Thursday, January 27, 2022

Castro takes office in Honduras (Jan. 27, 2022)

Honduran president-elect Xiomara Castro took office today in an atypical ceremony that narrowly averted a political crisis within the country's legislature, where competing factions of lawmakers dispute authority over Honduras' Congress. (See Monday's post.) 

Lawmaker Luis Redondo of the Partido Salvador de Honduras (PSH), backed by Castro to head the Congress, led the Congressional session that started the swearing in ceremony this morning, and presented the presidential sash to Castro. (La Tribuna) In a meeting last night, Castro offered lawmaker Jorge Cálix a government post, aimed at dissuading him from disputing the leadership of the Congress with support of opposition lawmakers, though he didn't formally respond yet. (AFP)

For many, Castro's presidency and her promises to refound the country closes a cycle of democratic crisis that started with the coup against her husband, Mel Zelaya, in 2009, and further deepened by Hernández's irregularity-marked reelection in 2017, reports Confidencial HN. Indeed, in the ceremony today, Zelaya showed the audience his own presidential sash -- the last one worn by a "democratic president" according to the presenter. Hernández did not attend the ceremony. (Tu Nota)

Castro's swearing in today marks "the culmination of a remarkable rise to power that began just over 12 years ago when she led a massive protest movement in response to" Zelaya's ouster, reports the Guardian. Her victory "generated hope for a new era for women in the country with the highest rate of femicide in Latin America and some of the region’s most draconian laws with regards to reproductive rights."

Hondurans hoping to attend the inauguration lined up outside the stadium venue at 3 am this morning, reports El Heraldo.

While Castro avoided a scene of dual competing legislatures today, the crisis is far from over. Lawmakers from the Partido Nacional and Partido Liberal remain allies in efforts to destabilize the incoming government, reports Criterio. In a context of social exhaustion and rejection of political elites that propelled Castro's victory last November, a prolongued legislative political crisis could "translate to more social turbulence and growing migration," warned International Crisis Group's  Tiziano Breda. (Al Jazeera

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris arrived in Honduras today to attend Castro’s inauguration. Her presence is a sign of the importance the White House is placing on finding a willing partner in Harris' task of finding the “root causes” of migration to the U.S. (NPR) An estimated 500 Hondurans leave the country each day in search of employment or to escape insecurity, reports ConfidencialHN.

Harris' "visit, and the hope that Castro’s government will resist the allure of authoritarianism and the dollars of drug cartels, underscores just how pervasive corruption in the region has become," reports the Washington Post

The Vice President of Taiwan William Lai is also at the inauguration, as the country angles to maintain its diplomatic relationship with Honduras, one of its few remaining allies in the region. (Reuters)

More Honduras
  • Among Castro's cabinet picks, announced this morning,  is former national police chief Ramón Sabillon, who Castro tapped to head the Security Ministry. It's a victorious return for Sabillon who fled Honduras under threat five years ago, and only returned to the country earlier this month. Sabillon made a name for himself as national police chief by capturing several of the country’s biggest drug traffickers – results that he says got him fired Hernández, reports Univisión. (Other cabinet picks: La Tribuna.)
Challenges ahead for Castro
  • "Castro has acknowledged on multiple occasions the country’s grave human rights crisis fueled by inequality, violence, and impunity, and exacerbated over the last two years by the pandemic and the devastating impact of hurricanes Eta and Iota," writes Amnesty International's Erika Guevara Rosas. "The new government will have to show great boldness and determination to address the causes and effects of the disastrous legacy left by the governments of the last decade, and the accumulated state abandonment of historically marginalized and oppressed communities, including the Indigenous and Garifuna Peoples, rural communities, women and girls, LGBTI+ people, and human rights and environmental defenders." (El Faro)

  • "The new Castro administration must focus on solving problems such as rule of law, reducing the processes needed to establish business and transforming them to online processes, strengthening public institutions, reducing times and costs for imports and exports, capacity building for our people, improving the health and education systems, improving the energy sector, as well as the national budget and reducing national debt." Juan Carlos Sikaffy, president of the Honduran Council of Private Enterprise (COHEP), told the Latin America Advisor.

  • “The U.S. government should work with the incoming President to fulfill her promises to end corruption and to improve the lives of Honduran citizens,” Lisa Haugaard, Latin America Working Group's co-director, said this week. (Al Jazeera)
News Briefs

  • Journalists in dozens of Mexican cities held vigils and protests on Tuesday night, one of the largest mass protests over the murders of media workers in recent years. The demonstrations followed the assassinations of three reporters this month, two in quick succession in Tijuana. (New York Times, Reuters, see Monday's briefs.)
  • The case of 39 migrants whose vessel capsized in crossing the Florida Straits from the Bahamas to the U.S. -- a passage survivors of previous crossings describe as  a nightmarish odyssey of vomit, sweat and fear." It is the latest humanitarian drama to expose the Covid-fuelled migration crisis gripping Latin America and the Caribbean, reports the Guardian.
  • The new wave of leftist Latin American governments share a focus on redistributive issues and favor a more active role of the state in the economy. But the commonalities bely profound differences on social issues, in which some governments are particularly progressive while others are aggressively conservative, writes Oliver Stuenkel in New Statesman.

  • The U.S. should increase financing and aid to the Caribbean to help the region recover from the pandemic and cope with the growing impact of climate change, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne told Reuters in an interview. China has lent over $4 billion to Caribbean nations in the last 10 years, according to figures compiled by the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue. But borrowing from Chinese banks shouldn't be construed as a political statement, said Browne, as the conditions of those loans are more favorable than even those provided by multilateral agencies such as the International Monetary Fund.
  • Venezuelans got a (very brief) chance to demand a recall of President Nicolás Maduro yesterday — but critics say the referendum conditions were impossible to meet: nearly 4.2 million people at a minimum would have to sign petitions for a recall within a 12-hour period at 1,200 electoral centers. (Associated Press)

  • For good measure, military and collectivos “guarded” the locations, particularly in the poor neighborhoods, to intimidate people against showing up, notes the Latin America Risk Report

  • The timeframe established by the electoral authority makes it impossible to exercise this constitutional right, reaffirming the weakness of democratic institutions in the country, according to a group of Venezuelan social and human rights organizations. (Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights)
  • On the day of Chile's December presidential elections, private bus companies refused to transport working-class voters to polls to help the right-wing candidate, reports Jacobin.
Dominican Republic
  • The Dominican Republic's tourism industry is booming -- even more than before the pandemic -- thanks to a national strategy of few entry requirements, focused on vaccinations and masks for locals working in hospitality, reports the New York Times.
  • A group of German, Austrian and Swiss immigrants has implanted an ideologically driven settlement in one of Paraguay's poorest regions, reports the Guardian. The gated community in Caazapá, dubbed El Paraíso Verde, promises the colony as a refuge from "socialist trends of current economic and political situations worldwide” – as well as “5G, chemtrails, fluoridated water, mandatory vaccinations and healthcare mandates."
Costa Rica
  • A Costa Rican dive center is training young people to do conservation work, such as seabed cleaning, reef monitoring, water pollution analysis, and underwater archeology, reports the Guardian.
  • U.S. consumers concerned about inflation have much to learn from Argentine residents, whose mindsets have been shaped by decades of high inflation inspiring strategies like bulk-buying non perishables, paying in installments, and frequently renegotiating salaries, reports the Washington Post. Most exhausting: "the loss of a sense of value," it's hard to judge what anything is worth.
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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