Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Finally, Peru's New President (July 20, 2021)


Peru's National Electoral Tribunal (JNE) pronounced Pedro Castillo the winner of the June 7 presidential elections, according to the New York Times and Andina, the country's official news agency. Inauguration Day is July 28, when the country celebrates its Bicentennial year. The 44,000 voter point spread did not change since the vote counting concluded on June 15. In this era of elections during a pandemic, the new president was invited to appear on the Zoom call when Castillo's name was announced by the JNE. A Bloomberg video captured the exuberance by the crowd after the elected president's speech last night; among the cheers, "We are not terrorists but rather people from the provinces." ("No somos terroristas, somos provincianos.")
  • The AP adds that, "historians say he is the first peasant to become president of Peru." Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal explains that "the rise of Mr. Castillo, a former schoolteacher from the rural Andes, underscores how the pandemic can fuel a backlash against the ruling class in hard-hit countries"
  • Losing candidate Keiko Fujimori put out a short video with mixed messages: while she recognizes the official result “because it is what the law” she insists that the JNE's declaration was “illegitimate” and that the truth “will come to light,” according to the Financial Times. For its part, the Associated Press started their story with a bit of melodrama, "A teacher in one of the poorest communities in the Andes who had never held office is now Peru’s president-elect."
  • "Two failed coup attempts in 7 months: first USA (November 2020-January 2021) and then Peru (June-July 2021). I'm exhausted,tweeted Steve Levitsky, director of Harvard's Latin American Center.


  • President Ivan Duque announced a new human rights office that will report to the nation’s police chief, and will be led by a retired colonel, according to the Associated Press. This follows weeks of protests in which officers were accused of killing at least two dozen demonstrators. "The new department will gather complaints from citizens and produce two reports each year on human rights issues."
  • The Guardian calls out the Colombian government as they support "freedom of expression in Cuba [while] police mount a brutal response to local activists." 

  • The Biden administration is set to make changes on Cuba policy including the U.S. remittance policy, increase humanitarian assistance, increasing staff at the U.S. Embassy in Havana to "better facilitate civil society engagement," and identify options to make the internet more accessible, according to the Associated PressReuters, and the Miami Herald. "The Trump administration tightened restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba, reversing the engagement policies from the Obama era." Trump policies resulted in Western Union no longer serving Cuba since early 2020, "leaving many Cuban Americans without a legal way to send remittances ... the second-largest source of revenue for the country and a lifeline for many families."
  • The Cuba Lex twitter feed continues to report on missing persons and identifying locations where some are held. The Wall Street Journal reports that "the whereabouts of hundreds of arrested demonstrators is unknown and others are being held incommunicado without charges."  
  • The death of Cuban Division General Agustin Peña on Sunday has unusual press coverage, some of it speculation. Cuba's Prensa Latina offers the official account while 14 y Medio offers a quick run down of questions surrounding his death. 
  • President Miguel Díaz-Canel accused Anonymous for systematically targeting Cuba with cyber terrorism through #OpCuba, according to 14 y Medio.
  • The Nation publishes a column that surveys an array of opinions from Capitol Hill.

  • The NY Times catches up with the shifts in power in Haiti as Ariel Henry expects to replace Claude Joseph today, a week after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. “Haiti has become a baseball being thrown between foreign diplomats,” says Joseph Lambert, the president of Haiti’s Senate who had presidential ambitions of his own until "the United States urged him to stand down." Samuel Madistin, a human rights lawyer, told NPR, "I don't think he can fix the problems we have now," and said Henry's appointment was problematic even before the assassination.  Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, the leader of Seeing Eye To Eye, told The Times, "it's as if they have replaced the Haitian people. It’s revolting. We need the accompaniment of a lot of countries but we can’t accept they make decisions in our place,” referring to the Core Group of international diplomats. 
  • Members of Henry’s cabinet were announced with the ministers of justice, economy, finance, agriculture and others keeping their positions, according to the Associated Press.
  • "How could the perpetrators, who were caught almost immediately, have pulled off such an audacious, Abbottabad-style commando raid on a guarded presidential compound without an apparent exit strategy?," asks a column in Slate. The answer: the Haiti assassination shows we live in an age of cheap, available mercenaries. (The article does not explain how or why Colombia's military has been so well funded - in weapons and training - over the last 20 years.)

  • Former Honduran President Porfirio Lobo Sosa and his family are banned from any travel in the U.S. for their "involvement in significant corruption," according to a press statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken and a follow-up in Reuters

  • In Ecuador, a woman found guilty of an illegal abortion can be sentenced for up to two years in jail, according to Al Jazeera based partly on last week's report from Human Rights Watch.

  • About 15,000 Mexicans including 50 people close to Mexico's president have their phone numbers show up in the spy investigation sparked by Project Pegasus." Mexico was the first country in the world to buy Pegasus when the defense ministry purchased it in 2011. Current President López Obrador says the spying is no longer taking place, according to Reuters.
  • Almost 6,000 Mexicans who speak indigenous languages are being jailed for not knowing, or having limited knowledge of, Spanish, according to El País.  In 85% of the cases, there were no interpreters available; 30% are jailed in pre-sentencing conditions. 

Democracy in Brazil and Venezuela
  • Brazil's democracy is crashing in slow motion, according to El País which reviews how the Bolsonaro government has been breaking social norms and agreements crafted over 36 years of democracy.

El Salvador
  • Amnesty International explains President Nayib Bukele "recipe for limiting the exercise of human rights" and its four ingredients including discrediting activists and harassing journalists.

  • Brazil authorizes trials with 3rd dose of AstraZeneca COVID vaccine Brazil's health regulator Anvisa said on Monday that it has approved trials with a third dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19, according to Reuters.
  • Peru announced the purchase of Sputnik vaccines from Russia, according to Andina. Until now the country has been applying Pfizer, Sinopharm and some Johnson & Johnson vaccines to its population. 
  • Fake doses of Remdesivir, the antiviral COVID-19 drug, has been found for sale in Mexico at a private hospital near the U.S. border and "offered for sale on the internet", reports the Associated Press. They were going for about $2,000 a dose.
  • The gendered effects of COVID-19 in Mexico is explored in a column in Modern Diplomacy. "Two of the largest factors ... are childcare and household responsibilities in combination with gender norms ...  Many could not transition to work from home."

The Environment
  • The Barbuda Ocean Beach Club and a new airport for its private-jet clientele is being scrutinized with "deep concern," by the U.N.'s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, according to The Independent.  "The developments are facing multiple legal complaints which allege dismantlement of Barbudans’ historical legacy and legal rights, and significant harm to fragile ecosystems."
  • 2.5 billion trees died in the recent drought in the Amazon and the region is at risk of a ‘large-scale dieback’, according to the Financial Times. "With droughts becoming more common and more intense, this means more tree mortality and less water being recycled." The story is based on a new Lancaster University report.

Caribbean Docs
  • The New York Times reviews two PBS documentaries, “Landfall” on Puerto Rico and “Stateless” about the Dominican Republic, and writes that "Caribbean narratives are rarely granted this kind of complexity onscreen."

It's Eduardo Romero here filling in for Jordana: let me know if I missed or misinterpreted something or perhaps you have a different take. 

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