Friday, July 23, 2021

Democracy in Brazil, Nicaragua and Mexico (July 23, 2021)

Democracy in the region seemed relatively unquestioned just a few short years ago. But democratic rules and values are openly being questioned and today's top section features Brazil, Nicaragua and Mexico though Cuba, Haiti and Peru could fit in this section as well. Two weeks ago Mark Malloch-Brown wrote about important work on renewing the fight for democracy. This 24-hour news cycle affirms that in spades.

  • Brazil's Bolsonaro may be laying conditions for a coup, reports the Washington Post and echoed in Foreign Policy. (Earlier this week O Estadão reported on Brazil's Secretary of Defense making provocative comments about the upcoming elections. The Ministry of Defense questioned the reporting on Twitter and the newspaper held firm on their reporting.)  Several prominent Brazilian politicians spoke out firmly against any talk of coups and expressed full-fledged support of democracy, according to Reuters. Brazil is "no banana republic," said the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate "assured Brazilians that the 2022 election will take place, either with printed or electronic ballots.".
  • The Washington Post emphasizes: "Bolsonaro’s increasingly brazen comments escalate a months-long, Trump-style campaign to erode faith in the electoral system and transform its processes into a high-stakes political struggle. ... [Brazil] confronts a paradox that will be familiar to Americans: The man leading the assault on its electoral process is the very person most recently awarded its highest office." 
  • The Wilson Center held a forum with Berta Valle and Victoria Cárdenas, the spouses of two jailed Nicaraguan presidential candidates, on "Nicaragua's Simmering Crisis and the U.S. Policy Response" in anticipation of the November 7 elections. Both Valle and Cárdenas met with U.S. members of Congress on Capitol Hill, according to Confidencial. It has been 45 days since Juan Sebastián Chamorro and Félix Maradiaga were arrested; four other candidates have been detained.
  • U.S. foreign policy is promoting failure in Nicaragua, according to CounterPunch. "Out of $88 million in cash and other aid sent to Central American countries to tackle COVID-19, Nicaragua’s government received nothing. Nicaragua is also one of the few Latin American countries to have received no U.S. vaccine donations so far. Instead, U.S. sanctions deterred international bodies like the World Bank from investing in the country until they restarted in response to the pandemic."
  • Mexico’s electoral agency fined the party of Nuevo León gubernatorial candidate $2.75 million because "he got prohibited support from his influencer wife’s social media posts," according to the Associated Press and El Universal. She has almost 2 million followers on Instagram; she posted at least 1,300 posts about her husband during the campaign. "The electoral agency says Rodríguez’ social media accounts are a business, and the law forbids businesspeople from making in-kind donations. The analogy would be if a candidate’s spouse owned a trucking or catering firm, they would be prohibited from donating food or transportation to the campaign." President López Obrador said it was "normal" for a wife to speak glowingly of her husband, according to El Financiero. "The dispute has raised questions of electoral fairness, freedom of speech and women’s rights," according to the Associated Press.


  • Violence has returned to Haiti as the country proceeds with today's state funeral for the slain president, according to the New York Times and the Washington Post. The White House announced the U.S. delegation which includes Juan Gonzalez, President Biden’s top adviser on Latin America; Rep. Jeff Fortenberry; Amb. Michele Sison; Rep. Gregory Meeks; and Daniel Foote, who yesterday was named special envoy for Haiti. These very signatures have had to "rush for cover" this morning as a result of the ongoing violence, according to Reuters. (Earlier today, The Times had reported that "there were no signs of the protests that had raged in the city the previous evening, and the streets were clear but dark — there was no electricity." 
  • The Colombian wives of the accused assassins of President Moïse are trying to repatriate their husbands bodies, according to interviews by the Washington Post. "Such hires are common among former Colombian soldiers ... who are often willing to work for low salaries, in international terms."

  • The Biden administration's responses to the Cuba protests and the crackdown were detailed in a Fact Sheet and reported on by the Miami Herald. This will include sanctions on the 'Black Berets' (Boinas Negras) unit deployed to curb unrest, according to the Financial Times and the New York TImes.
  • "Flat Footed Democrats let Florida Republicans steal the spotlight on Cuba," is the headline of a Miami Herald editorial. "Florida's top-ranking Republicans were center stage Wednesday night during a live town hall broadcast nationwide on Fox News. ... Republicans grasp the historical significance of the street demonstrations. For his part, Sen. Marco Rubio said yesterday that "all of the impediments to remittances to the people of Cuba are not on our side of it. It's on the Cuban side, on the regime side,” in an interview on NBC. Florida's Governor De Santis' hits Biden on Cuba suggestion, "he's basically sitting there, doing nothing, reports The Independent. Spain isn't doing anything either, according to a column in the El Nuevo Heraldo in Miami.
  • The Mexican Navy is sending supplies and relief to Cuba, according to Reuters. And former Colombian senator Piedad Córdoba accused some in Latin America of having a double standard when they "minimize the mass protests in Ecuador and Colombia, [but] put a magnifying glass on the demonstrations in Cuba and Florida," according to her column in Las 2 Orillas and Cuba's state agency Prensa Latina.
  • Cuba's protests have indeed dissipated but the worsening economy ensures they will return quickly unless there are structural changes in the economy, according to the Washington Post's Nick Miroff.

  • Mexico's Attorney General is coming under significant scrutiny for not speaking truthfully about the deleterious impact of Pegasus on the Mexican government, according to La Jornada and Proceso based on Citizen Lab research. Some past government officials are being caught in apparent lies, according to Animal Político.
  • Animal Político is investigating the web of who was responsible for purchasing and using Pegasus. The spying and eavesdropping scandal in Mexico may go far beyond Pegasus and includes up to seven malicious software companies like FinFisher, Galileo and DaVinci, reports Sin Embargo.  Pegasus is simply the Trojan horse that proves how fragile our digital world is, argues a column in El Economista.

  • Colombian senator María Fernanda Cabal wants to legalize guns as a response to crime, according to Vice. The "Trump-loving" senator from Cali believes the U.S. is a model for gun violence: more guns. (The article does not mention that she has all but announced her candidacy for the presidency, according to Radio Caracol.)
  • The U.S. Army's website reports that "commanding generals from U.S. Army South and the Colombian Army are meeting in Bogotá" in what appears to be a protocol setting.

El Salvador
  • An arrest warrant has been issued by El Salvador's Attorney General for former President Salvador Sánchez Ceren and nine other top officials from a past administration as a result of a money laundering and corruption investigation, according to Reuters and Al Jazeera. So far five have been detained but Sánchez Ceren is out of the country.


  • The New York Times fills in the backstory on Argentina's push for gender equality where you can now have your "gender marked as an X on their national identity documents and passports if they do not identify as either female or male." President Fernández acknowledged that this is not a perfect solution, tipping his hat to those who say, "we are not ‘X’.” Ferrnández imagined the day when "everyone would be referred to in gender-neutral terms." This is not a stand-along measure: "Late last year, Argentina made history by becoming the most populous country in Latin America to legalize abortion,; it has also legalized marijuana cultivation for medicinal use."
  • Argentina's Foreign Minister says that Brazil has done all it can to stifle Mercosur, in an interview with Brazil's O Globo and highlighted in the Buenos Aires Times.

  • Russia owes Argentina 18.5m doses of the Sputnik vaccine, "leaving Argentina in a ‘very critical situation’ with only 12% fully vaccinated," according to The Guardian.
  • The efficacy of China's Corona-Vac is questioned, according to a Wilson Center blog. (The article is a lot more categorical than it probably should be: "The reason for Chile’s unexpected struggles? Its reliance on the CoronaVac vaccine, produced by the Chinese company Sinovac, as well as a rushed reopening and a premature tapering of social distancing."

U.S. - Mexico Border
  • An asylum seeker from El Salvador talks about getting "stuck in a Mexican border camp," in a Washington Post podcast.
  • U.S. military veteran Ramon Castro is walking the 2,000 miles of the Mexican-U.S. border "to draw attention to the plight of U.S. veterans sent back to their countries of birth, some as a result of infractions like drug use that Castro said are associated with mental health struggles," according to Reuters.
  • Texas has begun arresting migrants on trespassing charges as part of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's new charges, according to the Associated Press

  • Pedro Castillo's chances at success are assessed by Renato Cisneros, a Peruvian journalist based in Spain in an op-ed in the NYT Opinión. His tepid conclusion: Castillo only has a chance if he governs for all. 

  • The Olympics in Japan started this morning and Axios highlights an array of athletes from all around Latin America. 

Drones, Drugs and Jails
  • Narco Drones Got Caught Delivering Drugs to a Prison in Chile, according to Bio Bio and followed up on by Vice.

Jordana takes back the reins of this news summary on Monday. 
Thank you all for your comments and suggestions these past two weeks. Eduardo

Latin America Daily Briefing 


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