Friday, November 27, 2020

Cuba breaks up San Isidro Movement hunger strike (Nov. 26, 2020)

 Cuban authorities broke up a prolonged hunger strike by demonstrators of the San Isidro Movement yesterday. The standoff between Cuban security forces and SIM protesters had been escalating throughout the month, 14 activists have been on hunger strike since Nov.16 demanding the release of the musician Denis Solis González, a musician arrested earlier this month. Cuban officials said they intervened late yesterday in response to Covid-19 concerns, but activists dismissed that as an excuse. Most of the protesters were detained briefly and released to their homes last night. (Reuters, El País)

Writer Carlos Manuel Álvarez had joined the hunger strikers this week, after returning from Miami, and alerted yesterday that authorities would try to leverage Covid-19 concerns to disarm the group that has been increasingly visible in internationally. (CiberCuba) The SIM is a multifaceted group that has combined art and political activism in an irreverent key in opposition to Cuban government repression. (BBC) Though it has been active since 2018, SIM has gained international prominence this month. Numerous organizations of civil society and international groups had called on Cuba's government to guarantee their safety.(Amnesty InternationalHavana Times)

The siege of the activists by security forces "has been read by independent media and social media, in and out of the island, as a potent gesture against censorship and the systematic repression exerted by an authoritarian state that does not permit the free realization oas such of its citizens," according to El Estornudo.

"Both the danger that the members represent and the seduction they inspire can be explained by the fact that they are perhaps the only Cubans on the island today who are living in a democracy, exotic animals that no one has seen alive in the country in 60 years," wrote Álvarez in a recent Washington Post op-ed.

News Briefs

Trinidad and Tobago
  • Twenty-six Venezuelans who returned to Trinidad and Tobago in a small boat on Tuesday, following an initial deportation days earlier, will be permitted to stay temporarily pending legal challenges to the deportation. The group, which includes 16 minors and up to 13 adults, has attracted international attention, and demonstrates the difficulties faced by Venezuelans who continue to flee the crisis at home. The group initially arrived to TT in two small boats last Sunday and were escorted back to international waters by the Coast Guard. The whereabouts of the group, which included children as young as four months, were reportedly unknown for 24 hours, before they returned to Trinidad by boat on Tuesday, though the details are still unclear. (NewsdayTrinidad ExpressReutersCaracas ChroniclesAFPNewsday)
  • Heat and heavy loads combine to cause widespread kidney failure among Nicaraguan sugarcane workers, reports the Guardian. Chronic kidney disease of unknown origin (CKDu) is believed to kill roughly 40,000 people a year, primarily from marginalised agricultural communities living along the equator. After years of denying work-place causes for the disease, some Nicaraguan sugar mills are implementing measures like mandatory shade, rest, water and electrolyte breaks. Experts believe this could reduce CKDu incidence by 70%.
  • Venezuela's PSUV party will definitely win the upcoming legislative elections, widely denounced as rigged. But the results still matter, because it will cement Nicolás Maduro's hold on the last remaining branch of government with opposition leadership, "a big step in its march towards full dictatorship," according to the Economist. As a practical matter, the vote will strip Juan Guaidó of his claim to the interim presidency. And constitutional experts are divided over what occurs legally after the current National Assembly mandate ends if the election is considered illegitimate.
  • Guatemalan protests last weekend reflected citizen fury, not just discontent, writes Álvaro Montenegro in El Faro. And police repression only fanned the flames of their ire. (See Wednesday's briefs, and Monday's post.)
  • Mexican feminists occupied the national Human Rights Commission building in September, and have turned it into a shelter for women and children suffering domestic abuse. The Washington Post calls it "one of the most extreme acts of a feminist movement that has grown more aggressive amid the intensifying violence and what its members say is official inaction."
  • The economy is Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's Achilles heel when it comes to reelection, according to the Economist's Bello column. His best bet for a second term would involve an alliance with the centrão -- though it would undermine his position as a political outsider "it would offer the kind of political machine that historically helped to win Brazilian elections—useful since social media alone are unlikely to give him such a competitive edge twice."
El Salvador
  • Salvadorean attorney general Raúl Melara has asked lawmakers to create a specialized police force to support the general prosecutor's office. The new force would be independent from the National Civil Police, at a time when the national force has increasingly blocked prosecutors' attempts to investigate the Bukele government, reports El Faro.
  • Drones that rained contraband on Panama's largest prison complex -- including marijuana, cell phones and pistol parts -- challenge the success of recent penitentiary security reforms, reports InSight Crime.
  • Disturbances as tens of thousands of fans gathered to say goodbye to Diego Maradona yesterday are yet another sign of Argentine political polarization and lack of planning argues Hugo Alconada Mon in a New York Times Español op-ed. Indeed, images of soccer fans cooling their feet in the Casa Rosada fountains will be interpreted along the same emotionally polarized lines that have divided Argentines since 1945, when a massive group of workers first splashed in the outdoor Plaza de Mayo fountains. As Página 12 puts it: "Without organization, messy and sometimes excessive, but with fervor and unconditional love, the people sought a way to accompany their idol to the door of his final resting spot."
I will be off next week -- but Eduardo Romero will be sending out the Daily Briefing in my stead.

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