Friday, August 6, 2021

Latin America Daily Briefing (Aug 6, 2021)

 News Briefs

  • Amnesty International is calling on the government of Haiti to protect the families of a murdered journalist and an opposition activist who were gunned down in Port-au-Prince in June. Since the killing, family members and close confidants of the victims have told Amnesty International that both had received threats prior to their murder, and that they themselves are now facing intimidation for speaking to the authorities, reports the Miami Herald.
  • A week after Peruvian President Pedro Castillo took office, his approval rating is at 39 percent. A new Datum poll found that nearly half the country believes that Vladimir Cerrón is the power behind the throne and only 5 percent of respondents prioritize calling a constituent assembly, one of Castillo's campaign proposals.
  • Castillo has prioritized the country's relations with China in his first week. Administration officials have met with the Chinese ambassador and Chinese mining executives to discuss industry policies, but also to strengthen a previous free trade agreement first signed in 2009, according to Reuters.
  • A new Guardian series on Covid’s global political impact kicked off with a piece on how the pandemic has fuelled social and political turbulence in Latin America and the Caribbean. Covid-19 initially dampened the 2019 wave of protests in the region, but now pandemic hardships have worsened social inequalities and are pushing people back onto the streets, from Cuba to Brazil.
  • Covax isn't working for Latin America, leaving policymakers "scrambling to redefine their vaccine strategies and boost local production," reports the Latin America Brief.
  • Seventeen months into the Covid-19 global health emergency, Venezuela appears affected but relatively unscathed. In part, that might be an optical illusion due to bad statistics, but it is also "a combination of economic dysfunction on top of “mano dura” policing," writes Mac Margolis in the Washington Post.
  • Guatemalan Attorney General Consuelo Porras pressured Juan Francisco Sandoval, Guatemala’s top anti-corruption prosecutor, to curtail investigations, before she fired him last month. (See June 26's post.) New documents obtained by El Periódico appear to corroborate accusations made by Sandoval after his firing: that his former boss repeatedly meddled in major investigations and that information about sensitive cases was leaked from the Attorney General's Office -- InSight Crime.
  • Colombia's government said police confiscated 67 kg of explosives from former FARC rebels who planned to carry out an attack in the capital Bogota, reports Reuters.
  • Bolivia remains torn between competing narratives over what happened in October 2019: was it electoral fraud or a coup? Some critics think the ruling MAS party is trying to leverage the coup narrative into a comeback for former president Evo Morales, but it's complicated, reports Sarah Maslin in the Economist.
Regional Relations
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is quietly vying to position the country as a regional leader, partially filling the vacuum left by Brazil under Bolsonaro's administration, argues Genaro Lozano in Americas Quarterly. (See yesterday's post on Venezuelan negotiations to be hosted in Mexico.)
  • Mexico's sky-high violence, fuelled by U.S. guns, is inextricably linked to migration to the U.S. -- unfortunately Mexico's lawsuit against U.S. gun manufacturers is likely to face a tough battle in the United States, writes former U.S. secretary of labor Robert Reich in the Guardian.
  • After a spate of attacks on oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico this year, the shipping industry is demanding protection, including a stronger presence from the Mexican Navy, reports InSight Crime.
  • School shutdowns in Mexico, combined with limited access to technology, are exacerbating the country's education gap, leaving Indigenous communities behind, reports Foreign Policy.
  • Brazil's Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco criticized President Jair Bolsonaro for his attacks on the Supreme Court and defended the country's electronic voting system that Bolsonaro has sought to discredit, reports Reuters. (See Tuesday's post.)
El Salvador
  • El Salvador's president, Nayib Bukele, announced he will double the size of the army, in an attempt to combat the country's notorious street gangs, despite the past failures of militarized responses, reports Vice News.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, has been taken to hospital after a protester threw a rock at his head during an anti-vaccine demonstration led by nurses and other workers. He is expected to recover reports the Associated Press.
  • The Andes mountain range is facing historically low snowfall this year during a decade-long drought that scientists link to global warming, reports the Guardian. Declining precipitation and glacier retreat will affect communities who depend on the mountains for water supplies.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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