Thursday, January 7, 2021

Latin Americanists focus on U.S. (Jan. 7, 2021)

Yesterday's scenes of an incensed mob invading a parliamentary building in anger at an electoral loss were evocative of Latin America for many experts. Analysts compared the violence to Alberto Fujimori's 1992 self-coup in Peru or, more recently, Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele's brief military occupation of the country's legislature last year. In Honduras, members of civil society bitterly recalled the Trump administration's support for President Juan Orlando Hernández's 2017 reelection marred by fraud. (Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal) A coup doesn't need military support to overthrow a democratic government writes Diego Fonseca at New York Times Español, where he reviews the long history of Latin American institutional coups from Daniel Ortega to Alfredo Stroessner, passing through Dilma Rousseff's impeachment.

Schadenfreude is possibly the dominant emotion for many Latin American countries, accustomed to receiving blanket U.S. statements of concern over national political upheaval. "This coup really makes the U.S. feel like home,” Venezuelan comedian Joanna Hausmann said on Twitter. Haitians circulated doctored warnings emulating the U.S. statements about travel to Haiti. One jokester said "the Ambassador of the Republic of Haiti to the United States has been asked to start a dialogue between Trump and Biden.” And Brazilian commentator Felipe Neto riffed that “I’m waiting for the USA to invade the USA so they can ‘re-establish democracy." And we all know the one about how the lack of the U.S. embassy in Washington is the only thing saving it from a coup. Personally, I'm just waiting for a foreign correspondent to interview a cab driver for insight on the mob.

Joking aside, yesterday's events will have grave consequences for the U.S. role as a democratic moral authority, reports the Miami Herald. It will further complicate any efforts to democratize Venezuela and will provide fodder to arguments that U.S. diplomacy is more about interests than goodwill.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza tweeted: “Venezuela expresses its concern for the violent events that are taking place in the city of Washington, USA; condemns the political polarization and hopes that the American people will open a new path toward stability and social justice.” (Reuters)

Antigua’s Ambassador to the United States and the Organization of American States, Sir Ronald Sanders emphasized the hypocrisy of the U.S. stance towards other countries in the region. For example, last year the Trump administration issued visa sanctions against members of the Guyana government when the country’s then-president refused to accept his electoral loss. “The circumstances are almost identical,” said Sanders. “The United States government applied sanctions, applied threats and claimed democracy was at risk and demanded all sorts of concessions by parties in Guyana, all of which were right. I think all of those things were necessary, but you cannot apply it to other countries and not apply it to yourself. If you apply a double standard, you lose the authority to tell anybody anything when they do wrong.”

Many leaders in the region -- including Chile and Argentina -- voiced support for U.S. democracy, and rejected yesterday's show of force. But Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro supported Trump's allegations of fraud, reports Reuters. And the head of Brazil’s lower house of congress, Rodrigo Maia, said he feared “the terrible episode” playing out in the U.S. might offer a glimpse of what could happen in Brazil were Bolsonaro to fail in his bid for re-election in 2022, reports the Guardian.

News Briefs

  • Peru's entrenched corruption puts the country in a Catch-22: how to carry out credible reforms when the politicians responsible for legislating are themselves part of the systemic graft swamp, asks Sonia Goldenberg in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • Bolivia's Tuni glacier is melting faster than predicted, which will likely worsen water shortages already plaguing La Paz, reports Reuters.
  • Mexico's government estimates that 10 million people tune into President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's daily press conference. "La Mañanera" can run for up to three hours, and has a lot of people hooked, reports the Associated Press. But critics say AMLO often fails to substantiate his views with actual facts.
  • Mexico's coronavirus czar Hugo López-Gatell is under fire for taking a maskless, beach vacation after urging people to stay home. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Chilean lawmakers are considering a bill that would make coronavirus vaccination mandatory. (Reuters)

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

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