they struck down a presidential decree regulating the country's reopening. García-Sayan called the attack "unacceptable," reports EFE. El Salvador’s government has been locked in a stalemate for weeks as the executive and legislative branches appear unable to reach a consensus on reopening. (See Tuesday's briefs.)
  • El Salvador requested more than $900 million in loans from international organisms in order to confront the coronavirus pandemic. (EFE) "As millions of COVID-19 funds flow in from the IMF, bloated budgets and little oversight create a recipe for corruption," warns Fundación Nacional para el Desarrollo. (Transparency International)
  • Nuestro Tiempo National Assembly candidate Erick Iván Ortiz hopes to become El Salvador's first openly gay lawmaker. (Washington Blade)
  • Argentina and Mexico will produce the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for most of Latin America, announced Argentine President Alberto Fernández yesterday, after a meeting with company executives involved in the project. (Reuters)
  • Poorer countries in the world, including many in Latin America, seem to be enduring the coronavirus in one long, deadly plateau of cases and deaths, reports the Wall Street Journal. While the lack of a drastic spike is good news, the negative aspect is that "the epidemic has settled in, producing a constant stream of new patients that is exhausting hospitals and doctors, leaving fewer resources to deal with other diseases."
  • Bolivian engineers have come up with a pragmatic, albeit macabre, solution for funerary systems overwhelmed by Covid-19 victims: a mobile crematorium small enough to fit onto a trailer, and is powered by locally produced liquefied petroleum gas - Guardian.
  • Argentina's congress is divided over how to continue work in the pandemic context -- while the governing Frente de Todos coalition, along with several smaller opposition blocs, wants to extend virtual sessions, the main opposition coalition is pushing for a return to in-person work. (Página 12)
  • Uruguay’s Association of Former Political Prisoners (Crysol) asked the country's senate to withdraw the parliamentary immunity of Gen. Guido Manini so that that he can be tried for crimes committed during the military dictatorship (1973-1985) -- Telesur.
  • Toppling statues has become part of a symbolic battle against racism -- but Latin America's long fight against colonial and anti-indigenous legacies shows that it isn't enough, writes Augusta Saraiva in Foreign Policy. "The Indigenous people of Latin America have been used to fighting since day one. They know that when statues fall, colonial legacies are not suddenly dismantled. But they recognize that symbolism matters."
Regional Relations
  • Kamala D. Harris' selection to be Joe Biden's running mate in the U.S. has caused excitement in India and Jamaica, where her parents are from. "Jamaicans described Harris’s selection as the latest example of the island’s outsize influence on the wide world," reports the Washington Post.

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