Thursday, September 30, 2021

Covid-19 in LatAm and Caribbean (Sept. 30, 2021)

 The Pan American Health Organization has struck a deal with the Chinese manufacturer Sinovac to buy millions of Covid-19 vaccines for countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, reports the New York Times. It is part of an effort by the organization to directly purchase vaccines for a region where vaccine access remains hugely disparate: on average, only 35 percent of people in Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Countries on the lower end of inoculation rates include the Bahamas, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela.

On the other end of the spectrum six of the 10 major countries in South America have given at least a first dose to 50% of the population. Chile, Ecuador and Uruguay have fully vaccinated a greater share of their populations than in the U.S. A strong vaccination culture has fed into high acceptance rates in countries where governments have been able to obtain coronavirus jabs, and Covid-19 cases and deaths have dropped dramatically in South America, apparently from rapid and thorough vaccines on the heels of a horrific wave earlier this year. Another factor protecting the continent could be the predominance of the gamma variant, reports Bloomberg.

The region is experiencing a post-recession boom of economic growth, but incumbent leaders and parties have not been able to leverage that improvement into ballot-box support. (Latin America Risk Report)


Ecuador's deadly prison riot

Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency, after 116 people were killed in a prison riot that started Tuesday. The move grants military personnel control of the Coastal Penitentiary, a crowded prison on the outskirts of Guayaquil, where the situation remained out of control last night. Graphic images posted on social media showed inmates from rival gangs Los Choneros and Los Lobos fighting with machetes, guns and grenades. At least six of the victims were beheaded.

One of the deadliest riots in the country's history, the violence stems from a turf war between local gangs operating for Mexican cartels vying for cocaine trafficking routes. A similar wave of violence broke out in two of the country’s prisons, including the same Guayaquil penitentiary, two months ago.

News Briefs

  • The process of rebuilding Haiti’s government has pitted acting prime minister Ariel Henry against much of civil society, argues Emmanuela Douyon in Americas Quarterly. Support for Henry, from international and local actors, pits him against a group known as the Commission for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis, which had been working to find a consensus-driven way out of the crisis before President Jovenel Moïse's assassination in July.
  • Henry dissolved the country's electoral authority this week (see yesterday's post) -- though the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) had been named by Moïse under contested circumstances, without it, it is increasingly unclear when the conditions will be in place for Haitians to vote freely for a president or parliament, notes Douyon.
El Salvador
  • Two years after Nayib Bukele won El Salvador's presidency with promises to disrupt the political status quo, the millennial leader is being compared to Hugo Chávez. "In his quest for sovereignty, Bukele is about to break a democracy," writes Gabriel Labrador in a long profile of Bukele for El Faro.
Central America
  • Persecution of judges and prosecutors, expulsion of international anti-corruption monitors, and cooptation of courts have spread in the region. Iván Velásquez, former head of Guatemala’s UN-backed anti-corruption body CICIG, said in an interview with El Faro that the CICIG closure had a “cascading effect.”
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the country's feminist movement only started “two years ago” and bizarrely claimed it had been formed to oppose his administration. It is the latest in AMLO's long-standing hostility towards of Mexico's increasingly strong feminist movement, reports the Guardian.

  • Evidence and accusations are piling up against Mexico's former top security official Genaro García Luna in U.S. courts, reports InSight Crime.
  • Colombia needs urgent multilateral support to address its debt burden after Covid-19, according to Eurodad.

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... 

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Haiti postpones elections indefinitely (Sept. 29, 2021)

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry said he plans to hold a referendum to modify the country’s constitution by February, and he hopes to organize presidential and legislative elections early next year. The referendum is a priority, Henry told the Associated Press, because the current constitution is rejected by a majority of political figures and civil society leaders. 

Haiti's government issued a decree firing its entire Electoral Council -- the group responsible for conducting elections -- on Monday. Henry told CNN that the Election Council members were fired because they "cannot organize elections," and the process to replace them was underway.

The decision was questioned by members of the council, who said Henry violated Haitian law because only a president has the power to dismiss them. The council added that it will continue to work on organizing the upcoming elections. (Associated Press)

News Briefs

  • At least 24 inmates were killed and dozens more injured in Guayaquil yesterday, the third in a series of deadly prison riots in Ecuador this year prompted by feuds between rival drug gangs, reports the Washington Post.
  • Serious gaps remain in the hemispheric response to Venezuelan migrants and refugees. But governments across the Americas are coming under increasing pressure to adopt humane policies that respond to the basic needs of fleeing Venezuelans and broaden access to regular status. Through #StandFor6Million, WOLA is featuring the work of civil society organizations on these issues. (Venezuela Politics and Human Rights)

  • Record numbers of migrants coming into the United States from Nicaragua have been recorded in recent months, according to Customs and Border Protection data, a major increase as political repression increases under President Daniel Ortega, reports Newsweek. Since October 1, officials have stopped Nicaraguan migrants more than 19,300 times at the southern border.
  • The families of Nicaragua's political prisoners are often also subject to restrictions and inhumane treatment, reports El Confidencial.
Regional Relations
  • Four top U.S. Democratic Party senators warned that the U.S. relationship with Brazil would be at risk if President Jair Bolsonaro does not respect democratic norms in the October 2022 elections. In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, they said that disruption in Brazil's democracy "would jeopardize the very foundation" of relations between the Western Hemisphere's two most populous nations. (AFP)
  • A Brazilian hospital chain tested unproven drugs on elderly COVID-19 patients without their knowledge as part of an effort to validate President Jair Bolsonaro's preferred 'miracle cure,' a lawyer for whistleblowing doctors told senators this week. (Reuters, see last Thursday's briefs.)

  • The Amazon in Flames, an interactive experience with a chatbot, puts the user on a mission to reverse a dystopian future as a result of climate change -- National Geographic.

  • Authorities have made Brazil's largest ever-seizure of ecstasy, the latest example of how the production of the synthetic drug is spreading rapidly in the country, reports InSight Crime.
  • Cuban artist Hamlet Lavastida, whom Cuba’s state security held prisoner since June, was released this weekend but forced into exile with his partner, writer Katherine Bisquet, another prominent leader of the island artists’ pro-democracy movement, reports the Miami Herald.

  • Another 500-plus Cubans are still under detention in connection with the widespread anti-government protests that shook the Caribbean nation on July 11, reports the Miami Herald.

  • Cuba has begun commercial exports of its homegrown COVID-19 vaccines, sending shipments of the three-dose Abdala vaccine to Vietnam and Venezuela, reports the Associated Press.
  • Accused paramilitary drug lord “Memo Fantasma,” has petitioned a judge to be let out of prison while he awaits trial. Worth millions of dollars and with contacts across the globe, Guillermo León Acevedo, is the definition of a flight risk, reports InSight Crime's Jeremy McDermott, whose journalistic investigations form the basis of the arrest warrant and case presented by the Colombian Attorney General’s office against Acevedo this year.
  • Guatemalan authorities began efforts to recover the bodies of dozens of Indigenous children believed to have been massacred and buried clandestinely at a former military garrison in the 1980s during the country’s civil war. (Reuters)
  • Mexico celebrated 200 years of independence from Spain on Monday, the anniversary of the victory of the 1810-1821 independence movement, though the country has traditionally marked the anniversary of the start of the battle for independence, Sept. 16, 1810. (Associated Press)

  • Pope Francis sent a message to Mexico bishops marking the occasion, saying it “necessarily includes a process of purifying memory, that is, to recognize the very painful errors committed in the past.” (Associated Press)
  • Chilean authorities announced the end of a state of emergency in force since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, on Monday. (Reuters)

  • Chile’s lower house of Congress approved a plan to debate a bill that would expand women’s access to legal abortions, a “first step” that could see the country join a small but growing list of Latin American countries that are easing restrictions on the procedure, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Thousands marched for abortion rights across the region yestserday,  International Safe Abortion Day, holding placards and banners that read "It is my right to decide" and "legal abortion for health and life," as they demanded reproductive freedoms in a region known for some of the world's strictest anti-abortion laws. (CNN)
  • Feminist journalists have among their many missions to "visibilize and denounce structural inequalities and listen to the narrative of victims and survivors of violence concealed for so long by the complicit silence among men called patriarchal pact," writes Gabriela Wiener in New York Times Español

  • Daniel Alarcón, host of NPR's Radio Ambulante podcast, has been named a 2021 MacArthur Fellow and recipient of a prestigious MacArthur "Genius Grant," awarded annually to talented individuals who have shown exceptional originality in and dedication to their creative pursuits. (NPR)

  • A new book by U.S. writer Gayl Jones, Palmares, takes place in of a community of “maroons,” or fugitives from slavery, in the 17th-century Portuguese colony of Brazil. In the novel "the utopian vision of maroon community is discarded in favor of a philosophical contemplation regarding the elusiveness of freedom in a brutal land," writes Imani Perry in the New York Times Magazine.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Migrants from Chile to U.S. (Sept. 28, 2021)

Increasingly restrictive migration policies in Chile, and a belief that the United States has grown more welcoming to immigrants under President Joe Biden, have led a wave of Haitians to abandon the country they once saw as a land of opportunity, reports the Washington Post.

Thousands of Haitian migrants are believed to be travelling up from South America in a bid to reach the U.S. border, reports the Associated Press.

Xenophobia and hostility towards migrants in Chile (see yesterday's post) also push migrants to journey towards the United States, like the thousands of people who crossed into Texas earlier this month (see last Wednesday's post). Chile was an attractive destination for Haitians who sought refuge in the years after a devastating 2010 earthquake, but restrictions increased over the years, and work and housing, always hard to get, grew still scarcer during the pandemic, reports the New York Times.

News Briefs

  • The forceful eviction of a migrant camp, followed by a violent protest against migrants, in the Chilean city of Iquique (see yesterday's post) have meaningful implications for the country's current constitutional convention process, according to Contexto Chile. "The current constitution does not establish specific rights for migrant people ... The constituent process should discuss how to protect ... the rights of migrant people."

  • Despite pandemic restrictions, many migrants from Venezuela and elsewhere keep trying to reach Chile, one of the wealthiest countries in the region, which has been rocked in recent years by protests over entrenched inequality, reports Reuters.
  • The pace and scale of U.S. expulsions to Haiti this month -- nearly 4,000 Haitian migrants, including hundreds of families with children, without allowing them to seek asylum -- could make the operation one of the swiftest and largest U.S. deportation campaigns of migrants by air, reports CBS. (See yesterday's briefs.)

  • "Biden promised a more humane departure from the ultranationalism of his predecessor ... but these efforts butt up against a political calculus that compels the White House to take a tougher line on asylum seekers arriving at the border," according to the Washington Post World View.

  • The current tragedy at the US border is just the latest fallout from the U.S.’s failed policies toward Haiti, writes author Edwidge Danticat in the New Yorker. (See yesterday's briefs.)

  • "We thought the days when our country treated asylum-seekers with cruelty and disdain might be ending. This month we learned we were wrong," writes Xochitl Oseguera in the Guardian.

  • An undetermined number of migrants remained in Ciudad Acuña, on the Mexican side of the border, after U.S. officials evicted the Texas camp last week. Many hoped to avoid the U.S. deportation blitz, but Mexico has begun busing some Haitians back to the southernmost part of its own territory and preparing to send others back to Haiti, reports the Associated Press.

  • Mexico's government said it will resume flights to Port-au-Prince starting next week for Haitian migrants who want to return home, reports Reuters. (See last Friday's briefs.)
  • Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry said he understands the deportations and wants to cooperate with the United States. In an interview with CNN, he also said elections originally planned for September will be delayed until next year, after a review of the country's constitution is conducted.
Regional Relations
  • U.S. officials are set to tour Latin America this week to scout infrastructure projects as they prepare a counter to Chinese President Xi Jinping's multi-trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, reports Reuters. The group is tasked with turning Build Back Better World (B3W), the international infrastructure investment initiative announced by the Group of Seven richest democracies in June, into reality. It's the first of several planned "listening tours." (See yesterday's briefs, and also Friday's.)

  • Integration with both China and the U.S. benefits Mexico, but also presents challenges, writes Martha Bárcena in Americas Quarterly.
  • Delegates from Venezuela’s government and opposition concluded another round of talks in Mexico City yesterday. Norwegian mediator Dag Nylander read a statement at the conclusion of the meetings. “They drew closer in the search for solutions to the challenges in social, economic and political matters,” he said without providing detail, reports the Associated Press. (See yesterday's briefs.)

  • Several organizations of civil society expressed concern regarding a Venezuelan administrative ruling that seeks to criminalize and restrict the critical work that civil society organizations are doing in the country. They note recent efforts to intimidate and criminalize the work of Venezuelan civil society organizations, which include but are not limited to arbitrary detentions of NGO workers, raids on NGO offices, and verbal attacks and threats to organizations and their staff. (Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights)
  • Human rights activists took the case of Vicky Hernández, an Honduran trans woman killed in 2009, to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights -- a successful effort aimed at obtaining a measure of justice for a case that remained impune, but also to "visibilize the physical violence, stigma and social exclusion that trans people face in Honduras and Latin America. This is the time to demand structural changes to remedy that situation," write lawyers Angelita Baeyens and Kacey Mordecai in New York Times Español.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro marked his first 1,000 days in office yesterday with a stark warning about the possible return to power of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is polling far ahead of the incumbent for next year's elections. (EFE)

  • An overt American iconography is emerging in Brazil's polarized political scene. But it's not used to defend democracçy, rather it’s being wielded by those who would set Brazil’s constitution aside to bolster Bolsonaro’s power, reports the Washington Post

  • Brazil's First Lady, Michelle Bolsonaro, got vaccinated against Covid-19 in New York, accompanying her vaccine-skeptic husband to the UN General Assembly meeting last week. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro defied a UN vaccine requirement, and several members of his delegation tested positive while travelling. (New York Times)
  • Five people, including a teenager, were shot dead in south-west Colombia on Sunday in the latest of a series of attacks by armed groups, reports the BBC. (See yesterday's briefs.)
El Salvador
  • Few world leaders have navigated the Covid-19 crisis for their own political benefit better than Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele, reports the Guardian.
  • Quechua is currently experiencing a resurgence in Peru's media and political spheres and has been given a further boost by the Castillo administration, which has promoted that language family to underscore the Andean nation’s longstanding, persistent social inequality, reports EFE.

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... 

Monday, September 27, 2021

Chilean protesters set fire to migrant camp (Sept. 27, 2021)

Over 3,000 people marched Saturday the Chilean city of Iquique to protest the presence of undocumented Venezuelans. Some demonstrators scuffled with migrants and others set fire to an empty immigrant camp, burning people's meager belongings, including tents, mattresses, bags, blankets and toys.

The demonstration took place a day after police evacuated a migrant camp that had existed for a year in the town square. Carabineros clashed with migrants, several of whom were detained. Most of the migrants, poor and undocumented, are stranded in the city, surviving on odd jobs with no way to reach the capital.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the UN rapporteur for migrant peoples' rights expressed concern after the attack and called on the Piñera government to protect vulnerable populations.

News Briefs

  • The escalating rivalry between the U.S. and China could help create a more environmentally healthy and socially equitable hemisphere if the two countries compete to accelerate the transition to a green economy in Latin America, as well as other low- and middle-income regions, write Pedro Abramovay and Heloisa Griggs in Americas Quarterly. "What if adaptation to climate change becomes one of the main battlefields in the Great Power competition of the 21st century?" they ask.

  • The U.S. should pivot to include social and justice issues into the Biden administration's climate diplomacy, they write. "A climate justice foreign policy would make the U.S. more attractive than China for low- and middle-income countries facing accelerating climate impacts. Democracy, with all its imperfections, equips nations to grapple with and engage diverging viewpoints, and to struggle to give voice and power to marginalized populations bearing the brunt of climate impacts."

  • Droughts in South America are slamming the region's farmers, and spiking prices for everything from coffee to electricity, reports the Washington Post. Though the causes of multiyear water shortages vary from country to country, "for much of the region, the droughts are moving up the calendar on climate change — offering a taste of the challenges ahead in securing an increasingly precious commodity: water."

  • A severe drought that began in late 2019 continues to punish the region and experts say climate change and deforestation may be intensifying the phenomenon, reports the Guardian.

  • Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley expressed frustration at international inaction on climate change in her UN General Assembly speech last week. She highlighted the inequality of the climate crisis and the resources available to resolve it. “If we do not control this fire, it will burn us all down,” she said, in reference to global warming. (PassBlue)

  • Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso suggested the U.S. and other wealthy countries use their share of $650 billion of funds recently distributed by the International Monetary Fund for environmental causes. (Bloomberg)

  • Mexico's government will reduce funds targeting climate change, reports El Economista.

  • The Latin America Advisor analyzes the potential impact of the High-Level Economic Dialogue between Mexico and the U.S., relaunched after a four year hiatus.

  • El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele has pivoted toward China as he grows isolated from the rest of the international community, reports El Faro.

  • Latin Americans lying beneath unmarked tombstones and in mass graves across the region are recovering their names, decades after the conflicts that took their lives. -- Axios
  • David Smilde traces the evolution of Venezuela’s chavismo from its beginnings as a version of left populism based on the charisma of former President Hugo Chávez, to its turn toward socialism, to its current authoritarian incarnation under Nicolás Maduro in a new Wilson Center report. Smilde argues that a “starting assumption in analyzing such an authoritarian context should be stability, not change. However, there are still spaces and resources that provide opportunities for working for a return to democracy.”

  • The latest round of negotiations between Venezuela’s government and the country’s opposition were suspended Friday when the government’s delegates failed to appear in Mexico City. (Associated PressTelesur reported, however, that the talks started yesterday after a delay in the government delegation's arrival in Mexico.

  • The Maduro delegation's delay was possibly related to anger over the Norwegian prime minister's UN speech last week, which highlighted human rights violations in Venezuela. Norway is a key mediator in the negotiations. (AFP)

  • Venezuela has agreed to a key contract to swap its heavy oil for Iranian condensate that it can use to improve the quality of its tar-like crude, with the first cargos due this week, reports Reuters.
More Migration
  • U.S. officials said no migrants remained at the makeshift encampment in Texas as of Friday. (Associated Press, see last Thursday's post)

  • Many of the people deported to Haiti left the country years ago, and many of their children were born in other countries in the region and lack Haitian citizenship. Many migrated to South America after a major earthquake in 2010, but were forced to migrate again due to coronavirus economic downturns in their host countries, reports the Guardian.

  • U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas defended the country's Border Patrol, after widespread criticism of officers' treatment of Haitian migrants in Texas. Of the 15,000 migrants who arrived at the border recently, Mayorkas said, 2,000 were returned to Haiti on 17 flights under the policy called Title 42, which was invoked at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and allows the administration to expel migrants swiftly. (NBC)

  • He said removals were justified because of the coronavirus pandemic, a point disputed by advocates and public health experts, reports the Guardian.

  • "U.S. interests have long been intertwined with Haiti — usually in ways that work to most Haitians’ detriment," writes Jonathan Katz in a Washington Post opinion piece.

  • Ecuadorians affected by Covid-19 crisis, economic downturn and corruption are also increasingly embarking on dangerous journeys to the U.S., reports Al Jazeera.
  • Colombia
    • Five years after Colombia's peace accord with the FARC, implementation of the broad deal has foundered, reports El País. There have been concrete advances -- namely the demobilization of most FARC guerrilla fighters, and the creation of a transitional justice mechanism to judge crimes committed during the country's decades long conflict.

    • But government promises to develop Colombia's rural regions, to reduce the poverty and inequality that fuelled the conflict, have fallen short, reports the New York Times. "Many scholars and security experts warn that the transformation of the long-neglected countryside — the heart of the deal — is perilously stalled. By failing to gain the trust of rural people, experts say, the government is allowing violent groups, old and new, to move in and perpetuate new cycles of violence."
    • Honduras’s national elections are two months away, and the political panorama is particularly tense, reports the Latin America Risk Report. "Threats and acts of violence, alleged bribery, and widespread disillusionment with the country’s political system point towards an election cycle that is unlikely to be accepted by much of the country as free and fair."
    • Thousands of people marched through Mexico City yesterday, marking seven years since 43 students from Ayotzinapa disappeared and demanding clarity over the emblematic case. (EFE)

    • Mexico’s scientific community has reacted with outrage after the country’s chief prosecutor requested arrest warrants for 31 scientists, researchers and academics on accusations of organised crime, money laundering and embezzlement, reports the Guardian. Scientists say the charges are an attempt by Mexico’s president to silence them.
    Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... 

    Friday, September 24, 2021

    Latin America Daily Briefing (Sept. 24, 2021)

    News Briefs

    • The world’s largest fishing fleet is an armada of nearly 300 Chinese vessels that has raised hackles in recent years as it works in the waters around South America. The sheer size of the Chinese fleet has stirred fears that it could exhaust marine stocks. There’s also concern that in the absence of effective controls, illegal fishing will soar, reports the Associated Press, which found that many of the ships have a history of labor abuse accusations, past convictions for illegal fishing or showed signs of possibly violating maritime law.

    • "Collectively, these issues underscore how the open ocean around the Americas — where the U.S. has long dominated and China is jockeying for influence — have become a magnet for the seafood industry’s worst offenders," writes Joshua Goodman.

    • Adopting cryptocurrency as legal tender is a highly dubious idea – and likely to be economically dangerous for developing countries in particular, warns economist Jeffrey Frankel in the Guardian. Bitcoin is hardly the best way to reduce transaction costs for receiving remittances in El Salvador, as President Nayib Bukele promised. "And holding or transacting in such an unstable asset is a particularly bad idea for people with low incomes, who can ill afford to sustain price swings as large as 30% in a single day." (See Sept. 7's post.)
    Regional Relations
    • The key to Latin America's success will be dodging zero-sum choices between China and the US, writes Shannon O'Neil in Bloomberg.

    • The U.S. is losing Latin America to China without putting up a fight, Ecuador’s ambassador to Washington told Axios.
    • The area around the Del Rio International Bridge in Texas looks like a war zone, in the aftermath of clashes between US officials and Haitian migrants. "Anyone still under the squalid bridge has now been rendered invisible to the outside world, locked down behind gates, fences and armed guards," reports the Guardian. (See yesterday's post.)

    • Thousands of migrants, most from Haiti, have been fenced in by authorities on one side or the other of the border, in what El País calls an open-air jail.

    • The US deployment of border agents on horseback against Haitian migrants stems from abusive and racially discriminatory immigration policies by the administration of President Joe Biden, Human Rights Watch said. (See yesterday's post.)

    • In the meantime, Mexico is reckoning with its own dilemma over what to do with the migrants massing on its side of the Rio Grande, reports the Washington Post.

    • The gathering of thousands of Haitians at the Texas-Mexico border this past week reflects a stark change in migration patterns to the U.S., driven by Covid-19. A far broader mix of nationalities is turning up at the border than in the past, reports the Wall Street Journal.
    • "Many Haitians have suggested that U.S. immigration policy should take into account Washington’s role in perpetuating the instability and violence that cause people to flee Haiti," writes Catherine Osborn in the Latin America Brief. A story in Haiti’s AyiboPost, for example, looked at the flow of U.S. guns to Haiti and how those weapons arm the country’s deadly gangs.

    • "The Haitians in Del Rio right now have circumnavigated the Western Hemisphere for a decade, trying to outrun chaos and severe uncertainty," writes Adam Isacson.
    • Venezuela's opposition parties are failing to unify behind candidates for regional elections in November, reports Reuters. In all 23 states plus the capital Caracas, at least two candidates calling themselves opposition leaders are expected to run against Socialist Party – strengthening the hand of President Nicolás Maduro’s allies.
    • Cuba expects to reach “full immunization” against Covid-19 with its own vaccines by the end of the year, President Miguel Díaz-Canel told the United Nations General Assembly yesterday. (New York Times)
    • The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has selected two biomedical centers in Argentina and Brazil as regional hubs to develop and produce mRNA-based vaccines to fight COVID-19 in Latin America, reports Reuters.
    • Mexico's military has historically held an influential and powerful position in the country's political structure -- in "Militarization a la AMLO: How Bad Can it Get?" Craig Deare explains how the policies of the current president have greatly expanded the military's role to include responsibilities it had not previously beyond the public security realm. (Wilson Center)
    • Peruvian authorities will cremate the body of Abimael Guzmán – the founder of the Shining Path rebel group -- ending a two week controversy over what to do with the body of one of Peru’s most reviled figures, reports Reuters.
    • An Italian medieval manuscript makes reference to Markland, the territory reached by Vikings in what is now Canada, and offers a tantalizing hint of port rumors that might have inspired Christopher Colombus' adventures. (Economist)
    Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... 

    Thursday, September 23, 2021

    US Haiti envoy resigns (Sept. 23, 2021)

     The US Biden administration's special envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, a veteran diplomat with a reputation for working in some of the world’s most challenging environments, resigned today protesting “inhumane” large-scale repatriations of Haitian migrants this week. (See yesterday's post.)

    “I will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs to daily life,” he wrote in a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my policy recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own.” (Associated Press)

    He also lashed out at what he called “puppeteering” of Haitian politics by the U.S. and other nations.

    “Last week, the U.S. and other embassies in Port-au-Prince issued another public statement of support by for the unelected, de facto Prime Minister Dr. Ariel Henry as interim leader of Haiti, and have continued to tout his political agreement over another broader, earlier accord shepherded by civil society,” Foote said. “The hubris that makes us believe we should pick the winner— again— is impressive. This cycle of international political interventions in Haiti has consistently produced catastrophic results. More negative impacts to Haiti will have calamitous consequences not only in Haiti, but in the U.S. and our neighbors in the hemisphere.”

    And estimated 14,000 people crossed into the US across the Rio Grande to Del Rio, Texas, in the past two weeks, many of Haitian origin, provoking a sudden migration crisis for the US government, which moved quickly to disperse what became a sprawling makeshift camp. (See Monday's post and yesterday's.) Thousands of migrants and asylum seekers there are facing desperate conditions, including high temperatures, squalid living conditions, probable deportation and shocking mistreatment by border patrol agents, reports the Guardian.

    Since Sunday, 12 repatriation flights have left the United States and 1,401 Haitian nationals have been returned to Haiti. Another 3,206 Haitian nationals have been moved from a camp in Del Rio, Texas, to US Customs and Border Patrol custody or to other sectors of the United States border to either be expelled or placed into removal proceedings, reports the Miami Herald.

    The deportations are being carried out under a previously obscure public health law, Title 42, which was used for summary expulsions by the Trump administration and has been continued under Joe Biden, reports the Guardian.

    News Briefs

    More Migration
    • The deportation of Haitian migrants is a stark example of how US President Joe Biden has deployed some of the most aggressive approaches to immigration put in place by his predecessor, according to the New York Times. "Having failed in his attempts to build a more “humane” set of immigration laws, Mr. Biden has reacted in a way that few of his supporters expected. In case after case, he has shown a willingness to use tough measures."

    • The border crisis is a symptom of a hemisphere in crisis, according to Politico

    • Treatment of Haitian migrants this week in the US has spurred protests against what activists say is a racist and unequal immigration system that forces Black immigrants to face extra hurdles compared to their lighter-skinned counterparts, reports the Washington Post.
    Regional Relations
    • Brazilian health minister, Marcelo Queiroga, has tested positive for Covid and gone into isolation, 24 hours after participating in UN General Assembly events in New York, including a meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, reports the Guardian.
    • A dossier prepared by doctors and former doctors of Prevent, a health insurance company, for the Brazilian Senate Parliamentary inquiry into the Bolsonaro administration’s handling of the pandemic, alleges that the spread of chloroquine and other ineffective medications against Covid-19 was the result of an agreement between government officials and Prevent. (Globo)

    • A new poll by IPEC puts former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva firmly in the lead for next year’s election, with a more than 20 point advantage over Bolsonaro. (Globo)

    • While Bolsonaro has consistently sought to undermine environmental protection policies, ""The vast majority of Brazilians want the forest standing," said Lula in an interview with UOL columnist Leonardo Sakamoto.

    • A historic drought in Brazil, attributed to climate change, is devastating the country's coffee farmers, whose crops supply much of the world, reports NPR.

    • Brazilian budget airline Gol struck a deal to purchase hundreds of aircraft that would be used as low-cost zero-emission electric air taxis for São Paulo commuters, reports the Guardian.
    • Impunity has been the common denominator in assassinations of social leaders in Colombia since the 2016 peace deal with the FARC, writes journalist María Fernanda Fitzgerald in the New York Times Español.
    • The issue with the new Peruvian government isn't the traditional left-right political polarization, rather it's President Pedro Castillo's rudderless path, which is the opposite of the planning the country needs to resolve its ongoing crisis, argues Eduardo Dargent in the New York Times Español.
    • Both Cadem and Activa released new polling data on Chile’s upcoming presidential election. In both polls, Gabriel Boric of the Convergencia Social party leads voter intent. (Latin America Risk Report)

    • Chilean presidential candidates held their first debate yesterday.
    • Suriname’s 60-year-old vice president inserted himself into a pro soccer match this week, becoming the world’s oldest professional soccer player, reports the Washington Post.

    Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... 

    Wednesday, September 22, 2021

    Outrage at US treatment of Haitian migrants (Sept. 22, 2021)

    The US is taking swift measures to disperse a camp of, mostly Haitian, migrants in Del Rio, Texas, which had an estimated 14,000 people this weekend. Images of US Border Patrol agents on horseback corralling migrants crossing the border with what appear to be whips became viral and were criticized at the highest levels of the US government. (See yesterday's briefs and Monday's post.)

    "It didn’t matter if the agent was holding a lariat or horse reins or if the migrant was actually struck or not. The picture was enough" to serve as a symbol of a long history of US mistreatment of Haitian immigrants and  historic grave abuses against Black people in the country, reports the Miami Herald.

    “White (and white-presenting) men on horseback with lariats are seen chasing, yelling and cursing at vulnerable Black asylum seekers who have for weeks and months been fleeing toward what they thought was safety,” wrote leaders of civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, in a letter to US President Joe Biden. “The actions of these Border Patrol officers are disgraceful and show an indifference to the humanity of Black migrants.”

    The photographs and video footage of the agents’ interactions with the migrants, which were widely circulated online, offered a glimpse of the chaos that had been unfolding since last week, reports the New York Times.

    US authorities have deported more than 500 Haitians since Sunday, reports Reuters.

    Several Haitians deported from the US this week say they were shackled during transit, including on flights, with one describing it as being chained “like a slave,” reports the Washington Post. A group of Haitians deported from the US yesterday assaulted the pilots on board one of the flights when it arrived in Port-au-Prince and injured three US immigration officers, reports NBC News.

    The frequency of the Haiti flights will increase to seven per day starting tomorrow. That amounts to an estimated 1,000 people per day arriving in crisis-ridden Haiti, where officials say they lack resources to accompany people, many of whom left the country ten years ago. “I don’t understand why the Biden administration is adding another problem,” said Pierre Esperance, director of Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network.

    Though the US Biden administration has focused on deportation in response to the migrant camp in Texas, thousands of the Haitians in Del Rio are being released in the United States, a US official told Associated Press. The criteria for deciding who is flown to Haiti and who is released in the U.S. was unclear, but two U.S. officials said single adults were the priority for expulsion flights.

    And Mexican authorities have begun busing and flying Haitian migrants away from the US border, signaling a new level of support for the United States, reports the AP.

    Advocates note that the deportation measures do nothing for the underlying factors pushing Haitians to desperate attempts to reach the US: "The United States can only reduce migration pressure from Haiti by ending decades-long policies that have undermined Haiti’s democracy and economy," writes Brian Concannon in a Miami Herald opinion piece.

    More Migration
    • International and US coverage of migration often uses language that reduces humanitarian problems to logistical issues. "The best coverage of the Haitian asylum-seekers and the Biden administration’s response has scrutinized the US’s immigration policies and recent deportation efforts while focusing on their devastating human consequences," reports the Columbia Journalism Review.

    UN General Assembly

    Latin American leaders at the UN General Assembly focused on the pandemic and debt issues. The presidents of Argentina and Colombia warned that increasingly strapped emerging markets could default on their foreign debts, and called on multilateral lenders to push for changes that ease conditions. 

    Argentine President Alberto Fernández called for a “reconfiguration of global financial architecture,” while his Colombian counterpart, Iván Duque called on credit agencies to recognize pandemic conditions that have pushed governments to increase their indebtedness and fiscal deficits. (Associated Press)

    Duque also said the international community must equitably distribute Covid-19 vaccines to avoid the creation of new, more fearsome variants of the coronavirus. (Reuters)

    More UN
    • Brazil’s health minister, Marcelo Queiroga, has tested positive for Covid and gone into isolation, 24 hours after meeting a maskless Boris Johnson and other British officials in New York, reports the Guardian. (See yesterday's briefs.)
    News Briefs

    Regional Relations
    • The US put Guatemala's attorney general and five Salvadoran Supreme Court judges on a list of "undemocratic and corrupt" officials on Monday, in a sign of the Biden government's frustration with Central American authorities, reports Reuters.

    • In the case of El Salvador's judges, the US embassy chargé d’affaires in San Salvador, Jean Manes, said the action was taken because the justices voted to allow the president’s re-election, "which is clearly not allowed under the constitution," reports the Guardian.

    • Though the measures are directed against judicial actors in El Salvador, they are meant to hit the executive. Civil society organizations increasingly denounce that Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele increasingly controls key parts of the judiciary, reports El Faro.

    • Venezuela's government said a Colombian military drone violated its airspace in what it called a "blatant threat" to its national security that took place during a visit by a US military commander to the neighboring nation. (Reuters)
    • A Rome court has rejected a request by Venezuela to extradite its former oil czar, Rafael Ramirez, to face corruption charges, citing the country’s record in violating human rights, reports the Associated Press.
    • Francisco Aguirre-Sacasa, former Nicaraguan diplomat and foreign minister, is one of the dozens of critics of the Ortega government charged with treason and conspiracy. "His incarceration is indefinite," writes his son in Time Magazine. "Since then, we’ve heard disturbing stories coming out of El Chipote: Of how it’s freezing at night; of how the lights in cells are kept on 24-7 to disorient the prisoners; of how it’s infested with mosquitoes; of prisoners being starved; of COVID-19 spreading through the jail’s population." (See Monday's briefs.)
    • Mexico's Supreme Court invalidated a conscientious objector law that would permit health workers to refuse to perform abortions, and asked Congress to review the regulations to ensure that "other peoples human rights" are not affected reports El País.
    • Support for legal status of abortion growing in Latin America while softening in Western Europe, according to Ipsos.
    • Peru's energy and mines minister said the government wants to revise the framework for the country's mining industry, redrafting the umbrella law that regulates the sector, as well as the legislation that sets royalty payments, reports Reuters.
    • Argentina's government announced the lifting of almost all Covid restrictions following a dramatic fall in Covid cases and deaths in recent months. The move came after the trouncing of the ruling Peronist party in Argentina’s open primaries on 12 September, reports the Guardian.

    • The loss sparked a political crisis within the country's ruling Frente de Todos coalition, and unleashed a battle between President Alberto Fernández and Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, reports the New York Times. The tensions were quashed with a cabinet reshuffle that favored right-wing Peronist ministers, though most analysts say the moves don't likely signal significant policy shifts. (See Monday's briefs.)

    Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...