Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Gang attack in Haiti's Bel Air neighborhood (April 4, 2021)

 News Briefs


  • Several people burned to death in a gang attack on Port-au-Prince's Bel Air neighborhood last Thursday. The assault on residents inside the poor, pro-opposition neighborhood was the third large attack in less than two years, and was perpetrated by gang members affiliated with Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier, a fired policeman-turned-powerful gang chief who is wanted in several massacres, reports the Miami Herald.
  • In a separate incident last week, gunmen kidnapped a Haitian pastor and three others during a ceremony that was streamed live on Facebook. Footage was widely shared on social media in a country plagued by soaring violence, reports Reuters.
  • Haiti does not have a single coronavirus vaccine to offer its more than 11 million people over a year after the Covid-10 pandemic began, reports the Associated Press. So far, Haiti is slated to receive only 756,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through COVAX, but delays are expected because Haiti missed a paperwork deadline.
  • Nicaragua is rolling out its coronavirus vaccination program with the same secrecy and doubt that have characterized its pandemic response over the past year, reports the Guardian. President Daniel Ortega has promised “vaccines for all” but has not published any plans for the rollout, nor given details on which groups will be prioritized.
  • Reporting on the conflict between Venezuelan security forces and armed groups in Venezuela's Apure state has been limited, in part due to repression of media and NGOs, write Kristen Martinez-Gugerli and Geoff Ramsey in the Venezuela Weekly. Last week security forces detained a group of two journalists and two members of local NGO Fundaredes who were attempting to report on the crisis. They were freed a day later, "but their case highlights the difficulty that journalists and human rights groups face in getting reliable information on the ground."
  • Estimates of the combat’s toll are high and testimonies indicate significant human rights violations: Venezuelan soldiers and members of the notorious Police Special Actions Forces (FAES) unit raiding homes, looting possessions, dragging people into the street and beating them, forcing people to hold weapons while photographing them, detaining people and holding them incommunicado, and massacring a family in El Ripial, presenting the dead as combatants. At the moment it is impossible to predict whether the violence will die down or escalate, reports Colombia Peace.
  • The Venezuelan government's last minute rejection of Covax facility Astra Zeneca coronavirus vaccines demonstrates Chavismo's disinterest in negotiations, and that it is "willing to use the disease and even death to obtain a benefit," argues Alberto Barrera Tyszka in the New York Times Español. (See last Wednesday's briefs on possibilities for negotiations.)
  • Colombia's coca eradication policies have been forceful, but ineffective, reports Global Americans: "The country remains the world’s largest illicit coca producer, a distinction it has suffered since the late 1990s. Despite massive eradication–which often means the re-eradication of recovered or replanted crops–coca cultivation has soared." 
  • Colombia will extend coronavirus restrictions based on intensive care unit occupancy rates, President Iván Duque announced yesterday. (Reuters)
  • The P.1 Covid-19 variant that surfaced in Manaus, Brazil, has pushed South America's hospitals to the border of collapse, reports the Washington Post.
  • As Covid deaths climb, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro seems to be throwing the country into an abyss that will be difficult to escape from, argues Celso Amorim, former foreign minister, in the Guardian. A key danger for democracy moving forward will be the loyalty Bolsonaro commands from informal groups, such as the militias, as well as the majority of the state military police, warns Amorim. (See last Friday's briefs, last Thursday's post, and last Wednesday's post.)
  • The coronavirus and Bolsonaro are jeopardizing the survival of Indigenous peoples and the future of the next human generation, argues Eliane Brum in the New York Times. Indigenous organizations have accused Bolsonaro of using the pandemic to push their communities toward extinction. The protection of the rainforest, the Indigneous groups that live there, and controlling the coronavirus pandemic are all linked, she explains, and the government is failing on all fronts.
  • Peruvians head to the polls on Sunday in presidential elections, which will almost certainly head to a runoff vote, as no candidate is polling above ten percent. There are 18 candidates vying for the presidency, and a second-round would take place in June. Right-wing candidate Yonhy Lescano is leading, so to speak, the latest poll has him at ten percent, followed by leftist Veronika Mendoza with nine percent and liberal economist Hernán de Soto also at nine percent. Other polls last week had Keiko Fujimori in second place, tied with former football player George Forsyth. (Al JazeeraDeutsche Welle)
  • That the leading five candidates’ combined support does not hit 50 percent is pretty bad, even in a country with a history of disdain towards the entire political class, writes Simon Tegel in World Politics Review. "That likely spells trouble for the eventual winner—and Peruvian governance in general."
  • Argentine President Alberto Fernández announced he has Covid-19, albeit a mild case. His personal physician He was vaccinated with the Russian Sputnik V, raising concerns that his infection could increase vaccine skepticism. (New York Times)
  • An investigation by Argentine media outlet El Destape found that several judges who played a key role in investigating Kirchner government officials visited then-president Mauricio Macri at the presidential residence, often just before key judicial decisions against former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
  • The visits were uncovered through a freedom of information request on the official visits log to the presidential palace. Página 12 contrasted the report with that obtained by NGO Poder Ciudadano in 2019, and found that in that instance the Macri administration withheld information about visits from judges and prosecutors who led cases against the previous government.
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador lashed out against a U.S. report that criticized his government's failure to protect journalists. AMLO also singled out press freedom group Article 19, which was cited as a source, in an outburst reflecting his disdain for civil society groups. AMLO's supporters subsequently accused the organization of civil society of promoting a coup with foreign financing. The attacks on Article 19 set off a social media firestorm, reports the Guardian.
  • Mexico’s Covid crisis has made fewer international headlines than the catastrophes in the US and Brazil, but new death toll statistics published last week indicate a comparable calamity, reports the Guardian.
  • Increasing Mexican taxes on the rich would benefit the country's middle class -- but they seem blind to the fact, argues Viri Rios in the New York Times Español.
  • As U.S. officials look to Central America to address the "root causes" of migration, perhaps they should look closer to home, suggests Christopher Landau in a New York Times op-ed. "No one is holding American employers to account for their willingness to hire millions of unauthorized immigrants."
  • deepening food crisis in parts of Guatemala is contributing to the migration surge that has captured headlines over the past month, reports the Washington Post. Analysts and U.S. officials refer obliquely to “poverty” as an underlying cause of that influx. But often the reason is far more specific: hunger.
  • new vaccine for Covid-19 that is entering clinical trials in Brazil, Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam could change how the world fights the pandemic, reports the New York Times.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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