Thursday, June 3, 2021

Chamorro detained in Nicaragua (June 3, 2021)

Nicaraguan police detained Cristiana Chamorro, a prominent opposition leader and presidential candidate, yesterday on money laundering charges. Critics say President Daniel Ortega's government has trumped up charges in order to sideline Chamorro ahead of November's election. (See Tuesday's post.) Earlier this week, prosecutors announced that they had lodged charges against Chamorro, and asked the country’s electoral tribunal to bar her from running or holding public office.

Police raided Chamorro’s home in the capital, Managua, and after being on site for more than five hours, they placed her “under house arrest, in isolation”, her brother, journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro said on Twitter. Press reports said police forcefully kept Chamorro’s friends and family, as well as journalists, away from the scene. The raid came right before Chamorro was set to speak to reporters for a scheduled press conference.

The Ortega government accused Chamorro of "abusive management" and "ideological falsehood" because of her role running the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation for Reconciliation and Democracy, a press freedom group. Two people associated with the organization were detained last week and remain in-communicated. (See May 21's post.) The latest move is one in a series of actions targeting opposition leaders and media, including stripping the legal registration from one party and passing a law allowing authorities to disqualify candidates as “traitors to the homeland.”

Opposition parties in a joint statement accused Ortega of “unleashing a witch hunt” against candidates because he “fears going to a free, transparent and observed” election.

International voices were also critical: The Organization of American States warned Nicaragua was “heading for the worst possible elections." U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken tweeted: "Arbitrarily banning opposition leader @chamorrocris reflects Ortega’s fear of free and fair elections. Nicaraguans deserve real democracy."

“The Biden administration and the European Union should condemn, in unison, this plan to impede free elections,” tweeted José Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director for Human Rights Watch.

The Alianza Ciudadana opposition coalition paused its candidate selection process in light of Chamorro's detention yesterday.

News Briefs

  • Brazil is backsliding. Jair Bolsonaro and Covid-19 are but the latest in a decade of disasters, argues Sarah Maslin in "On the brink," an Economist special report. "Before the pandemic, Brazil was suffering from a decade of political and economic ailments. With Mr Bolsonaro as its doctor, it is now in a coma."
  • The area of Brazil that is richest in biodiversity and natural resources is among the least developed and most destitute. "The consensus is that environmental enforcement must go hand­ in ­hand with sustainable development," writes Maslin in the report. "What that looks like is debated."
  • Pot-banging protests erupted across several cities in Brazil yesterday evening as Bolsonaro gave an address, reports AFP. (See Tuesday's briefs.)
  • The case of Brazilian General Eduardo Pazuello, Bolsonaro's former health minister and now "secretary of strategic studies," is a canary in the coal mine for military brass concerned that the armed forces are too entangled with an unpopular government and its shaky handling of the pandemic, reports Reuters.
  • Guatemala’s President Alejandro Giammattei criticized the country’s best-known graft prosecutor -- Juan Francisco Sandoval -- for what he said was a left-wing politicization of the fight against corruption. To tackle the root causes of migration, the United States should focus on countering drug trafficking, which has “corrupted the political system,” Giammattei told Reuters. He spoke days before U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will visit the country.
Regional Relations
  • U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will try to deepen the United States' "strategic partnership and bilateral relationship" with Guatemala and Mexico on her first foreign trip as vice president, according to her senior staff members. (CNN)
  • The U.S. Biden administration is more rhetorically attuned to Latin American concerns, and the president's legacy and foreign policy team suggest a return to liberal internationalism, including an emphasis on multilateralism. "However, deeper multilateral cooperation entails risks of U.S. overreach, and Biden’s priorities suggest that cooperation would encompass issues where numerous Latin American governments are not eager to mess with the status quo," warns Tom Long in Nacla. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Colombia began what its government called a gradual opening of its border with Venezuela after a 14-month closure intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus. (Reuters)
  • Thousands of Colombians took to the streets again yesterday amid a deadlock in talks between the government and leaders of anti-government protests that are stretching into their second month, reports Al Jazeera. (See Monday's post.)
  • The Colombian government has announced the demise of one of the country's more aggressive criminal groups, Los Caparros, but the fluid way in which the group was formed, its numerous alliances with other non-state armed groups and the chances that its members may be recruited elsewhere, make the government's declaration somewhat hollow, warns InSight Crime.
  • Peru's presidential runoff on Sunday has also turned into a referendum on the continuity of the country's neoliberal economic model, writes Omar Awapara in a New York Times Español opinion piece.
  • Though the "Washington Consensus" policies have spared many countries in the region from devastating economic crises, in the past decade Latin America failed to achieve what mattered most: durable economic growth, paving the way for voter swings against the establishment, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Among voters, socioeconomic status continues to be a primary determinant of political preference, notes the Latin America Risk Report.
  • The international community has remained largely silent on the question of Haiti's controversial upcoming constitutional referendum, but its policies are going a long way toward ensuring the controversial referendum takes place as scheduled, writes Jake Johnston at CEPR
  • Ecuador’s newly-installed President Guillermo Lasso named a former executive of state oil company Petroamazonas as the country’s new energy minister. (Reuters)
  • Giant distant-water fishing fleets, primarily from China, are switching off their tracking beacons to evade detection while they engage in possibly illegal hunts on the very edge of Argentina’s extensive fishing grounds, according to a new study by Oceana. (Guardian)
Critter Corner
  • A wild giant river otter sighting in Argentina excited conservationists who feared the animal was extinct in the country due to habitat loss and hunting, reports the Guardian. The last sighting of a giant otter in the wild in Argentina was in the 1980s.
  • Sloths are popular creatures in the exotic pet trade, due to their cute demeanor and placid nature -- but their trafficking has often gone underreported aside from a few important legal cases, reports InSight Crime.
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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