Thursday, November 19, 2020

Iota lashes Central America (Nov. 19, 2020)

Iota is the strongest hurricane ever to have hit Nicaragua, according to government officials. At least 16 people were killed by the Category 4 storm that hit the country this week, the second major hurricane in two weeks to hit Central America. 

In Nicaragua over 62,000 people moved into 683 government shelters following the storm. In Honduras Iota has destroyed many areas largely spared by Eta and increased the flood damage in already stricken areas.

Earlier this month, Eta caused more than 130 deaths as it triggered flash floods and mudslides in parts of Central America and Mexico. 

The double hurricane blow compounds Covid-19 pain in the region -- analysts compare the impact to that of 1998 Hurricane Mitch, but this time around international attention and aid are already focused on the pandemic.

News Briefs

  • The Venezuelan government has brutally cracked down on leftist activists who turned against Nicolás Maduro's government. Leftist parties have historically supported Chavista governments, but, disillusioned with the country's collapse, they have decided to field their own candidates in the upcoming legislative elections. Many have been harassed or violently repressed in response, reports the New York Times.
  • Creditors from hedge funds to oil companies are moving closer to seizing billions of dollars in Venezuela’s overseas assets. If they succeed it will be a blow to the country’s opposition movement that has sought to protect the assets for an eventual change in regime, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • The U.S. Senate confirmed James Story's nomination as ambassador to Caracas, making him the first U.S. ambassador to Venezuela in a decade. (Al Jazeera)
  • Mexico's government threatened to expel U.S. federal drug agents from the country in retaliation for the U.S. arrest of former Mexican defense minister Salvador Cienfuegos, reports the New York Times. That would have jeopardized a decades-long partnership that has helped bring several top drug lords to justice, a possibility that apparently motivated the U.S. Justice Department to drop drug trafficking charges against Cienfuegos. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Mexico welcomed the U.S. about-face, but the dramatic reversal did not resolve a deeper tension that has crept into bilateral relations since Cienfuegos's arrest in Los Angeles last month, according to the Washington Post. For Mexicans the issue was one of sovereignty, and of honor for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador who has been accused at home of conceding too much to U.S. President Donald Trump. The case has also opened a rift within the U.S. government. The move was met with deep frustration by some investigators involved in the case, reports the Daily Beast.
El Salvador
  • El Salvador has awarded a $780,000 lobby contract to a three-week old Washington firm set up to promote investment as President Nayib Bukele, a staunch Trump ally, seeks to pivot toward Joe Biden’s $4 billion development plan to stop the flow of migration from Central America -- Associated Press.
  • Hundreds of Chileans protested yesterday in Santiago to demand the resignation of President Sebastian Piñera over police repression of the country's social protests, reports AFP.
  • Chilean police chief Mario Rozas resigned today following months of controversy over alleged rights abuses and excessive use of force by the country’s security forces. Police allegedly shot and wounded two boys during a raid at the offices of Chile’s child welfare service in Talcahuano yesterday, reports Reuters.
  • Peruvian protesters poured out in anger when lawmakers ousted President Martín Vizcarra earlier this month, but the underlying cause was rejection of decades of corruption and authoritarian governance in the country, writes Ñusta Carranza Ko in the Washington Post. This new generation of protesters sought to break with the past and claimed that the government "messed with the wrong generation." 
  • "Many Peruvians were under the impression that the return to democracy would automatically purge government institutions of their deeply ingrained corruption, generate stability and comity among political and social movements, and address some of the grievances boiling underneath the glossy economic statistics," writes Álvaro Vargas Llosa in the Washington Post. "But, 20 years after the return of democracy, Peru’s institutions and social and economic structures are as fragile as ever, and the economy, mired in crony capitalism and mercantilism, stopped shining years ago."
  • The protests were coordinated by hundreds of small, decentralized organizations formed through social media, reports Nacla. The week-long protests in Peru show new dynamics of social mobilization fostered during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Police clashed with protesters in Port-au-Prince calling for Haitian President Jovenel Moïse to step down amid corruption allegations, yesterday. (Voice of America)
  • At least five people were killed in a landslide caused by illegal mining in Esmeraldas in northern Ecuador. (New York Times)
  • The Guardian delves into the Colombian false positives scandal, and fallen military hero General Mario Montoya's role in the case.
  • Vaccinating 20 percent of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean against COVID-19 will cost more than $2 billion. But low income countries will be helped by the COVAX Facility led by the World Health Organization, announce the Pan-American Health Organization. (Reuters)
  • The Guernica land occupation on the outskirts of Buenos Aires showed the cracks in an increasingly unequal system and the resilience of community organization, reports Nacla.
  • Argentine reproductive rights activists are hoping for a “green” Christmas this year after President Alberto Fernández re-launched the country’s debate over legal abortion this week, with a bill that would permit women to voluntarily end pregnancies until 14 weeks and guarantees free access to the procedure. He is fulfilling what appears to be a heartfelt campaign promise, but the move is also politically pragmatic, I write in Americas Quarterly. Though abortion legalization is polarizing, Fernández has taken pains to frame the issue as one of public health, emphasizing that ultimately legalization will not lead to new abortions, but will make those that already occur safer.

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...   


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