Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Bolsonaro accused of "crimes against humanity" (Oct. 20, 2021)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with "crimes against humanity" according to a Senate inquiry commission charged with investigating the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic. A leaked draft report, that will be officially presented by senators today, paints a devastating portrait of the neglect, incompetence and anti-scientific denialism, reports the Guardian. According to the report, Bolsonaro intentionally let the coronavirus rip through the country and kill hundreds of thousands of people in a misguided attempt to reach herd immunity and protect Brazil's economy. 

The report blames Bolsonaro’s policies for the deaths of more than 300,000 Brazilians, half of the nation’s coronavirus death toll, and urges the Brazilian authorities to imprison the president, according to the New York Times. The report emphasizes the impact of Bolsonaro's “deliberate and conscious” decision to delay buying Covid vaccines and his “obstinate” promotion of ineffective remedies such as the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine.

The original draft reported on in the media included calls for authorities to indict the president, other senior officials and three of his sons on charges of mass murder and genocide against the Indigenous population, whose communities were particularly vulnerable to the virus, reports the Washington Post. But the allegations of homicide and genocide were removed yesterday evening.

Senator Renan Calheiros, the report’s lead author, said the document recommends criminal charges against 70 people, including former health minister Eduardo Pazuello.

Bolsonaro is unlikely to face prosecution for his alleged crimes, at least while he remains in the presidency. If the report is approved, Brazil’s attorney general will have 30 days to decide whether to pursue criminal charges against those named. Brazil’s lower house in Congress would also have to approve charges against the president. Both the attorney general and the president of the lower house are staunch Bolsonaro allies.

Nonetheless, the Senate findings have already significantly impacted his chances for reelection next year. And senators have said they would seek other potential legal avenues against Bolsonaro, including in Brazil’s Supreme Court and the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

More Brazil
  • The battle over what is true or false, who gets to decide, and whether and how to punish offenders, is tearing at the very fabric of Brazil's young democracy, reports Mariana Palau in Americas Quarterly. Fake news is at the heart of a constitutional crisis pitting Bolsonaro against Brazil's Supreme Court. "The question of how to deal with the tide of misinformation, while also not curtailing essential liberties, poses an extraordinarily difficult dilemma for policymakers, technology companies, the justice system and others, with no easy solutions in sight."
  • Environmental racism underlies Brazil's food contradiction: half of the agricultural powerhouse's population suffers from some kind of food insecurity, write Douglas Belchior, Thais Santos and Mariana Belmont in a Folha de S. Paulo piece. The price of the climate emergency is being paid by black, peripheral populations and native peoples, they argue.

Chileans protest anniversary

Thousands of Chilean demonstrators marked the second anniversary of massive social protests in 2019, this week. Most were peaceful, but authorities say two people died, and 450 were arrested in episodes of violence and looting. (CNN) Police said 10,000 people crowded into Santiago's Plaza Italia, which activists dubbed Plaza Dignidad during the 2019 protests demanding social policies to reduce inequality. (El País)

Chilean Constitutional Convention delegates began officially drafting a new magna carta on Monday, the anniversary of the protests that pushed Chileans to embark on a constitutional rewrite, after three months of establishing procedural rules, reports CNN. (See Oct. 1's post) Convention president Elisa Loncón said that "it is imperative that we keep up with the times, we must work hard to try to heal the scars of Chile. Let us do this work from reason, but also move, work from tenderness and from thinking." (See Loncón's interview with El Mostrador.)

A small group of protesters on Monday unsuccessfully tried to enter the vicinity of the former national congress building, where the constitutional convention is working, reports EFE.

Two years after the protests, victims of police violence are still waiting for justice, writes Yasna Mussa in the Post Opinión. The next government must end police impunity, she argues.

News Briefs

Regional Relations
  • The U.S. Biden administration has not defined a Latin America strategy, at a time when the region faces an unprecedented situation of difficulty and threats to the democratic and human rights system, said Human Rights Watch Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco in an interview with El País. He noted the dangers not only of the region's consolidated dictatorships, but also democratically elected leaders like El Salvador's Nayib Bukele who "believe that once you are elected to power, you can rule as you please."
  • Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso assured U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday that democratic principles would be upheld during a state of emergency that Lasso declared this week, Blinken said yesterday. (Reuters) Blinken met with Lasso in Quito, just after Lasso said he would deploy troops to combat drug trafficking and violence. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Blinken is due to give an address today in Ecuador about what the State Department calls “the challenges facing democracies in the region,” before traveling on to neighboring Colombia for talks with leaders there, reports Voice of the Americas.

  • Americas Quarterly delves behind the headlines about China's inroads (or not) into Latin America, and tracks how eight of the region's governments have managed their relationship to Beijing since the pandemic.
  • Pfizer negotiated hard for profit in secret vaccine contracts with governments around the world, according to by Public Citizen. A number of leaked, unredacted Pfizer contracts, sheds light on how the company uses that power to “shift risk and maximize profits,” the organization argues. Experts who reviewed the terms of contracts with foreign governments suggested that some demands were extreme. In contracts reached with Brazil, Chile, Colombia and the Dominican Republic, those states forfeited “immunity against precautionary seizure of any of [their] assets.” (Washington Post)
  • Former Guatemalan soldiers who are demanding they be paid a war-time bonus for serving in Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war burst onto the grounds of the country’s congress building yesterday and set several vehicles on fire, reports the Associated Press. Soldiers eventually showed up to force the protesters out. 
  • Cuban dissidents have called for an anti-government protest on Nov. 15, which the Cuban state has refused to authorise. Activists and observers warn that the incarceration and abuse that followed July protests in Cuba could keep prospective demonstrators indoors next month, reports the Washington Post. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Gangs have become so powerful in Haiti that even simple government acts are now being held hostage by the country’s criminal groups, reports the Miami Herald. (See Monday's post.) Indeed, the gangs have made state authorities irrelevant in many cases, and the groups levy taxes and determine what citizens can and can't do in their territories.

  • The kidnapping of 17 foreign missionaries in Haiti is only a high profile example of a scourge hundreds of local residents (rich and poor) face: there have been at least 628 abductions so far this year, reports the Guardian. (See Monday's post.)

  • There, however, are few options for the international community to confront the deadly surge in gang violence and for-ransom kidnappings in Haiti, reports the Miami Herald.
  • A Colombian hotline aimed at fighting violence against women puts men at the center of the conversation, in an effort to teach them to understand their emotions and control their actions, reports the New York Times.
  • Because the U.S. doesn’t usually prosecute anyone under 18 for the crime of smuggling people illegally across the border from Mexico, tons of teenagers do it, for money. -- This American Life

  • Photographer Eva Lépiz followed families in Mexico's Oaxaca state, from where many relatives have migrated to the U.S. (Americas Quarterly)

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

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