Thursday, May 20, 2021

Root causes run deep (May 20, 2021)

News Briefs

  • The United States has urged would-be Central American migrants to stay home. But, the situation for many is profoundly desperate, writes Carlos Martínez in a stirring chronicle for El Faro. "Honduras is a poor, deeply inequitable, and violent country. Its soul has been possessed by criminal organizations. On top of it all, last year the country was ravaged by two hurricanes in less than a month. How can you stay home when you don’t have one?"
  • The U.S.-Mexico border "is the place where two worlds collide. The desperation of Central American migrants and the politics of the United States," reports the Washington Post in a multimedia essay with testimony from migrants.
Regional Relations
  • U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris met with a group of Guatemalan anti-corruption leaders -- two former chief prosecutors, Thelma Aldana and Claudia Paz y Paz, and two former judges, Gloria Porras and Claudia Escobar. They spoke about Guatemala’s troubled justice system, sending yet another signal to Central American governments that the U.S. government is interested in addressing the region’s corruption, reports the Associated Press. Harris is scheduled to make her first trip abroad as vice president to Guatemala and Mexico on June 7 and 8.
  • Guatemalan judges dropped a graft charge against former president Otto Pérez Molina yesterday, and police arrested Juan Francisco Solorzano Foppa, a former prosecutor who was part of a team that revealed the first case of corruption against Pérez Molina. (Reuters)
El Salvador
  • Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele said geopolitics is behind U.S. accusations that senior officials in his officials are corrupt. He also lauded China’s US$500 million investment in public investments in El Salvador “without conditions," even as the U.S. is conditioning aid on good governance, reports Reuters. (See Tuesday's briefs.) 
  • Former Brazilian Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello denied that President Jair Bolsonaro had overturned his efforts to buy the Chinese-made Sinovac coronavirus vaccine. "The president never told me to undo any contract or agreement with Butantan," Pazuello, a three-star general in active duty, told a Senate commission investigating the handling of the pandemic in Brazil. Senators reminded the general that he had announced plans to buy the Chinese vaccine in October, only to reverse himself after Bolsonaro dismissed the idea publicly the next day, reports Reuters.
  • Brazilian federal police raided the environmental minister's home yesterday, part of an investigation into the illegal export of Amazon timber. (See yesterday's briefs.) Federal police said they had launched their investigation – named after the indigenous deity Akuanduba – in January after receiving information “from foreign authorities suggesting the possible misconduct of Brazilian civil servants in the export of timber," reports the Guardian. (See also Veja.)
  • Haiti has authorized the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as COVID-19 cases surge following months of delays in getting jabs, reports the Miami Herald.

  • The anti-kidnapping unit of Colombia's national police hopes to help Haiti tackle its epidemic of abductions for ransom, reports Reuters.
  • The New York Times Interpreter looks at how police violence can turn protests into mass movements, as has happened in Colombia.
  • Ecuadorian Indigenous politician Yaku Pérez, who came in third in this year's presidential elections, said he is stepping down from the Pachakutik movement he has led. He said he will return to activism, and criticized his party's alliance with president-elect Guillermo Lasso, reports AFP. (See Monday's briefs.)
  • The incoming president’s market-friendly agenda will face strong headwinds, Lasso will enter the presidential palace with a weak mandate, limited fiscal resources and plenty of opponents in Congress, reports Americas Quarterly.
  • Isolated indigenous and afro-descendent families in Ecuador were particularly affected by pandemic school closures. The lack of smartphones, internet connectivity and a drop in income for their parents became a major obstacle to their children's continued schooling. The response was to relaunch community schools that promote their cultural identity and language, the protection of the local environment and whose teachers are also part of the community, reports the Guardian in a photo essay.
  • Relative to population, Argentina now has the highest number of Covid deaths per day in the world, with 16.46 Covid fatalities per million on Tuesday, far exceeding its giant neighbour Brazil, which saw 11.82 per million. ICUs are already stretched to breaking point across Argentina, with more than 90% of ICU beds occupied in the main provinces of Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Neuquén and the nation’s capital. (Guardian)
  • Thousands of Peruvian indigenous people living near major mining projects face a health crisis after testing positive for high levels of metals and toxic substances, according to a new Amnesty International report. (AFP)
  • Pie de Página reports how an Indigenous group destroyed a gas pipeline built on their territory without proper consultation. "After an assembly, the entire community went to where the pipeline was being laid. There, they excavated and cut out with a blowtorch nearly ten kilometers of pipeline, which they then took to Ciudad Obregón to sell as scrap metal."
  • Mexico City is the fastest sinking urban area in the world -- Mother Jones.
  • Darwin’s Arch, an iconic rock formation that for years was a much-photographed destination for tourists visiting the Galápagos Islands, collapsed due to natural erosion. Some locals who work in the tourism and dive industry have now nicknamed the remaining rock towers the “Pillars of Evolution." (Washington Post)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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