Friday, July 30, 2021

Castillo's controversial PM (July 30, 2021)

Peru's new president, Pedro Castillo, named far-left lawmaker Guido Bellido, as prime minister yesterday. The appointment of Bellido, a member of the Marxist Peru Libre party, is a rapid blow to hopes that Castillo would lead a moderate government.  (See yesterday's post.)

Bellido is being investigated for alleged “apology for terrorism”, a crime in Peru. In an interview with local media in April, he defended members of the Shining Path, the Maoist rebel group that killed tens of thousands of Peruvians in the 1980s and 90s in an attempt to seize power. The choice has alienated potential political allies, which will further complicate matters for Castillo, who faces a fragmented, opposition-dominated Congress.

The appointment is a clear signal of the power Vladimir Cerrón, the controversial Marxist leader of the Peru Libre party, could wield in the new government, reports El Comercio. The choice is a "low blow for those who, from progressive, anti-Fujimori, and politically centrist positions, backed Pedro Castillo in the second round," laments La República in an editorial.

He swore-in an incomplete cabinet last night that includes several figures from the far left and only two women, reports the Guardian. Castillo did not appoint a finance minister, and Pedro Francke, the favorite for the post, was seen leaving the venue minutes before the ceremony began, sparking questions over whether he had rejected or lost the job at the last minute, reports Reuters.

News Briefs

  • Many mayors in Latin America provide a respite from their countries' hyper-polarized national politics -- and will lead the region's Covid-19 recovery, argues Rugene Zapata-Garesché in Americas Quarterly's new "Mayors Issue." "As the pandemic transforms almost every aspect of urban living, mayors are realizing this might be a once-in-a-generation opportunity for a more resilient long-term transformation."
  • Law enforcement across Latin America is breaking into dissidents’ phones, often forcing them to turn over their passcodes or fingerprints, reports Rest of World. "Seized smartphones have become a trove of information for law enforcement officials hoping to build cases against social movements and opposition leaders."
  • Moïse's widow, Martine, spoke to the New York Times, her first interview since the attack. The Haitian government's official story involves an elaborate plot by doctor and pastor, Christian Emmanuel Sanon, who officials say conspired to hire the Colombian mercenaries to kill the president and seize political power. But many Haitians, including Moïse say the story doesn't explain how the plot was financed, and believe there must be a mastermind who gave orders and money.
  • "More than three weeks after Mr. Moïse was shot to death at his residence near Port-au-Prince, apparently by Colombian mercenaries, the motives, financing and authors of the plot to murder him remain opaque, fueling anger that is deepening the country’s social rifts and instability," argues a Washington Post editorial.
  • A group of people allegedly linked to Haitian President Jovenel Moïse's assassination apparently participated in a meeting discuss an elaborate (and fictitious) U.S. government plan to bust drug trafficking Haitian government officials using Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration agents. The plan was apparently bogus, reports the Miami Herald, which follows the "ongoing multinational whodunit investigation that so far has not revealed who is behind the murder or who financed it."
  • Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry will need international support to guide the country out of its acute crisis, but even that may not be enough, experts told the Latin America Advisor. "Henry sits atop a political and social volcano, and he lacks the government, police and judiciary tools with which to prevent further eruptions," writes Fulton Armstrong, senior fellow at American University’s Center for Latin American & Latino Studies
  • "Without radical improvements in security, safe elections are impossible," argues the Washington Post editorial board, while noting the dangers of even short-term international intervention.
  • Cuban protests this month respond to the government's hardening of political restrictions, President Miguel Díaz-Canel's autocratic backsliding, argue Javier Corrales and Scott Brasesco in Americas Quarterly. "Díaz-Canel is not only re-autocratizing Cuba, he is also reinforcing Cuba’s system of white supremacy" and backtracking on LGBTQ rights.
  • Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso's attempts to return the country towards neoliberal economic policies will be challenged by the country's "underlying political and economic pathologies," which "bode ill for its governability and democratic stability," write John Polga-Hecimovich and Francisco Sánchez at the Aula Blog.
  • Chile’s government has allowed people to withdraw funds from their pensions to weather the coronavirus crisis, but the decision could leave millions without a lifeline in old age, reports Al Jazeera.
  • A groundbreaking study of around 700 Brazilian municipalities found that those with female mayors had, on average, at least 37 percent fewer COVID-19 deaths per capita than those with male mayors, reports Foreign Policy's Latin America Brief. Along with seeing fewer of their constituents die from COVID-19, female mayors were found to have implemented non-drug interventions like mask-wearing and social distancing requirements more than their male counterparts did.
  • Karapiru Awá Guajá, among the last of the hunter-gatherer Awá tribe, died recently of Covid. Survival International, a group working for the rights of indigenous people, describes Karapiru’s “extraordinary warmth and kindness," despite surviving a massacre that killed most of his family -- Guardian
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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