Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Hunger grows in LatAm and the Caribbean (Dec. 1, 2021)

In 2020, 59.7 million people in the region suffered from hunger, according to a new U.N. report. The prevalence of hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean increased by two percentage points last year, which means  13.8 million more people suffered from hunger in 2020 than the year before.  Over the same period, moderate or severe food insecurity increased by nine percentage points and 41 percent of the population of the region is moderately or severely food insecure.

While part of the increase is directly related to the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic impact, the region's hunger figures have been growing for six consecutive years.  "The statistics indicate that we are going backwards in the fight against hunger. We have returned to the levels of 15 years ago, and we are losing the battle against all forms of malnutrition," according to the report authored by five United Nations agencies, which recommends transforming "our agri-food systems to make them efficient, resilient, inclusive and sustainable enough to provide a healthy diet for everyone."

Women were more affected by rising hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean than men, the UN agencies also said.

The numbers in Central America are particularly stark: In Guatemala, around half of the population is experiencing food insecurity. And in El Salvador and Honduras around 47% and 46% of their populations are going hungry, respectively.

More Food
  • "Over the past 80 years, attempts to use individual or institutional wealth to end world hunger have yielded uneven results," writes Gabriela Laveaga in the Washington Post. "It is critical to look at hunger as more than a technical problem to be addressed through scientific advancement alone."
Asfura concedes in Honduras

Honduras’s ruling National Party conceded defeat in Sunday's presidential elections, giving victory to Xiomara Castro and easing fears of irregularities, social upheaval and repression following the 2017 election, reports the Associated Press

The election still hasn't been officially called: 52 percent of ballots have been tallied. But Castro holds a 19 point lead over National Party candidate Nasry Asfura, who yesterday congratulated Castro for her win. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken congratulated Castro minutes later. (More data analysis at El Heraldo.)

Luis Guillermo Solís, the former president of Costa Rica and head of the Organization of American States observation mission, emphasized the election's high turnout rate yesterday, presenting the regional body’s preliminary report. He said the mission had not received reports of irregularities or fraud, excepting technical issues. (Contracorriente)

"Unfortunately, Castro’s victory will not automatically put the country on the track to democratic consolidation. and there are five good reasons to fear that the political situation might worsen before getting better," reports Americas Quarterly, pointing to issues like what will happen with current president Juan Orlando Hernández, obstacles presented by the National Party, and the fragile nature of Castro's winning coalition.

More Honduras
  • Castro started meeting with key Honduran private sectors, reports El Heraldo.

  • Castro will seek to negotiate a new debt deal with the International Monetary Fund, but opposes raising taxes or creating new ones, reports Reuters.

  • It remains unclear whether current President Juan Orlando Hernández will be extradited to the United States, where he has been implicated in federal drug trafficking cases. Honduras maintains an extradition treaty with the United States that Hernández himself helped negotiate when he was in congress, reports the Washington Post.
News Briefs

  • Activists from the Global South have called on public and private global health donors – including governments, the United Nations, private philanthropists and international organizations – to prioritise funding for programs driven community needs. The Aspen Institute’s New Voices Fellowship want donors to offer flexible, long-term funding for sexual and reproductive health and rights and ensure leaders, those allocating grants and program teams reflect the communities and groups they seek to support, reports the Guardian.
  • Haiti's "best hope is a political transition in which inclusion provides legitimacy, leading to free elections," writes Monique Clesca, a member of the civil-society led Commission to Search for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis, in a New York Times guest essay. The group has proposed "an interim government whose members, in the absence of elections, will be nominated by various sectors to legitimately represent Haitians," and calls on the U.S. to support the commission's plan for democratization in Haiti.

  • Haiti's increasingly powerful criminal gangs are carrying out a wave of extremely accute sexual violence, say health workers who are overwhelmed by the numbers of women affected and the sheer horror of the victims' ordeals, reports AFP.
  • Five years after the FARC laid down its arms, rural reforms have stalled, the ex-guerrillas’ political party has struggled to find its footing, and dissident fighters are taking control of criminal rackets and rural locales throughout Colombia, according to a new Crisis Group report. Colombia's government should respond by bolstering rural development and economic opportunities for ex-guerrillas, ensuring they can safely participate in politics, and focus security efforts on protecting civilians rather than merely confronting dissident groups.
  • Venezuela's highest court retroactively disqualified an opposition candidate for Barinas state governorship. The move is likely to raise further doubts about the fairness of Venezuela's recent regional elections, reports the Associated Press. Opposition candidate Freddy Superlano has been leading the vote count in the race to lead the home state of the late President Hugo Chávez. The court then ordered an electoral redo in January, reports El País.

  • The current Barinas governor, Argenis Chávez, resigned yesterday, and did not specify whether he will participate in January's new election, reports AFP.

  • Opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for unity yesterday, in light of the disputed race. (Reuters)
  • An average of two girls between 10 and 14 give birth every day in Paraguay. Paraguay has one of the highest rates of child and teen pregnancy in Latin America, due to widespread child abuse and draconian abortion laws, according to a new Amnesty International report. (Guardian)
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has sought to reinvent himself as a champion of the poor. He has sought to reform the country's much vaunted cash assistance program, an approach critics say could be catastrophic to poverty reduction and the country's finances, reports the Washington Post.

  • Bolsonaro's anti-Covid-19 vaccine stance hasn't affected Brazilians' eagerness to get inoculated -- more than 60 percent of the country is already vaccinated. "That’s a credit to the country’s public health system and cultural faith in vaccines. The question is whether Bolsonaro’s rhetoric will have a corrosive long-term effect," according to the Huffington Post. 

  • Bolsonaro has officially joined the Liberal Party (PL) in advance of next year’s presidential elections. (Al Jazeera)
  • Increasing numbers of Brazilians have joined the ranks of people attempting to migrate to the U.S., part of a broader jump in U.S.-bound migration from Latin America, reports Reuters.

  • Turks and Caicos police say they have recovered the bodies of seven undocumented Haitians who authorities say were attempting to illegally migrate from their country. (Miami Herald)

  • Hundreds of Cuban migrants have sought refuge in Greece, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Peruvian President Pedro Castillo said some political parties and economic interests are working to impeach him against the will of the public, the latest escalation of tensions with congress just four months into his term, reports Bloomberg.
  • Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso ordered the implementation of a controversial tax reform proposed by his government, after lawmakers failed to block or approve the bill last week, reports Reuters.
  • A large-scale march headed by Bolivian President Luis Arce and ex-head of state Evo Morales arrived in La Paz on Monday in a show of support for the government, reports EFE.
  • Emma Coronel Aispuro, the wife of the imprisoned drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán has been sentenced to three years in a U.S. prison, after she pleaded guilty to helping the Sinaloa drug cartel, reports Reuters. (See also New York Times.)
  • Argentina’s government said an economic team will travel to Washington this weekend to meet with International Monetary Fund staff and push forward talks over a new deal. (Reuters)

  • Uranium One, a subsidiary of Russia's state nuclear company Rosatom, has signed an agreement to form a joint venture to develop a Tolillar lithium deposit in Argentina, reports Reuters.
Critter Corner
  • A mythic white sperm whale was captured on film near Jamaica. The type of whale immortalised in Moby-Dick has only been spotted a handful of times this century, reports the Guardian.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... Latin America Daily Briefing

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