Monday, January 17, 2022

Cuba's courts sentence protesters (Jan. 17, 2022)

 Cuban courts have started imposing draconian sentences on anti-government protesters who flooded the streets last July. Prosecutors this week put on trial more than 60 citizens charged with crimes, including sedition, for taking part in demonstrations. Those being prosecuted include at least five minors as young as 16, reports the New York Times

The novelty is government pursuit of people who are largely disconnected from politics. The punishments meted out are unusually severe, even in a country where organized dissidents have traditionally faced stiff sentences, reports the Guardian. A local group, Justicia 11J, said more than 700 people were still being detained following July’s protests, with 158 of those accused of or already sentenced for sedition -- many are poor, young men.

The Cuban government's crackdown on protesters comes as it continues to struggle under increased U.S. sanctions and the pandemic's economic costs -- analysts and activists say the sentences are aimed at stamping out further dissent ahead of a bleak economic outlook.

"Cubans who criticize the government risk criminal prosecution," notes Human Rights Watch's new World Report. "They do not benefit from due process guarantees, such as the right to fair and public hearings by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal. In practice, courts are subordinate to the executive branch."


Protesters mark El Salvador's peace accords

About 2,000 people marched against El Salvador's government yesterday and its decision not to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of El Salvador's peace accords, which ended the country's 12-year civil war, in which 75,000 Former guerrilla fighters, army veterans, human rights victims, members of social organizations and feminist groups participated, as well as members of the judiciary who spoke out against the Bukele administration's onslaught against the judicial power's independence. (El Diario de HoyEFE)

Last week the National Assembly voted to commemorate victims of the conflict on the day, but there were no official ceremonies. (See last Wednesday's post.)

President Nayib Bukele has called the U.N. backed agreement a "farce," and said most citizens agreed with his decision not to celebrate the "spurious" accords. He claims the accords were ultimately an agreement between political elites, and brought few concrete benefits to Salvadoran citizens. (AFP)

Critics see this as a bid to rewrite the past, reports the Christian Science Monitor. “What they want,” says Celia Medrano, a human rights expert in El Salvador, “is to force people to forget that at one moment in our history, we understood that we have to talk through things” in order to move ahead.

Bukele criticized international leaders who marked the signing, reports InfobaeUnited Nations Secretary General António Guterres tweeted yesterday that "the @UN is proud to have helped Salvadorans pave the way towards peace, which must be protected and built on every day."

While the country's efforts to live up to the accords' ideals have fallen short, that "does not mean the ideals themselves should not be highlighted and lifted up. In fact, El Salvador three decades later needs to be reminded of those ideals more than ever," argues Tim Muth at El Salvador Perspectives.

More El Salvador
  • El Salvador has lost an estimated $10 to 20 million on its Bitcoin investments, a likely disincentive for other countries contemplating crypto investing, according to Coindesk.

  • El Salvador's bitcoin buying spree may boost the country's credit risk if it continues, according to ratings agency Moody's. (Markets Insider)

Russia ties Venezuela and Cuba to Ukraine negotiations

A top Russian diplomat floated the possibility of a military deployment to Cuba and Venezuela in reaction to discussions on European security and Ukraine. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said he could “neither confirm nor exclude” the possibility of Russia sending military assets to Latin America if the U.S. and its allies don’t curtail their military activities on Russia’s doorstep, reported the Associated Press last week.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan dismissed the statements about a possible Russian deployment to Cuba and Venezuela as “bluster in the public commentary.” (Associated Press)

Last month Ryabkov compared the current tensions over Ukraine with the 1962 Cuban missile crisis — when the Soviet Union deployed missiles to Cuba and the US imposed a naval blockade of the island, reports the Guardian.

Former Trump administration Venezuela envoy Elliot Abrams agrees that Russia is probably bluffing, but also notes that there might be a symbolic increase in military handlers already present in Cuba and Venezuela, reports Andrés Oppenheimer in the Miami Herald.

News Briefs

  • Jamaican authorities arrested former Haitian senator John Joël Joseph one of several suspects in Haitian President Jovenel Moïse's assassination who had remained at large, reports the Miami Herald. Haiti and Jamaica do not have an extradition treaty, which will complicate matters in the coming days as to whether Joseph is sent back to Haiti or transferred to the United States, where a parallel probe into the president’s slaying is ongoing.

  • The  Sainte Croix Hospital, a rural 90-bed medical facility south of Haiti’s capital with the only maternity and neonatal wards for miles, was forced to close after a kidnap gang stole its generator, leaving the facility without electricity, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Two people have drowned off a beach in northern Peru, after unusually high waves were recorded in several coastal areas following Saturday’s eruption of an underwater volcano in Tonga. (Reuters)
  • A French fashion brand is under fire for a photo shoot involving Indigenous women in southern Mexico, reports the Washington Post.
  • The science that is helping researchers find the ‘disappeared’ in Latin America -- The Conversation
  • Nearly 1 million enslaved Africans arrived at Valongo wharf in Rio de Janeiro at the height of the transatlantic slave trade -- likely more than anywhere else in the world, and twice as many as were trafficked to all of the United States. But few know the site's history, which presents an opportunity for Brazilians to engage in long-avoided reckoning of its history of human bondage, reports the Washington Post.

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

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