Friday, January 22, 2021

Honduras bans abortion, forever (Jan. 22, 2021)

News Briefs

  • Honduras' Congress passed a law prohibiting abortion under all circumstances. Human rights groups and international organizations voiced concern that the move restricts women's rights. About a quarter of Honduran girls have been pregnant before their nineteenth birthday, reports El País. The new law is a constitutional amendment, effectively blocking future legalization by requiring a two-thirds majority vote in Congress. The measure, called a “shield against abortion” by its proponents, comes in response to the feminist “green wave” movement sweeping across Latin America, reported the Guardian yesterday.
  • Guatemala's security forces thwarted this year's first migrant caravan, just days after thousands of Hondurans set out from San Pedro Sula. Now the frustrated would-be migrants are turning their anger against Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, adding to a pressure cooker dissatisfaction with the country's response to the pandemic and successive devastating hurricanes in November. (Reuters)
  • Literal translations of intercepted messages that U.S. prosecutors used to charge former Mexican defense minister Salvador Cienfuegos of collaborating with drug traffickers are being ridiculed in Mexico for being laughably off base. Other translations are nonsensical and miss key words in Spanish, reports Vice. The translations came to light last week after Mexico cleared Cienfuegos of the stunning allegations made by U.S. officials. Attorney General Alejandro Gertz defended the exoneration of Cienfuegos, saying the evidence was inconsistent and questionable. (See Monday's briefs.)
  • A witness implicated soldiers in the 2014 disappearance of 43 students in Mexico's Guerrero state. The witness, known as “Juan,” said soldiers detained a group of the students, interrogated them at the army base in the town of Iguala and then handed them to a drug gang, reported Reforma based on the testimony. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador confirmed Reforma’s reporting reflected the testimony in the investigation. (Reuters)
  • U.S. President Joe Biden's foreign policy goals for Latin America cover familiar ground, including corruption and Venezuela. But the region contains a range of other security and criminal threats that are of direct concern to the United States, warns InSight Crime.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing education inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean, including unequal access to human and economic resources, infrastructure and educational equipment. A new report by the IDB and UNESCO finds that these structural conditions will affect the ability to reopen schools in the pandemic context, with impact upon the right to education of millions of students in the region. "The longer the return to in-person classes is delayed, exclusion will grow and inequalities will increase."
  • Earlier this month UNICEF's regional director recommended schools open at least partially, particularly in light of low connectivity in many areas that complicates virtual learning plans. (AFP)
  • UNICEF estimates school closures could cost the region as much as $1.2 trillion in terms of the lifetime earnings of a generation of children who are missing out on formal learning.
  • Impeachment is surprisingly common in many of Latin America’s young democracies and at times so dizzyingly fast it provokes complaints about "legislative coups," notes the Wilson Center's Weekly Asado. Latin American lawmakers impeached and removed nine presidents in the past 25 years.
  • A government stipend helped Brazil's poorest survive the initial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but the end of the program will force many to choose between starvation or Covid-19 exposure, reports Reuters.
  • Brazilian senators are willing to discuss a new round of financial assistance for poor Brazilians affected by coronavirus economic impact, reports Bloomberg.
  • Colombian businessman Alex Saab was carrying a letter from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accrediting him to Iran’s supreme leader when he was arrested on a U.S. warrant last year, reports the Associated Press. Saab is under house arrest in Cape Verde, fighting extradition to the U.S. to face money laundering charges. U.S. officials believe Saab holds numerous secrets about how Maduro, his family and top aides allegedly siphoned off millions of dollars in government contracts.
  • Venezuela's government has taken total control of thousands of antigen tests purchased through an agreement with the political opposition, a move that imperils Venezuela's access to much-needed coronavirus vaccines, reports Bloomberg.
  • The European Parliament called on EU governments to recognise Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president, reports Reuters.
  • El Faro and El País won the journalist Premio Gabo 2020 in the Coverage category, for their work reporting on migrants at Mexico's southern border. The series "Frontera Sur: la frontera desconocida de América" involved 20 journalists who produced multimedia narratives over six months embedded in the border region.
  • Radar Aos Fatos, an intelligence platform that monitors pandemic misinformation in Brazil in real-time, won the innovation category.
  • And the multimedia project "Defensores de la Selva" by El País and Open Democracy won in the "Image" category.

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