Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Arce calls for unity in Bolivia, opponents concede defeat (Oct. 20, 2020)

Luis Arce is widely considered the victor of Bolivia's Sunday presidential election. Though official results aren't expected for a few days, exit polls predicted a landslide, with over 50 percent for Arce and a 20 point lead. His main opponent, Carlos Mesa, conceded defeat yesterday, telling supporters that a quick count showed a “very convincing and very clear” result. (Guardian)

The vote is widely perceived as a referendum on the 14 year government of Evo Morales, and a rejection of interim-government that succeeded him. Led by Jeanine Añez, the caretaker government persecuted the former president’s supporters, rolled back many of his policies and stifled dissent, reports the New York Times.

Arce appealed for calm in the bitterly divided nation saying he would seek to form a government of national unity under his Movement Toward Socialism party, reports the Associated Press. The images of Arce, who spoke yesterday with a small group of supporters, some in traditional indigenous dress, contrasts with Áñez receiving the presidential sash from a military officer last year and greeting citizens with a bible in hand. (See post for Nov. 13, 2019.)

Arce's statements indicate he wants national reconciliation and cooperation with MAS's political opponents, a smart approach after a year in which the interim-government persecuted and harassed Morales supporters. But he faces significant challenges moving forward, including how to handle the abuses of the Áñez government and how to get the country's security forces on his side, warns James Bosworth at the Latin America Risk Report.

Arce promised an anti-hunger emergency subsidy, and investigations into the interim-government's actions in the Sacaba and Senkata massacres last year. (Página Siete) At least 21 people were killed and 70 wounded when the Armed Forces and police used lethal weapons to suppress protests opposing the Áñez government and in defense of the Wiphala flag. One day before the massacre at Sacaba, Áñez signed a decree guaranteeing impunity for the Armed Forces. (CELS)

Colombian indigenous Minga demands meeting with Duque

A group of 5,000 Colombian indigenous protesters marched in Bogotá yesterday. They demanded a public meeting with President Iván Duque and solutions to growing violence that has accompanied setbacks in implementation of a 2016 peace deal between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebel group.
The group traveled for more than a week by foot, in buses and pickup trucks in a procession known as the minga — an Indigenous term for joint community work or action, reports the Associated Press. They were welcomed yesterday in Bogotá by Mayor Claudia López. 
But Duque has refused to hold an open meeting with the protesters, and voiced concern that the demonstrations would push up Covid-19 contagion. The protesters initially traveled from Cauca to Cali, where they hoped to meet with Duque. There, they refused to meet with a delegation sent by Duque, and instead carried on to Bogotá where they hope to meet with the president, reports the BBC.
Protesters gathered in Bogotá's Plaza de Bolivar, where they placed an empty chair with Duque's name on it -- a symbol of his refusal to meet, reports Semana.
Minga participants largely come from rural areas in Colombia that have been caught in violent turf wars between criminal gangs that seek to control illicit economies previously run by the FARC. Organizers of the protests also want the government to remove the military from Indigenous areas and to improve safety for community and human rights leaders, more than 160 of whom have been killed this year in Colombia. They also demand to be consulted on major development projects, particularly mining.
The group will join a national strike convened by unions, student organizations and other groups for Wednesday, reports Reuters.

News Briefs

  • Prosecutors have opened more than 4,600 investigations into the actions of the Carabineros – Chile’s militarized national police – against protesters during last year's protests, but only 66 cops have been charged, reports EFE. The Carabineros face 8,500 allegations of human rights abuses in the past year, including cases of torture against detainees in the midst of last year's massive anti-government protests. (See last Wednesday's post.)
  • Machismo rages strong in Latin America. The region has made great strides in recent decades, but the pandemic threatens to derail advances, reports Americas Quarterly in a new issue dedicated to gender equality. The issue is a special report built on five recommendations: financing for female entrepreneurs; enrolling more low-income women in STEM programs; improving protections for women against violence; getting men to do their fair share of household work and caregiving; and finding new, creative ways to feature women as role models so future generations can build on their example.
  • The Fincen Files cast light on how billions of dollars from criminal networks, politicians and tax evaders -- many from Latin America -- flow through major banks without being stopped by systems theoretically created to stop and confiscate such funds, writes Hugo Alconada Mon in the New York Times Español.
  • The “lithium triangle” countries, Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, face a range of challenges, including low prices, delayed investment and production interruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. A new Wilson Center report recommends regional coordination to harmonize legal and regulatory regimes, facilitate cross-border investments and align environmental and social policies.
  • Venezuela's government appears to selectively target some criminal leaders and turn a blind eye (or worst) towards other violent gangs. "This paradox is the product of a security structure designed for the mutual benefit of the government and specific criminal allies," according to a new report by InSight Crime's Venezuela Investigative Unit.
  • A U.S. judge said bondholders have valid claims over Venezuela’s prized oil refiner Citgo Petroleum Corp. The decision is a blow to Venezuela's U.S. backed opposition, led by Juan Guaidó, and puts the company at heightened risk of a forced takeover, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's concern with historic wrongs against the country's indigenous peoples contrasts with his failure to listen to their views about current development and environmental issues, writes Alberto Barrera Tyszka in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • "Black Spartacus," a history of Toussaint Louverture, is an outstanding study of how ‘the first black superhero of the modern age’ led the world’s only successful slave revolution in Haiti -- Guardian.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...  


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