Thursday, March 24, 2022

Nicaragua's OAS ambassador denounces Ortega (March 24, 2022)

Nicaragua’s ambassador to the Organization of American States has launched an extraordinary verbal attack against the Ortega administration he represents internationally. "It’s not easy to denounce my country’s dictatorship – but to carry on in silence and defending the indefensible is impossible," said Arturo McFields Yescas during an online OAS session yesterday. (ConfidencialGuardian)

The Nicaraguan diplomat said he was speaking out "in the name of the 177 political prisoners and the more than 350 people who have lost their lives" since the failed 2018 uprising against President Daniel Ortega and his vice-president and wife Rosario Murillo. "I must speak out, despite the fear. I must speak out even though my future and that of my family are uncertain. I must speak out otherwise the stones themselves will speak for me." (Guardian)

McFields also said he had resigned as ambassador. The diplomat also pointed to the closures of nongovernmental organizations and curbs on the media, and said elections in the Central American country were "not credible." (Reuters)

The startling denunciation followed the sentencing by a Nicaraguan judge this week of two opposition leaders and political scions: Cristiana Chamorro, a journalist, potential presidential contender and daughter of former President Violeta Chamorro and her brother Pedro Joaquín Chamorro. Cristiana was sentenced to eight years in prison and her brother to nine, reports the Associated Press. (See March 14's post on their convictions.)

The sentences are part of a broad crackdown against political opponents and critics that put Ortega's challengers behind bars last year. Nicaraguan judges have sentenced several opposition leaders, including former high-level officials of the governing Sandinista movement and former presidential contenders, to prison terms for “conspiracy to undermine national integrity.”

Two Nicaraguan foreign service "advisors," daughters of Sandinista lawmaker Wálmaro Gutiérrez, resigned their posts this week. (Artículo 66)

News Briefs

  • The number of migrants crossing the U.S. southern border illegally has jumped again in recent weeks -- authorities are on pace to make more than 200,000 detentions along the Mexico border in March, the highest monthly total since August, reports the Washington Post. Authorities are bracing for a “mass migration event,” as the Biden administration considers lifting pandemic-related restrictions that permit agents to bypass standard immigration proceedings and rapidly deport most migrants to their home countries or to Mexico.

  • A trove of newly uncovered U.S. border patrol internal documents offer an unprecedented view of the lengths the U.S. and Mexican governments went in 2019 to surveil, detain, and deport migrants on their way to the U.S.-Mexico border, reports The Intercept. It was, as Human Rights Watch researcher Ari Sawyer put it, a “transnational effort to shut down asylum.” And the U.S. government’s militarized response to the 2019 crisis made it much worse, advocates say.

  • Tens of thousands of Cubans have left the island since mass anti-government protests last July but many face life in limbo in Mexico, reports the Guardian.
Regional Relations
  • Cuban life is dominated by the U.S. embargo and the shortages it causes in vital necessities -- such as milk. Some in Washington and Miami worry that lifting any restrictions now would reward the Cuban regime, but the members of Congress urging Biden to suspend the sanctions say they are not giving the Cuban government a pass," just recognizing the deleterious effects of the policy on Cuban lives, writes Anthony DePalma in a Los Angeles Times op-ed.

  • The U.S. Biden administration is listening closely to Chevron, which says it can help double Venezuela’s oil production within months. That could replace the loss of oil the U.S. was importing from Russia before it attacked Ukraine, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Russia’s war in Ukraine could fan Venezuela's territorial aspirations in Guyana's Essequibo region, argue Paul Angelo and  Wazim Mowla in Foreign Policy. "Maduro has pursued volatility as a matter of policy. We should take his threats toward Guyana over the Essequibo at face value." Preventing conflict over the Essequibo in the long run requires ramping up disincentives for Venezuelan cross-border aggression today, they write.

  • UK Prince William expressed “profound sorrow” for the “appalling atrocity of slavery” during an address to Jamaica’s prime minister and other dignitaries that stopped short of the apology activists had demanded, reports the Guardian. (See yesterday's post.) William also made reference to the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, which is tomorrow.

  • But much more than lip service is needed, writes Jamaican MP Lisa Hanna in a Guardian op-ed, calling on the U.K. to seriously engage on the issue of reparations, specifically on Caricom Reparations Commission's 10-point-action plan. "Flowery words and artful symbols not only do not placate us, but words without action will also offend us. We need leaders in civil society, in politics and in the monarchy to not only acknowledge historic exploitation and the consequences thereof but to begin to make concrete steps to rectify it."
  • Jamaican prime minister, Andrew Holness, surprised many when he greeted the royals saying  the visit provided an opportunity to address “unresolved” issues, likely including reparations and the removal of the Queen as the head of state. (Guardian)

  • Jamaican officials have previously said the government is studying the process of reforming the constitution to become a republic. Experts say the process could take years and would require a referendum, reports Reuters.
  • Black Colombian environmental crusader Francia Márquez could be on the verge of becoming Colombia’s next vice-president after the leftist frontrunner, Gustavo Petro, picked her as his running mate. The move is particularly noteworthy in Colombia, where politics remain dominated by wealthy white men, reports the Guardian

  • Márquez came in third overall in the presidential primaries earlier this month, and second in the Pacto Histórico coalition headed by Petro. A political novice who has never held electoral office, she handily beat political veterans like Sergio Fajardo, Alejandro Gaviria and Carlos Amay. (See March 15's briefs.)

  • Petro's running-mate choice fulfills an agreement made among parties of the Pacto Histórico coalition -- that the primary second-place winner be the VP candidate -- but he had initially appeared likely to instead select a candidate who could broaden his voter base. (See March 16's briefs.)

  • Petro told The Washington Post he envisions a progressive “axis” between Chile, Colombia and Brazil. He said he aims to usher in a new Latin American left, built not on extracting natural resources like governments past but on protecting the environment and advancing industrialization.
  • Chile's government says it will send a long-awaited bill to reform the country's controversial private pension system to congress next year. Reforming the current system was one of the biggest demands demonstrators had during the 2019 protests, reports Reuters.
  • Rampant gang violence and crime has rocked the Haitian suburb of Croix-des-Bouquets, pushing hundreds of residents to flee the criminal stronghold on the outskirts of capital city Port-au-Prince that has been pivotal to the rise of feared street gang, the "400 Mawozo," reports InSight Crime.
  • Machu Picchu has been known by the wrong name since its "rediscovery" over a century ago, according to a new academic paper that argues that the Unesco world heritage site was known by its Inca inhabitants as Huayna Picchu – the name of a peak overlooking the ruins – or simply Picchu. (Guardian)
Today is Argentina's National Day of Memory for Truth and Justice, which marks the anniversary of the 1976 civilian-military coup, launching a de-facto government under which 30,000 people were forcibly disappeared. Nunca Más.

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