- Members of Haiti's 400 Mawozo gang released the remaining 12 victims of a group of foreign missionaries kidnapped in October near Port-au-Prince, two months to the day after they were originally abducted, reports the Miami Herald. Authorities had said the gang had demanded $1m per person, but it was not immediately clear whether any ransom was paid, reports the Guardian.
- The kidnapping of the missionaries focused international attention on a terrifying wave of mass abductions by the armed gangs that have tightened their grip on Haiti, reports the Washington Post. The gangs have targeted Haitians of all ages and all walks of life, including doctors, busloads of passengers, even police.
- Haiti's beloved soup joumou, a pumpkin-heavy soup, widely regarded among Haitians as a symbol of freedom and dignity, became the latest tradition to be added by the United Nations to its Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. (Miami Herald)
- The relationship between El Salvador and the U.S. worsened significantly this month, after the U.S. Treasury placed sanctions on high level Bukele administration officials accused of negotiating with street gang leaders and stealing from pandemic aid programs. (See last Thursday's post.)
- In the short-term, the antagonistic relationship between President Nayib Bukele and the Biden administration is likely to deepen, writes Stephen McFarland in Americas Quarterly. "It may not affect his popular support in the short term ... but El Salvador’s leader faces multiple dilemmas: how to keep his support high in 2022 even as the demand for government resources outstrips supply; how to ensure his operators’ loyalty; and how he’ll come to grips with U.S. sanctions, and whatever may be coming next from Washington."
- If a report that the U.S. is preparing to indict the recently sanctioned officials is true, the move could test the loyalty of some of Bukele's circle, writes McFarland. "It’s unclear just how deep Bukele’s Salvadoran operators’ loyalty to him runs, since his inner circles comprise to a large extent his own family and Venezuelans who assisted his presidential run." (Americas Quarterly)
- Six European supermarkets announced they will stop selling some or all beef products originating in Brazil because of concerns over links to deforestation. The move comes after research into “cattle laundering” involving the meat conglomerate JBS. According to the news organization Repórter Brasil, the company allegedly indirectly sourced cattle from illegally deforested areas, reports the Guardian.
- Brazilian police investigation of alleged bribery of Petrobras employees to fix the price of fuel sold to JP Morgan Chase & Co by the country's state-run oil firm has expanded from one deal to at least four over the course of 2011, reports Reuters.
- International companies are hoping for a shot at industrializing Bolivia's lithium production -- including some underdogs that are new to the industry. "Just as wildcatters have long sought riches prospecting for oil, the clean energy revolution is spawning a wave of gritty entrepreneurs who hope to ride a new boom, vaulting themselves into the intersection of geopolitics and climate change," reports the New York Times.
- Apprehensions at the southwest U.S. border rose last month for the first time since July, with across-the-board increases in the detention of migrant families, single adults and minors traveling without their parents, according to preliminary U.S. Customs and Border Protection data obtained by the Washington Post.
- Tens of thousands of youths have been granted Special Immigrant Juvenile Status in the U.S., a pathway to legal residency for young undocumented people who have been abused or abandoned, but are being forced to wait up to five years before actually receiving their green cards—a period during which they are at extreme risk of homelessness, exploitation, and deportation, and often unable to access basic needs, like health care, reports TIME.
- The nomadic Indigenous Amazon community was displaced from its territory by FARC fighters, and has been unable to return due to land mines that remain in the ground. Colombia's "only nomadic community" is at "risk of disappearing," according to a UN report. (AFP)
- Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso's use of emergency powers to fight a wave of violence in the country has done little to improve the situation for citizens, and fail to engage the poverty and poor policing underlying the phenomenon, reports Reuters. Lasso blames soaring crime on drug mafias, but analysts say it is also related to economic hardship worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, including widespread use of informal labor, as well as institutional weaknesses.
- Lasso's fortunes have declined in his second 100 days as president, according to the Latin America Risk Report.
- Two separate cases of police killings in recent weeks in Argentina have revived concern about police violence, reports El País.
- Nine people died in a jet crash on Wednesday in the Dominican Republic, including acclaimed Puerto Rican music producer Flow La Movie, reports the Guardian.
- A recent study of credit card cloning around the world revealed that Brazil, Mexico and Puerto Rico are the most at risk countries in Latin America, but also shows wide disparities in credit card usage in the region, reports InSight Crime.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...