Friday, February 4, 2022

Nicaragua's gov't cancels universities, sentences opponents (Feb. 4, 2022)

Nicaragua’s government-loyal National Assembly stripped several educational organizations of their permission to operate this week. The most prominent target of the measures is the Polytechnic University of Nicaragua, an epicenter of anti-government demonstrations in 2018. Government authorities also cancelled several foreign academic programs operating in Nicaragua. (Confidencial, Confidencial)

The shuttered organizations join a growing list of over 60 groups whose legal permission to operate was unilaterally cancelled in Nicaragua under laws that severely limit organizations of civil society in the country. Experts have criticized the laws as tools aimed at silencing critics of the Ortega government.

Analysts said it was a sweeping attack on higher education and an escalation of the Ortega regime's tactics to repress dissent, reports the Washington Post. The measures are "a blatant attempt to undermine the student movement, one of the pillars fighting for democracy in Nicaragua,” Human Rights Watch's Tamara Taraciuk Broner told the Washington Post.

More Nicaragua
  • Express trials against Nicaraguan political detainees this week resulted in swift convictions behind closed doors with no due process, reports El Faro. Each political prisoner’s trial has lasted less than a day. The trials were held in the new “El Chipote” jail complex with riot squads standing guard, rather than at public courthouses, as Nicaraguan law requires. The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) called this week’s convictions a “deepening of repression.” 
  • Former Sandinista rebel commander Dora María Téllez, one of dozens of political detainees rounded up last year by Nicaragua’s government, was convicted after a trial lasting only a few hours. The Judicial Defense Unit, a coalition of lawyers, said the trial was held in the infamous Chipote prison, where dozens of political detainees have been held for months, reports the Associated Press. (See Wednesday's briefs.)

  • Nicaragua is on the road to expulsion from the Organization of American States with the direction they are headed, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols said yesterday. (Voice of America)
Costa Rica elections

Costa Ricans will vote in general elections on Sunday, though none of the 25 presidential candidates are expected to win outright, likely triggering a runoff vote in April, reports Reuters. Voters will also fully renew the 57-member Congress, currently dominated by the center-left National Liberation Party (PLN). (Reuters)

The broad field of candidates is the largest number in the country's history, and none is expected to win more than 17% of the vote, according o a survey published this week by the Center for Research and Political Studies of the University of Costa Rica. The poll puts former President José María Figueres, for the PLN in the lead, but also found that 31 percent of people who plan to vote remain undecided.

Indecision is common among Costa Rican voters headed to the polls, and the waning influence of establishment political parties makes polling tricky, notes AS/COA in its pre-election write-up.

The campaign lacks a dominant issue that would drive voters to the polls, reports the Associated Press. Costa Rians are frustrated by high unemployment, recent public corruption scandals and another surge of COVID-19 infections, but no candidate has captured the public’s imagination.

More Costa Rica
  • Costa Rica’s top prosecutor filed papers yesterday seeking to lift President Carlos Alvarado’s immunity so he can face charges related to his office’s collection of personal information on citizens, reports the Associated Press. Prosecutors allege Alvarado abused his authority by creating the Presidential Unit of Data Analysis, which allegedly sought restricted information from various government agencies, such as personal income and medical records.
News Briefs

  • On the sixtieth anniversary of the U.S. embargo on Cuba, the National Security Archive posted a collection of previously declassified documents that record the origins, rationale, and early evolution of punitive economic sanctions against Cuba in the aftermath of the Castro-led revolution. 

  • The documents show that the initial concept of U.S. economic pressure was to create “hardship” and “disenchantment” among the Cuban populace and to deny “money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, [and] to bring about hunger, desperation, and the overthrow of [the] government.” However, a CIA case study of the embargo, written twenty years after its imposition, concluded that the sanctions “have not met any of their objectives.” (National Security Archive)

  • It's a good opportunity to delve into the complexities of the embargo, which is shorthand for a complex patchwork of laws and regulations that comprise the oldest and most comprehensive U.S. economic sanctions against any country in the world, writes William LeoGrande at Responsible Statecraft.
  • Two weeks after a massive oil spill off of Peru's coast the oil has washed across some 27 miles of Pacific coastline, and government officials are sparring with oil execs over who is to blame. Government ministers have promised “drastic” penalties for Spanish oil company Repsol, perhaps more than $50 million, with the aim of setting an example, reports the New York Times.
  • Thousands of demonstrators are expected to hit Brazil’s streets tomorrow to protest against the murder of Moïse Mugenyi Kabagambe, a young Congolese refugee whose killing has caused an explosion of anger over deep-rooted structural racism and hate violence, reports the Guardian. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Argentine President Alberto Fernández said yesterday in Russia that his country must abandon its economic "dependence" on the United States and the International Monetary Fund. (Reuters)

  • Argentine media reported that the comments were not part of the officially prepared script, and some say microphones caught what was intended to be a private comment between the two presidents. (Cronista, Infobae)

  • Argentine lawmaker Máximo Kirchner's dissent from the government over an IMF deal has deepened divisions within the ruling Frente de Todos coalition, at precisely the moment the government is seeking unity in touting its accomplishments, I write in Americas Quarterly.
  • Fighting between rival guerrilla groups along Colombia’s border with Venezuela is terrorizing the department of Arauca. Leaders and residents in this Colombian border community say they are living in terror unlike any they have experienced since the 2016 peace deal with the FARC, reports the Washington Post.
  • Venezuela’s government has unleashed a new campaign targeting municipal and state officials, police commanders and prosecutors allegedly involved in extortion and drug trafficking, but of those arrested so far under Operation Mano de Hierro have been politicians of real influence, notes InSight Crime. "Rather, this operation falls in line with a historical strategy of using high-profile operations to hide the government’s inability – or unwillingness – to combat organized crime."

  • Many Venezuelan civil society organizations are pushing back against Maduro government repression by creating and preserving spaces to celebrate non-violent, democratic resistance. One recent example was the #EspacioParaDefender campaign, launched by the Human Rights Commission of Zulia State (CODHEZ) in late 2021, which sought to promote a conversation around the urgent need to protect civic space in Venezuela. WOLA published a Q&A with representatives of CODHEZ and three other local NGOs. (Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights)
  • Workers at one of the largest General Motors plants in Mexico voted to adopt an independent union yesterday. The move is seen as an important test case for whether new North American trade rules can improve Mexican working conditions, reports the New York Times.

  • The Mexican government's energy reform proposal could undermine competitiveness – and violate trade agreements, writes Ana Lilia Moreno at Americas Quarterly.
  • Brazil's electoral court is embroiled in a complex attempt to confront the digital militias that have practiced and continue to practice strategies of misinformation. To avoid a repeat of the 2018 elections -- President Jair Bolsonaro owes his victory, in part, to fake news -- authorities must crack down on illegal misinformation strategies. But if the electoral court (TSE) is too tough on Bolsonaro, it will justify his ongoing attacks on judicial institutions, write Pedro Abramovay, João Brant and Daniela da Silva in Piauí.

  • Top Brazilian hedge fund managers said markets will embrace a return of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and expect him to win in this year's presidential elections, reports Bloomberg.

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


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