Friday, September 17, 2021

Mass march against Bukele (Sept. 17, 2021)

 Thousands of people -- estimates range from 5,000 to 15,000 marched in San Salvador Wednesday, the first mass rally against President Nayib Bukele, who critics say is concentrating power dangerously and undermining democratic institutions. It is a new phase for opposition to Bukele’s increasingly authoritarian rule, which had previously only mustered dozens of protesters against the hugely popular leader, reports El Faro. (El Faro photo essay, also.)

The protests were not organized under the banner of any political party, and participants cited a wide range of abuses they objected to. Many people were protesting against Bukele's onslaught against the judicial power -- allied lawmakers recently passed regulations forcing a third of the country's judges to retire -- and a push for re-election, which Bukele appointed judges recently determined would be constitutional. Others were protesting the controversial decision by Bukele’s government to make the cryptocurrency Bitcoin legal tender in El Salvador. (Associated Press)

Protesters also cited a controversial proposal for constitutional reforms, systemic attacks on journalists, and obstacles in the trial of the El Mozote massacre. They marched with signs and banners saying “No to the dictatorship,” “Without journalists and journalism there is no democracy,” and “No to the truce” — the latter in reference to the Bukele administration’s covert gang negotiations.

Bukele accused the international community of financing the protests to undermine his government, a habitual allegation on his part. Bukele also baselessly accused the protestors of attending with weapons, as well as of wreaking havoc on government and private property, reports El Faro.


Haiti's political imbroglio

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry might fall victim to an intense political battle for the country's leadership, after he has been linked to President Jovenel Moïse's July assassination by a prosecutor he fired. (See Wednesday's post.) 

On Wednesday Henry also dismissed the country's justice minister. That same day Renald Lubérice, who served more than four years as secretary general of Haiti’s Council of Ministers, resigned in a sharply worded letter that said he could not remain under the direction of someone who is under suspicion and who “does not intend to cooperate with justice, seeking, on the contrary, by all means, to obstruct it.” (Associated Press)

The developments underline that Moïse’s Tèt Kale party is fracturing, and factions are forming in support of Henry and against, reports the Associated Press. (See Wednesday's post.)

The political machinations are actually a battle for prime position to steal, argues Amy Wilentz in the Los Angeles Times. "The more powerful you are in Haiti, the more you can suck out of state coffers. ... And much of what’s available to be siphoned comes in from the exterior, in the form of foreign aid, petroleum subsidies and international contracts, as well as what can be embezzled or taxed in customs and at the ports, and also from profitable illegal import/export goods, such as narcotics."

Haiti's increasingly dramatic leadership battle has little resonance among ordinary Haitian citizens, who are facing multiple and overlapping crises, reports the New York Times. "The cumulative disasters and the sense that leaders come and go, but change little, have left many with low expectations."

More Haiti
  • A month after a deadly earthquake devastated communities in Haiti’s south, many of the urgent humanitarian needs continue to go unmet, with some people yet to receive any aid, the United Nations said yesterday. Of the 800,000 people estimated to have been affected, about 400,000 are still in need of some initial assistance, reports the Miami Herald.
News Briefs

  • Human rights advocates are enraged at the U.S. Biden administration for resuming repatriation flights to Haiti, despite the country's ongoing political, economic and environmental disasters, reports The Hill.

  • Thousands of Haitian migrants who have crossed the Rio Grande in recent days are sleeping outdoors under a border bridge in South Texas. U.S. agents say the situation is an unprecedented humanitarian emergency and logistical challenge, reports the Washington Post.

  • The new U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Ken Salazar, is a veteran of immigration debate, reports the Washington Post.

  • Gunmen stormed a hotel in Mexico's San Luis Potosi state earlier this week and kidnapped about 20 foreigners believed to be mostly from Haiti and Venezuela, reports Reuters. The assailants took the logbook of guests, making it hard to identify who was kidnapped.

  • Hundreds of migrants stuck in Mexico's Chiapas state protested against the country's immigration policies that have frustrated their efforts to travel to the United States, on Wednesday. Many of the Central and Latin American migrants, including a large Haitian contingent, have been stuck for months in the city of Tapachula. (Reuters, see Sept. 3's post.)
  • Venezuela political leaders have deployed the country's judicial system as an instrument of repression against opponents and critics, according to a new report by a group of United Nations-appointed experts. Growing political interference in the judicial system has eroded its independence and created an apparatus that provides legal cover for abuses that include extrajudicial killings, torture, sexual violence and enforced disappearances. (New York Times)
  • Brazil's federal electoral court is set to probe the funding of last week's rallies in support of President Jair Bolsonaro, reports Reuters. The court seeks to  find out whether there was payment for transportation and per diems for those who participated in the demonstrations and whether the demonstrations constitute election campaigning outside the permitted time frame.

  • Bolsonaro is threatening democratic rule in Brazil, Human Rights Watch said this week: "He is pursuing campaigns to intimidate the Supreme Court, signaling that he may attempt to cancel the 2022 election or otherwise deny Brazilians the right to elect their leaders, and violating critics’ freedom of expression."

  • Brazil's Supreme Court suspended a high-profile land rights case with no new date for when it will re-take the matter. Indigenous rights activists say the case is vital to their survival. Justices have been asked to determine whether a state government applied an overly narrow interpretation of indigenous rights by only recognizing tribal lands occupied by native communities at the time Brazil’s constitution was ratified in 1988. Rights groups also note that Indigenous lands are a key tool for protecting the Amazon rainforest. (Reuters)

  • Environmental experts and Indigenous activists said the request for review from Justice Alexandre de Moraes, while not unusual, is likely to pass the buck to Congress, reports the Associated Press. The lower house is set to vote on a similar bill that would require Indigenous people seeking full protection of their territories to have been occupying the land in 1988. But critics say this would ignore the fact many had been expelled from their ancestral lands, particularly during the military dictatorship, or may not have formal means to prove possession. 

  • Brazil's Supreme Court suspended a Bolsonaro decree that sought to limit social media companies' ability to moderate content. The court joined the Senate to strike down what the New York Times called "one of the most restrictive and intrusive internet laws imposed in a democratic country." (See Wednesday's briefs.)

  • Brazilian House speaker, Arturo Lira, is the gatekeeper for hundreds of impeachment requests against Bolsonaro. But while he has shielded Bolsonaro from political trials, he hasn't been a presidential puppet. Instead, he is busy advancing his own agenda and concentrated significant power, writes Creomar de Souza in Americas Quarterly.
  • Central and North America are driving a hemispheric surge in coronavirus cases. Costa Rica, Guatemala and Belize are among the Central American countries experiencing a surge. Though spread has somewhat slowed in the Caribbean, Jamaica is an exception, where new case reports are at their highest of the pandemic. (New York Times)

  • Latin American international relations experts generally consider China's influence in the region to be high, but the country itself is not well regarded. The findings, from an online survey, indicate that China is failing in its efforts to use media tools to create a positive image for the country and its government, write Andrei Serbin and Luiza Duarte at the Aula Blog.
  • Cuba said it would seek World Health Organization approval for two home-grown coronavirus vaccines it hopes to commercialize widely, reports AFP. Cuban scientists say the Abdala and Soberana 02 jabs have been shown to be more than 90 percent effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 cases.

  • Cuban officials published a draft of a new family code that would open the door to marriage equality if approved. The draft still needs to go to a grassroots debate, however, and will then be amended to take into account citizens’ opinions before going to a referendum. In 2018, the government withdrew a constitutional amendment that would have permitted same-sex unions in response to evangelical churches' campaigns. (Reuters)
Trinidad and Tobago
  • Trinidad and Tobago’s health minister has dismissed claims by the rapper Nicki Minaj that a cousin’s friend had become impotent after receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, reports the Guardian.
  • Argentine President Alberto Fernandez was battling a spreading cabinet rebellion yesterday, in the wake of poor primary election results on Sunday. A slew of ministers tendered their resignations, sparking a crisis in the ruling coalition. Fernández hasn't responded yet over how he will structure his cabinet. (Reuters)
  • Leftist former student leader Gabriel Boric is ahead in the polls for Chile's November presidential race, but more than half of the country's voters are still undecided. A new CEP poll  found 13% of respondents would choose Boric, while center-right former Cabinet minister Sebastian Sichel took 11% and centrist former Senate President Yasna Provoste 6%, reports Reuters.
  • Nearly a week after the death of Abimael Guzmán, the messianic leader of Peru’s Shining Path insurgency which killed tens of thousands of people in the 1980s and 90s, the country remains gripped by the debate over what to do with his remains, reports the Guardian.

  • Guzmán's death is an opportunity for Peruvian President Pedro Castillo to condemn the violent left, writes Andrea Moncada at Americas Quarterly.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... 

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