Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele is poised to capture a large congressional majority in Sunday's legislative and municipal elections. Salvadorans will elect all 84 members of the national Legislative Assembly, local officials in 262 municipalities, and 20 members of the Central American Parliament. Bukele's Nuevas Ideas party is polling at 64.7 percent of the vote. It is the first time it will compete. (AS/COAS) Observers and surveys suggest the election could remake the country’s political landscape, reports the Associated Press.
- Fraud is unlikely in the election, though technological issues could delay results, writes Tim Muth in El Faro.
- Erick Iván Ortiz is the first openly gay man running for political office in El Salvador. The country is so homophobic he fears taking his campaign to the streets during daytime, and feels forced to do it at night in gay clubs, reports Vice News.
- El Salvador sits at the intersection of several of the White House’s foreign policy priorities: migration, security, corruption and democracy, meaning that how the Biden administration reacts to Bukele's authoritarian slide will be critical, write Michael Paarlberg and Ricardo J. Valencia in the Washington Post.
- At least seven prisoners and a police officer were killed and another person injured yesterday after several inmates, including one of Haiti’s most powerful gang leaders, escaped from a prison in Port-au-Prince. About 40 prisoners were apprehended after the riot at the Croix-des-Bouquets Civil Prison. It is not known how many prisoners in total had escaped. (New York Times)
- Lawyers working to reunite immigrant parents and children separated by the U.S. Trump administration reported that they have found the parents of 105 children in the past month. They have yet to find the parents of 506 children, of whom 322 are believed to have been deported. The Biden administration recently formed a task force that will place the responsibility of finding and reuniting the families separated by the Trump administration, reports NBC. (See Feb. 2's post.)
- Venezuelan migrants are making significant economic contributions across the region, reports the Wall Street Journal. In the short term, governments must shoulder the costs of emergency food, shelter and health services for migrants. But the IMF projects that as they find jobs, pay taxes and increase consumption, Venezuelan migrants could raise the gross domestic product of their host countries by between 0.1% and 0.3% between 2017 and 2030.
- "Vaccine equity has become Covid-19's defining issue," write Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Keith Rowley and WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in CNN. "To date, richer countries with bigger budgets have struck bilateral deals with vaccine manufacturers, securing hundreds of millions of doses before other countries have had a chance. This has sent a worrying message that the health of those in developed countries is worth more than those in other parts of the world."
- South Americans are increasingly angry at their governments as inoculation campaigns have spiraled into scandal, cronyism and corruption, rocking national governments and sapping trust in the political establishment. Prosecutors Peru, Argentina, Ecuador Brazil, are examining thousands more accusations of irregularities in inoculation drives, most of them involving local politicians and their families cutting in line, reports the New York Times.
- El Hilo podcast on vaccine scandals in the region.
- Millions of AstraZeneca vaccines produced in Argentina are in Mexican warehouses, and cannot be used due to lack of supplies used to finish the jabs, like filters, sterile bags and excipients, reports El País.
- An article in Nature highlights how Argentine scientists and technologists have contributed by leading basic and translational research initiatives, including developing diagnostic and serological kits, designing new therapeutic approaches, establishing epidemiological platforms, executing clinical trials and implementing social measures to protect the most vulnerable groups of the population. (H/T Tomás Aguerre's Primera Mañana)
- Honduras is likely to experience a series of crises in the coming months, ahead of presidential elections in November, as President Juan Orlando Hernández tries to manipulate electoral institutions and dodge domestic and international pressure, writes Boz at the Latin America Risk Report.
- U.S. prosecutors accused Hernández of using Honduran law enforcement and military officials to protect drug traffickers as part of a plan “to use drug trafficking to help assert power and control in Honduras.” Hernández has denied the allegations. A group of U.S. lawmakers introduced a bill that would sanction JOH and start an investigation into the accusations. (See yesterday's briefs and Wednesday's post.)
- "For more than a century, Latin America has experienced a damaging combination of high inequality, poor economic performance and weak political institutions," writes Diego Sánchez-Ancochea in the Conversation. "This has contributed to persistent political volatility and social discontent."
- Andrés Velasco, a former finance minister of Chile now running LSE’s public policy school, said that “not every populist is a future dictator, but the seeds are often there.” He counts Nicaragua and El Salvador as well on the way to autocracy, Bolivia and Ecuador as existing in a grey zone, and Mexico and Brazil as facing the temptation of populism. (Politico Global Translations)
- Argentine President Alberto Fernández's state visit to Mexico augurs well for regional progressive leadership by the two countries, argues Pedro Brieger at Nodal. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Fernández, declared an alliance against inequality in the region. (El País)
- Citgo is a pawn in a multi-pronged battle involving the U.S. government, Venezuela’s creditors and the Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó -- Xander Fong for the Wilson Center.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...