Monday, June 14, 2021

Ortega arrests more opponents (June 14, 2021)

Nicaraguan authorities arrested five more prominent opponents of President Daniel Ortega. There have now been 12 opponents detained since June 2. This weekend's round up suggests Ortega has moved beyond arresting potential rival candidates in the Nov. 7 elections, and has begun arresting any prominent member of the opposition, reports the Associated Press

This is not a transition to dictatorship, it is a dictatorship in every way," said former general and Sandinista dissident Hugo Torres before his detention Sunday.  Police also arrested prominent ex-Sandinista dissident Dora María Téllez, another opposition leader, Ana Margarita Vijil, Suyen Barahona, leader of the political movement Unamos, and Tamara Dávila, who was active in Unamos. Unamos is made up of many former Ortega allies, who fought alongside him in the late 1970s as they drove right-wing dictator Anastasio Somoza from power. (Confidencial, Confidencial)

Nicaragua’s National Police arrested the four opposition pre-candidates earlier this month. (See last Wednesday's post.) Most of the opponents have been detained under the so-called "Guillotine Law," ostensibly aimed at defending the country's sovereignty. Other measures passed in the past year target foreign financing, and can be used to silence critical voices.

Critical journalists have also been questioned by authorities in recent weeks, notes Reuters. The attorney general's office has threatened to deploy the same controversial laws against media outlets, reports Confidencial.

The rapid pace of Ortega's crackdown against opposition figures has surprised even close observers and critics who flagged his government's erosion of democratic rule in the country over the past 15 years, reports Univisión. A lot will depend on the response of Catholic Church and local business leaders, the traditional power brokers in Nicaragua, according to journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro. (See Friday's briefs.)

"It is not just a strategy of strength, of internal control, but also a defiant outward message: Ortega acts with arrogant impunity, as if the international community's reaction does not overly concern him," writes Alberto Barrera Tyszka in New York Times Español.

The OAS will vote tomorrow on whether to invoke the organization’s Democratic Charter, effectively expelling Nicaragua for violating its terms of membership.

News Briefs

  • Corruption drives people to flee Central America's Northern Triangle, but combatting corruption alone is not enough to revitalize a democracy, argue Iván Velásquez and Pedro Abramovay in an Univisión opinion piece that cites landmark Brazilian and Guatemalan examples of anti-corruption battles. "The U.S. strategy must include robust efforts to strengthen democratic institutions, including civil society organizations and the press." To take full advantage of what civil society has to offer, the U.S. government will have to rethink its funding models, and make them more accessible to local actors, organizations, and movements, note Abramovay and Velásquez.
  • Many Central American women attempt to flee gender-based violence by going to the U.S., but a number of restrictive measures and rulings that directly affect domestic violence survivors remain in place and prevent them from obtaining refuge, reports the Washington Post.
  • The U.S. decision to make Guatemala its principal partner in the troubled Northern Triangle region – the largest source of irregular migration to the US – is a recognition of the country’s strategic geographic location as well as its president’s status as arguably the lesser of evils, reports the Guardian. (See last Tuesday's post.)
  • Pedro Castillo is on track to be Peru's next president, but right-wing opponent Keiko Fujimori has refused to concede. On Saturday she led a protest in Lima, calling again for the annulment of votes that did not favor her, reports Reuters.  International observers have said there is no evidence of fraud and that the election was clean. (See Friday's post.) Even if Fujimori were to succeed in annulling some votes, the number of votes still in play make it unlikely she would flip the result.
  • The polarized contest, a crossroads moment for the country, seems set to tilt Peru sharply to the left, reports Reuters separately.
  • Castillo ran as an anti-establishment leftist, but he is unlikely to govern as one, argues Michael Albertus in Foreign Policy.
  • The electoral drama in Peru was a generational reckoning, comparable to the recent upheavals in Chile and Colombia. But it was also the product of the specific political crises, writes Tony Wood in the Guardian.
  • A New York Times investigation — based on years of government records, interviews with people who worked on the construction, and expert analysis of evidence from the crash site — has found serious flaws in the basic construction of the Mexico City metro that appear to have led directly to the collapse last month that killed 26 people. The disaster has already spiraled into a political crisis, threatening to ensnare two of the nation’s most powerful figures: the president’s foreign secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, and one of the world’s wealthiest businessmen, Carlos Slim.
  • Mexico's recent midterm elections show that political parties that hope to challenge President Andrés Manuel López Obrador still haven’t learned the lessons from the 2018 election, argues David Agren in Global Americans.
  • The Prodh Center has documented more than 30 cases in which Mexican public security agents have used sexual torture to carry out arrests against women and coerce them into participating in criminal investigations. (Voices)
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, speaking to a rally of bikers on Saturday, said he could count on police officers "whatever happens." It is the latest example of how he has sought to court security officers ahead of politically polarized presidential elections next year. Bolsonaro said the country's state military police forces serve as a support to what he dubbed "my army." (Reuters)
  • The Copa América soccer tournament is set to start this week in Brazil, despite widespread opposition and concern it could spur coronavirus contagion. In a country where politics and soccer have long mingled, analysts see political desperation in Bolsonaro’s sudden decision to host the games, reports the Washington Post.
  • Venezuelan officials said last week the country's government has been unable to complete a payment required to receive coronavirus vaccines because transfers to the global COVAX vaccine program had been blocked.
  • Chile’s center-left became the great winner of second round regional elections held Sunday after winning most of the governorships, including that of the capital, with 99.9 percent of votes counted. (EFE)
  • Argentina has arrested Walther Klug Rivera, a Chilean fugitive wanted for dozens of murders committed during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. (AFP)
  • Argentine President Alberto Fernández's ill-chosen words on his country's supposed European provenance demonstrate that Argentina still needs a frank conversation on race, writes Sylvia Colombo in a New York Times Español opinion piece. His racist phrase "reveals the negation of mestizo and Black roots of his society, which underlies the formation of Argentine cultural identity: resistance to recognize that the country was forged through a complicated, and sometimes brutal, mixing, like the rest of the region, is strongly rooted." (See last Thursday's briefs.)
  • A new investigation, "La Reacción Consevadora," looks at the coalescing "alt-right" movement in Argentina. (Página 12)
  • The pandemic crisis of desolation affecting Buenos Aires' downtown could become an opportunity to rethink the city's urban dynamics, argues local lawmaker Manuel Socias in 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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