Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Ortega starts fifth mandate (Jan. 11, 2022)

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega was sworn into office for his fourth consecutive term yesterday, and the second with his wife, Rosario Murillo at his side as vice president, consolidating the country's autocratic governance after a sham election last year. (Reuters)

Ortega promised to return the country to its pre-April, 2018 "economic growth," a pointed reference to the start of widespread anti-government protests that started then and were brutally repressed by his regime. Murillo also referenced the protest movement, which she called a "terrible episode" promoted by "retrogrades." The government maintains more than 160 political prisoners, reports Confidencial.

Ortega's reelection in November was widely condemned as fraudulent,Ortega imprisoned the majority of potential opposition candidates throughout 2021. Dozens remain locked up in deplorable conditions, lacking medical attention, reports El País. Women detainees have been particularly singled out for abuse, say relatives.

Many countries shunned the inauguration ceremony yesterday, though Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Cuban President Miguel Diaz Canel and Honduran Juan Orlando Hernández participated, and China, Russia and Iran sent representatives. 

The United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Nicaraguan officials, including the defense minister, yesterday, part of a strategy aimed at increasing pressure on Ortega's government. The UK and Canada said they might follow suit.

But "the real effect of the series of sanctions and condemnations is unclear," notes El Faro. And with the most well-known opposition figures jailed or in exile, Nicaraguan opposition groups are trying out different tactics. A group of Nicaraguans in exile, made up of less prominent opposition figures, believe the solution is to build a “collective leadership” that they call the National Transition Council with the goal of overthrowing the dictatorship and establishing a new government. They convened a Congress on Jan. 9 and elected seven members.


Report links Henry to Moïse assassination suspect

New evidence links Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry to a prime suspect in the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, reports the New York Times. The report adds to previous allegations linking Henry to Joseph Felix Badio, a former justice ministry official wanted by the Haitian authorities on suspicion of organizing the attack that killed Moïse.

The New York Times also interviewed Rodolphe Jaar, a Haitian businessman and former drug trafficker detained last week after six months on the run. (See yesterday's briefs.) Jaar admitted to helping finance and plan the plot but claimed that he thought the goal of the plot had been to depose, not kill, the president.

Henry’s term ends on February 7, though without a clear path forward, it’s possible that Henry will attempt to hold on to power for months, according to the Latin America Risk Report. "Haiti is likely to hold elections this year, though these elections are going to be flawed and polarizing."

This week the Haiti Unity Summit will meet at the Southern University Law Center, with the goal of reaching a consensus agreement on how to form a government of transition and set the stage for a pathway to free and fair elections -- it is the best bet for a Haitian-led political transition, argues Russel Honoré in a Miami Herald opinion piece.

News Briefs

  • The U.S. Coast Guard pulled 176 Haitians from an overloaded, unseaworthy wooden sailing vessel as it approached the Florida Keys, yesterday. U.S. interdictions of Haitian migrants at sea have increased sharply this year, reports the Associated Press.

  • The U.S. Biden administration's former special envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, said the ongoing U.S. deportation policy could further destabilize the already fragile country. (The Hill)

  • Would-be Guatemalan migrants face skyrocketing prices for human smugglers, in part due to the pandemic and shifting migratory controls, reports Al Jazeera. This has "made an already lucrative human smuggling industry even more so for criminal enterprises, while migrants suffer the brunt of the consequences."
  • As Venezuela enters another year in a deep political and humanitarian crisis, WOLA's Geoff Ramsey sketches out the best-case, worst-case, and status quo outcomes for 2022. Without mobilization by Venezuelan protagonists, and significant reforms and concessions from the de facto Maduro government, the status quo is essentially guaranteed, he writes. "In each case, however, it is clear that decisions made in Washington over the next twelve months will impact likely outcomes. While the U.S. cannot unilaterally resolve Venezuela’s crisis, it is an essential actor in the multilateral search for a solution." (Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights)

  • The best-case scenario Ramsey outlines requires an end to U.S. policy inertia: "A road map pairing sanctions relief with democratic reforms is carefully coordinated with Venezuelan and international allies, while the White House takes care not to impose its own agenda on a Venezuelan-led process ... Maduro and key members of his coalition perceive a clear benefit to participating in negotiations focused on overdue and fair elections." (Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights)
Regional Relations
  • Honduran president-elect Xiomara Castro's first trip abroad will likely be to Mexico, according to a LIBRE ally, and she will seek to emulate Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's cooperation with the U.S., despite maintaining a leftist stance. (Aristegui Noticias)
  • Castro will assume office on January 27 with an unprecedented rights agenda strongly shaped by women’s activism and other social movements, writes Suyapa Portillo Villeda in Nacla. In her campaign and platform, Castro embraced gender rights and sought to address femicides and structural violence against women and LGBTI communities—issues ignored in previous campaigns.

  • Pablo Isabel Hernández, a local leader of Honduras’ Indigenous Lenca group was shot to death Sunday, near the town of San Marcos de Caiquín. Hernández served as director of a radio station known as “Radio Tenan, the Indigenous Voice of the Lencas.” He was also active in Indigenous education and environmental projects, reports the Associated Press.

  • Thalía Rodríguez, a prominent transgender activist in Honduras was killed yesterday. She was shot in the head outside her home in Tegucigalpa, the 400th trans person to be reported killed in Honduras since 2009. (Los Angeles Blade)
  • Latin America’s transition away from oil and gas is well underway, with green energy investments bearing fruit in countries including Colombia, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil, energy analyst Luisa Palacios told the AQ Podcast.
  • Argentina's insistence on its deficit spending plan is putting it on a fresh collision course with the International Monetary Fund, reports Reuters, though analysts still believe the country will reach a deal.

  • Sixteen U.S. Democratic lawmakers are urging U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to back a review aimed at ending the International Monetary Fund's policy of charging countries significant surcharges on larger loans that are not repaid quickly, reports Reuters. Argentina, which is expected to spend some $3.3 billion on surcharges from 2018 to 2023, has repeatedly asked for temporary relief from the surcharges given the COVID crisis.
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador tested positive for Covid-19 -- his second bout. He announced the test results yesterday afternoon, after appearing visibly ill at a Monday morning news conference, and without a mask as he spoke to reporters. “Don’t do an AMLO and self isolate if you have flu-like symptoms,” read a headline in the El Financiero newspaper. (Washington Post)

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

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