Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Nicaragua starts trials against political detainees (Feb. 2, 2022)

News Briefs

  • Nicaraguan prosecutors say that beginning this week they will start trials for 46 political figures detained in the run-up to the country's Nov. 7 presidential election. Many of the prisoners, including seven people who had been considered potential candidates to challenge President Daniel Ortega in the election, have been held since May or June, reports the Associated Press.
  • Peruvian President Pedro Castillo reshuffled his cabinet yesterday, replacing half of the 18 Cabinet members, including the prime minister and the ministers of finance, foreign relations and the environment. The third overhaul in the six months he's been in office comes as leading government figures quit accusing Castillo of not tackling corruption. Finance Minister Pedro Francke also resigned yesterday. (Associated Press)
  • Argentina's agreement with the IMF, "may set a precedent for dealing with debt restructuring and financial crises that could arise in the pandemic’s aftermath" in other countries, write Joseph Stiglitz and Mark Weisbrot in Foreign Policy. They particularly laud that the agreement does not impose detrimental austerity and other counterproductive conditionalities on Argentina's government "Argentina wasn’t asking for a new inflow of funds; the government just needed to avoid conditions that would stifle economic recovery or harm poor and working people."

  • Rural subsistence farmers, ethnic communities, women, and young people are disproportionately affected by climate change in the Northern Triangle, according to a report by the Inter-American Dialogue, which focuses on adaptation in the region with an emphasis on climate justice and mitigating the impacts on vulnerable communities.

  • In its annual Homicide Round-Up, InSight Crime reports on the region’s country-by-country murder rates and on the factors driving the bloodshed. Among the highlights: Ecuador – sandwiched between two cocaine-producing countries and home to a major port for smuggling drugs to Europe – saw killings nearly double.
El Salvador
  • El Salvador's ruling-Nuevas Ideas party dominated Congress reformed the country's criminal code yesterday to authorize digital undercover operations. The move was highly questioned by journalists and politicians who say it legalizes "digital espionage." Lawmakers in favor said the operations were justified by the large number of complaints of a variety of crimes that are committed and can be committed through the abuse of information and communication technologies, reports the Associated Press.

  • El Salvador's government rejected a recommendation by the International Monetary Fund to drop Bitcoin as legal tender, reports the Associated Press. (See Jan. 26's post.)
Regional Relations
  • Latin America's apparently leftward swing has generated anxiety in Washington, and discussions of rising Chinese influence in the region. But the alarm is premature, and ignores many of deep-seated differences among the region's left-leaning governments. "Many of the progressives riding this anti-incumbent tsunami are pragmatic centrists who disfavor the timeworn, anti-imperialist rhetoric that burns bridges between the United States and its neighbors," write Benjamin Gedan and Richard Feinberg in Foreign Policy. And there are stark differences between progressive social democrats -- natural allies of the Biden administration -- and authoritarian governments in Cua, Nicaragua and Venezuela, they write.

  • The U.S. stance on Russia and the Ukraine clashes with decades of U.S. policy towards Cuba, writes William LeoGrande at the Aula Blog. "If President Joe Biden is serious about replacing spheres of influence ... Biden can start in his own backyard. Washington’s policy of regime change toward Cuba, based on economic coercion and subversion – a policy Biden inherited from Donald Trump and continues unchanged – has not worked for more than 60 years. Replacing it with a policy of engagement and coexistence would set a good example for President Putin in his near abroad."

  • While English-language and Chinese academics tend to analyze Latin America and the Caribbean as homogenous in terms of relations with the U.S. and China, "Latin American analysts are increasingly focused on the widely varying nature of countries’ bilateral and subregional ties with each," writes Andrés Serbin at the Aula Blog.

  • The Inter-American Dialogue has a new analysis of Chinese involvement in Latin America’s financial services sector, in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative. The report examines the extent and nature of Chinese insurance industry engagement within the region, as well as prospects for future activity in this area.

  • The U.S. government has urged Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to cancel a visit with President Vladimir Putin in Russia due to rising tensions over its troop build-up near Ukraine, reports Reuters.
  • Renascença Clube, a storied association in north Rio de Janeiro, has been a potent symbol of Black pride and resistance since it was founded in 1951 -- but the club's leadership has spoken out against political protests that are common on its dancefloor, prompting anger among progressive sambistas and fans, reports the Guardian.
  • Uruguay's political opposition has organized a referendum on the Lacalle Pou administration's controversial 2020 security reform, which toughens sentencing, limits chances for early release from prison, and limits protest rights. Many experts have criticized the reform as unconstitutional and a violation of the separation of powers as it shifts towards a more powerful executive branch in Uruguay, reports Americas Quarterly.
  • Honduras' new President Xiomara Castro wants to shake up the country’s security forces – and named former Honduran police chief Ramón Sabillón to head efforts -- but it will be a difficult task, reports InSight Crime. "Castro faces a host of challenges when it comes to rooting out drug trafficking and graft that reach the highest levels of the Honduran security forces and government."
  • Though Mexico has become one of the richest countries in Latin America, its workers still earn among the lowest salaries of almost any nation in the region -- economists say one reason is that for decades, Mexican workers have had little say in choosing the unions that represent them, reports the New York Times.
  • New research suggests Peruvian Chincha people put their dead back together after colonizers disturbed graves when looting silver and gold in the 16th century. (Guardian)

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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