Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Lula launches possible comeback (Sept. 9, 2020)

Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva accused Jair Bolsonaro of turning the coronavirus pandemic into a “weapon of mass destruction.” He spoke in a 24-minute video that many interpret as the start of a political comeback attempt, reports the Guardian. “I put myself at the disposal of the Brazilian people, especially the workers and the excluded,” he announced, before concluding: “From the bottom of my heart, I tell you: I’m here. Let’s rebuild Brazil together.”

Lula is currently barred from running for office after being stripped of his political rights in 2018 when he was imprisoned for corruption. In fact, that detention is credited with permitting current President Jair Bolsonaro's electoral victory that year. But Lula’s conviction could potentially be overturned due to questions about the impartiality of his judge Sergio Moro who, after jailing Lula, was made Bolsonaro’s justice minister.

Lula’s former foreign minister, Celso Amorim, told the Guardian the address left no doubt the leftist “wanted to be, and would be” a key player in the 2022 election. Amorim floated the possibility that Lula's attempted comeback could be as VP, rather than president, following the example of Argentina's Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. (Is it fair to dub the attempted comeback move the "Cristina maneuver"?)

More Brazil
  • A Brazilian Supreme Court decision from earlier this year could endanger indigenous protected areas in the Amazon rainforest and legalize the presence of farmers already encroaching on the land, reports Reuters.
News Briefs

  • The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing economic and social issues in the region. Now is a crucial moment for Latin America to think about its post-pandemic future: what kind of economic recovery it will target and what kind of democracy will emerge, Open Society Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Pedro Abramovay told O Globo.
  • The pandemic is also augmenting previous trends of political fragmentation and polarization, "potentially opening the door further to outsiders and increased tensions between executive and legislative branches in the years to come," warns María Victoria Murillo in Americas Quarterly.
  • Bolivia's interim-government has replaced a long-standing and internationally-lauded community coca control program with a draconian cocaine policy -- with EU assistance, reports the Conversation. The rapid reversal threatens the success of the community-based program in reducing illicit coca production, write Kathryn Ledebur, Linda Farthing, and Thomas Grisaffi.
  • More than 27,000 indigenous people living in Ecuador's Amazon rainforest have been affected by two damaged oil pipelines that leaked thousands of barrels of crude into their waterways -- precisely when they have quarantined themselves off in an attempt to avoid the novel coronavirus. (Reuters)
  • Ecuadorian Court of Appeals rejected a motion to annul former president Rafael Correa's eight-year prison sentence. The decision means that the former leader, who currently resides in Belgium, remains barred from political activities for the duration of the sentence, reports EFE. In August, Correa had announced he would run as vice president in next year's presidential election, see Aug. 20's briefs. (Could we say he is attempting the Cristina maneuver?)
  • At least 11 people were killed in three separate group killings in Colombia, police announced Monday. The massacres -- homicides of three or more people in the same event -- took place in the past three days in the regions of Antioquia in the northwest, Bolivar in the north and Cesar in the northeast of the country, reports AFP.
  • The Urabeños are reportedly re-activating an old drug trafficking route in Montes de María, a potential result of territorial disputes between armed groups other parts of Colombia, reports InSight Crime.
  • The five Garifuna leaders kidnapped in July by a group of police uniformed armed men are still missing. They form part of a sad trend of violent actions against leaders who defend indigenous territories in Honduras, say activists. In 2019 alone, 17 Garífuna activists were violently murdered, reports The Nation.
  • Arms traffickers move weapons from the United States to Mexico in small quantities, but constant quantities. The flow of smaller batches -- sometimes one gun at a time -- diverges from the global arms trafficking trends, according to a new United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report. The steady movement stems from the ease of buying firearms in the U.S. and the mass movement of cars and trucks across the border, explains InSight Crime.
  • Mexico reported excess deaths of 122,765 from March to August, a 59% increase from what was expected, reports Bloomberg.
  • The pandemic has driven Mexico into its deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression, and threatens to unravel decades of slow but steady progress in building up the middle class, reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • The United Nations has called for an investigation after two girls were shot dead in a raid by Paraguayan security forces on an EPP camp. (BBC)
  • Police officers in Argentina's Buenos Aires province protested to demand urgent salary increases and more protection from the novel coronavirus. (Buenos Aires Times)
  • Coronavirus cases are soaring in Argentina, and prevalence is growing in provinces outside the Buenos Aires metropolitan region, reports Reuters.
  • Chile's Revolución Democrática party and the Fundación Ojos de Chile presented a bill in Congress that would prevent police from using pellets, tear gas launchers and sound weapons to control protesters
Critter Corner
  • Hummingbirds in the Andes can reach body temperatures of 3.3 C at night to preserve energy, a state known as daily torpor. (Guardian, New York Times)
I hope you're all staying safe and as sane as possible, given the circumstances ... Comments and critiques welcome, always.  


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