Friday, February 11, 2022

LatAm democracy in decline (Feb. 11, 2022)

Global democracy is in trouble, but Latin America's indicators recorded the steepest decline last year, as measured by the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index. "The region’s weak commitment to democracy has allowed illiberal populists to thrive and a busy election calendar didn’t always advance the cause of democracy."

About 80 percent of the region's population live in democracies, but only Costa Rica and Uruguay are considered complete democracies by the index. Chile, for example, was downgraded to a "flawed" democracy due, partially, to low turnout in deeply polarized presidential elections. (El País)

News Briefs

  • Honduras' Supreme Court annulled the conviction of six environmental activists, who were sentenced by a lower court this week in a move widely criticized by rights groups and legal experts. The ruling immediately freed the "Guapinol 8" who have been in pre-trial detention for two and a half years, after opposing an open pit mine owned by one of the country’s most powerful couples. (Criterio, Tiempo, Radio Progreso, see yesterday's Latin America Daily Briefing post.)
  • Journalist Heber López was killed in Mexico's Oaxaca state yesterday, the fifth media worker killed in the country so far in 2022. (Associated Press)

  • Though Mexico has long been known as the most dangerous place in the world for reporters, this year's assassinations have been particularly shocking and evince problem's with the national program to protect journalists, and reflect the general violence rate in the country, reports the Economist.
  • Guatemala's Supreme Court declared admissible the request to strip Judge Pablo Xitumul de Paz of his judicial immunity, leaving him vulnerable to impeachment, this week. Repeated attacks and criminalization against justice operators in Guatemala are part of a systemic pattern that has been worsening, and that uses the criminal justice and disciplinary systems to undermine the independence of judges and prosecutors who oversee cases that involve serious human rights violations or large scale corruption, denounces the International Observatory on Guatemala. (WOLA)
  • "More than 60 years after the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power, the regime is reverting to the most primitive forms of control as it struggles again — still — to find a way to keep the economy afloat and the Communist Party in power," writes Frida Ghitis in the Washington Post.
Regional Relations
  • One of the key questions facing Costa Rica’s next president will be how to proceed with a nascent diplomatic alliance among Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Panama—known as the Alliance for Development in Democracy—that could help advance not only the countries’ economies but also international efforts to address the situation in Nicaragua, writes Catherine Osborn in the Latin America Brief.

  • Declining Chinese interest in Brazil is a sign of a wider regional trend, reports the Economist. "Although the presidents of Argentina and Ecuador recently went to Beijing in order to boost economic ties with China, economic agreements between China and Latin America have waned in recent years."

  • ¿On a break? Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said his country's diplomatic relations with Spain should be paused, as he faces pressure over plans to increase state presence in Mexico's energy market. (Reuters)
  • Brazil has consistently undermined its own environmental regulations under the Bolsonaro administration, pushing deforestation up to record rates. Lawmakers are now considering two additional pieces of legislation. One would legitimize land grabs up to 6,180 acres in all undesignated public forests. The second would legitimize large holdings on about 80,000 square miles of land once meant for the poor. (Conversation)
  • The Jamaican government's efforts to stem rising violence by cracking down on illegal weapons is unlikely to produce meaningful results, given the constant flow of firearms smuggled into the country, reports InSight Crime. The U.S., followed by Haiti, are major sources of illicit guns in Jamaica. (See Tuesday's Just Caribbean Updates on Jamaica's homicide rates.)
  • U.S. federal grand juries indicted three men this month in separate migrant smuggling cases that come as the Florida Keys and South Florida are experiencing a surge in maritime migration from Cuba and Haiti. The people are either coming by makeshift vessel or by hiring smugglers to ferry them to the United States, reports the Miami Herald.
  • A move by the ELN to expand its control along the banks of the Orinoco River in Venezuela appears to be part of a broader strategy to control criminal economies in Colombia and Venezuela, reports InSight Crime.

  • Venezuelan prosecutors are investigating an alleged party held on a table-top mountain in a protected Amazonian national park, reports AFP.

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