Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Haiti's political legitimacy crisis (Feb. 3, 2021)

Haiti's protracted political crisis is likely to deepen this weekend. Government opponents say Feb. 7 is the last day of President Jovenel Moïse's term, while Moïse maintains that his mandate ends in February 2022.

The crisis comes amid rising unrest over an alarming rise in kidnappings and gang violence. This week unions staged a two day strike that shut down schools, businesses and markets. Protesters have filled the streets demanding Moïse's departure and an end to gang violence, reports the Miami Herald.

The disagreement over when Moïse's term stems over when it effectively began. The opposition argues the term started when that of former President Michel Martelly expired in February 2016, while Moïse said it started when he was sworn in, a year later due to a chaotic electoral process. The Federation of Bars of Haiti is backing up the opposition’s claim, noting in a recent six-page declaration that the president himself utilized the same narrow interpretation of the constitution in dismissing two thirds of the Senate last year. (Miami Herald)

Opposition party leaders plan to name a new head of state on Sunday, and agreed to create a commission tasked with choosing a president to lead the transitional government from members of Haiti's Supreme Court. Under their plan, The prime minister would be chosen among the opposition politicians, and the heads of government ministries would be selected by the new government. (Voice of America)

Moïse, who has been governing by decree for a year, said he will hand power over to the winner of a presidential election scheduled for September. Speaking on Monday, Moïse urged Haitians to support his constitutional reform proposal, which will be voted on in an April referendum. The proposed constitutional changes are expected to be made public this week, reports the Associated Press.

Internationally, several U.S. lawmakers expressed the need for a transition in Haiti in a joint statement issued in December 2020.

News Briefs

  • Trinidad and Tobago's treatment of Venezuelan migrants and refugees and its deportations of Venezuelans, including children and asylum seekers, are not only egregious rights violations but also a sad reminder of its unswerving allegiance to the Nicolás Maduro government, argue Human Rights Watch's Tamara Taraciuk Broner and Martina Rapido Ragozzino in Americas Quarterly.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden signed three executive orders yesterday, aimed at reviewing and, eventually, undoing the Trump immigration legacy. Biden is balancing campaign promises to roll back deportations and asylum limitations imposed by his predecessor, with concern about opening migration floodgates, reports the New York Times
  • Two of yesterday's orders included a review of the previous administration's immigration policies that limited asylum, stopped funding to foreign countries, made it more difficult to get green cards or be naturalized, and slowed down legal immigration into the United States. The third establishes a task force to identify families separated at the border. (See yesterday's post.) Biden called the separation of migrant families instigated by the previous administration a “moral and national shame," reports the Washington Post.
  • The U.S. Senate confirmed Alejandro N. Mayorkas as secretary of homeland security, making him the first Latino and the first immigrant to hold that job. He will be tasked with implementing the Biden administration's promise to roll back Trump's immigration policies, and will head the new task force to identify families separated at the border. (New York Times)
  • The Mexican police participated in a massacre that left 19 people dead last month, according to a Tamaulipas state prosecutor. At least 13 victims who appear to be Guatemalan migrants on their way to the United States. The massacre in Camargo underscores not only the risks that migrants must now endure to enter the United States, but the de-stabilizing role that Mexico’s security forces sometimes plays along the border, according to the Washington Post.
  • Mexico is in the throes of two separate, lethal crises: violence and the coronavirus. Sky-high mortality rates provoked by both of them merit changes in the government approach to health and security, argues Jorge Ramos in the New York Times Español.
Regional Relations
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has set the stage for confrontation with the Biden administration on multiple fronts -- in contrast to his accommodating stance towards Trump. "For AMLO, Biden is a useful enemy and another distracting element from the pandemic's social and economic devastation," argues Denise Dresser in the Post Opinión.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden should use existing sanctions against Venezuela's Maduro government and the Trump-era transition framework as the basis for a more powerful, nuanced system of carrots and sticks, argues Christopher Sabatini in World Politics Review. He argues the U.S. should, in conjunction with international allies, look for ways to grant specific, temporary exemptions to U.S. sanctions on Venezuela in response to specific goal posts, and develop a timeline to bring the Maduro regime back to the negotiating table.
  • President Joe Biden intends to nominate Brian A. Nichols as his top envoy for Latin America. Nichols, currently the U.S. ambassador in Zimbabwe, would be the first Black assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs in decades, reports the Associated Press.

  • "China’s engagement with Latin America presents multiple strategic perils, wrapped in values the United States and its partners hold dear," warns Evan Ellis in National Defense Magazine.
  • As the region battles a second wave of the virus that is clouding its recovery prospects for 2021, Mauricio Claver-Carone, the Inter-American Development Bank’s new president, discusses the strategy for addressing these historic challenges with Wilson Center experts.
El Salvador
  • The shooting that killed two people leaving a political rally in El Salvador last weekend remains murky. But President Nayib Bukele's failure to condemn the attack threatens to tarnish his reputation ahead of legislative and municipal elections on Feb. 28, reports El Faro. (See Monday's post.)
  • Many former FARC fighters in Colombia are still waiting for the dividends of a peace accord signed in 2016. Many have been victims of deadly attacks -- 254 ex-Farc members have been murdered across the country since the agreement -- and demobilized fighters say the Colombian government hasn't done enough to keep them safe. (Guardian)
  • Peru will hold presidential elections in April. The country is in the midst of a second-wave of Covid-19 infections, and most major cities are under lockdown. Candidates and experts have discussed moving campaigns online. Such a move would benefit establishment politicians with greater name recognition, and would effectively shut out a large chunk of Peruvian society from the campaign, writes Gabriela Wiener in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • A month into Cuba's economic reform, the innovations have largely caused more social pain than anything else. And they come as Cuba faces the economic pain of harsh U.S. financial restrictions enacted by Trump and the mounting pressure of Covid-19, writes Abraham Jiménez Enoa in the Post Opinión.
  • Note: Yesterday I incorrectly stated that former Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa is running for vice president in Sunday's elections. He had intended to second presidential candidate Andrés Arauz, but was blocked when a court upheld a prior conviction on corruption charges. (Americas Quarterly)

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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