Monday, March 15, 2021

Áñez detained on terrorism charges (March 15, 2021)

 Former Bolivian interim-president Jeanine Áñez was detained on Saturday and ccused of sedition, terrorism and conspiracy, along with other former cabinet members. Ánez on Sunday appeared via videolink for a first hearing before a judge over accusations she helped foment a coup against the country’s socialist government.

Public prosecutor Harold Jarandilla said the defendants used security force allies to push then-President Evo Morales to resign after contested elections and “rigged” events in the political vacuum that followed to install her as interim president, reports Reuters. Justice minister Ivan Lima said that Áñez faces charges related to her actions as an opposition senator, not as former president.

Áñez and former ministers were suddenly added on Friday to a case against police and military leaders who called for Morales' 2019 resignation, reports El País. The arrest was dramatic, as Áñez was not in her home, which was surrounded by police and media on Friday, but was later found hidden in a box in a nearby residence. She was deemed a flight risk by the judge, who called for her and her ministers to be held on remand pending trial for six months.

Áñez said it is a case of political persecution, and asked the OAS and the European Union to send observer missions to follow the case. Human Rights Watch's José Miguel Vivanco tweeted Friday that the detention orders “contain no evidence whatsoever that they have committed the crime of terrorism."

Interior minister Eduardo del Castillo denied it was an act of persecution, saying the case arose from a criminal complaint of conspiracy and sedition filed against her in November, the month she left office.

The arrest of Áñez and warrants against numerous other former officials further worsened political tensions in Bolivia, which was already torn by perceived wrongs suffered by both sides, reports the Associated Press. Both Morales and Añez used the judiciary to go after their critics. Current President Luis Arce, during his campaign, had promised to turn a new page in Bolivian politics, notes the New York Times.

Some experts hazard that the move is an attempt by Arce's government to show force at a time when it faces multiple political threats.

More Bolivia
  • Bolivia's ruling party obtained mixed results in recent regional elections: Mayors and governors races were split between the MAS and opposition parties, but Arce remains popular for taking decisive action upon entering office during the pandemic, reports NACLA. Five months after a decisive victory in the presidential election, the MAS results roughly parallel those of the previous regional elections in 2015, when they won six governorships. In the mayoral races, where the MAS was expected to fare poorly because its most loyal political base is rural, they only won in two smaller departmental capitals. A potpourri of local parties built around a particular candidate won in the rest.
News Briefs

Regional Relations
  • U.S. President Joe "Biden’s determination to take a proactive role in Central America is positive, and seldom has it been more urgent," writes former Costa Rican president Luis Guillermo Solís in Americas Quarterly. The question, however, is not whether the region needs funding, but how aid can be effectively deployed to "produce the highest impact, greatest social returns and most transparent administration?" 
  • Biden should wield U.S. influence to push Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to hew closer to democratic values, argues Enrique Krauze in the New York Times. Biden can check "López Obrador’s autocratic tendencies and promote a moderate approach that might be of great benefit to the U.S.-Mexico relationship and to Mexicans."
  • AMLO took a dig at the U.S. government yesterday, saying the United States has not helped Mexico with coronavirus vaccines. López Obrador thanked India and Russia, which have each sent small amounts of vaccines, and China, whose firms have promised millions of doses. (Associated Press)
  • A West African court ordered Cape Verde’s government to free Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman close to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, and halt plans to have him extradited to the U.S. The Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice found the authorities on the Atlantic Ocean island nation carried out Saab’s arrest before a so-called Red Notice had been issued by Interpol, reports Bloomberg.
  • Haiti's volatile social, economic and political crisis means elections organized under Haitian President Jovenel Moïse will not work and will not be seen as legitimate by the people, three Haiti-born civic leaders and a former U.S. ambassador to the country told the House Foreign Affairs Committee Friday. (Miami Herald
  • Several members of the Haiti National Police were killed or injured in a police operation turned deadly in a Port-au-Prince slum known for harboring kidnapped victims and a notorious gang. Acting Haiti National Police General Director Léon Charles said Saturday that four officers had been killed and eight wounded, on Friday. Five officers have been discharged from the hospital, while three are in stable condition, he said. Haiti police also have been unable to locate another officer. The United Nations called on Haitian authorities to clarify the circumstances surrounding the failed operative, reports the Miami Herald.
El Salvador
  • El Salvador President Nayib Bukele’s New Ideas party won control of Congress and the majority of the country’s municipalities. What it will do with this power is unclear, but its focus on removing corrupt politicians indicates a "focus on erasing the grip that El Salvador’s traditional parties have held on power for almost three decades," reports the Associated Press. Constitutional reforms and electoral court changes are in the offing.
  • Buenaventura is in the midst of a wave of intense gang violence, spurred by a turf war between two competing groups, Los Espártanos and Los Chotas. Criminal groups vying for control of illegal economies in the Colombian port city, have long caused violence, but residents say it has become more intense recently. In addition, the city’s majority Afro-Colombian population lacks access to necessities like clean water, decent jobs, and educational opportunities. Residents are calling for major policy changes to address both the current conflict and underlying issues, reports NACLA.
  • An electoral court in Ecuador ruled against the appeal for a vote recount by indigenous leader Yaku Pérez. (AFP)
  • Chile's government announced a raft of new economic measures, last week, aimed at helping middle class families stay afloat amid a wave of Covid-19 contagion and lockdowns. (Reuters)
  • Tourism dependent Caribbean economies risk becoming "Covid-19 longhaulers" as the impact of pandemic restrictions drags out. Seizing the global recovery will require a nimble combination of short- and medium-term policies, such as debt sustainability and pivoting to lower-density eco-sustainable tourism, argue Krishna Srinivasan, Sònia Muñoz, and Ding Ding at "IMF Country Focus."
  • The Cuban government's recent economic reforms -- which vastly broaden the private sector --  will not have the desired impact without supporting legislation and other steps, writes Ricardo Torres at the AULA blog.
  • An Argentine judge ordered a man to pay his ex girlfriend in recognition of the value of her unpaid care and domestic work over eight years of cohabitation. The decision was couched in terms of "gender perspective and human rights," and the judge said the woman's unpaid labor contributed to the patrimonial growth of her boyfriend. (Infobae)
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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