Friday, April 29, 2022

Peru’s Indigenous communities evicted from Las Bambas mine (April 29, 2022)

The Indigenous Huancuire and Fuerabamba communities have been evicted from the Chinese-owned Las Bambas copper mine for a second day, following evictions that began on Wednesday, reports Reuters. The communities, claiming the corporation MMG had not fulfilled its previous agreements under its 2011 sale of the land and demanding just compensation for environmental and social impacts, were expelled from the property under the Peruvian law allowing property owners to forcibly remove trespassers. 

Tensions between the two have been high in recent months, with violent attempts to evict indigenous communities involving local police becoming a recurring pattern. The country’s National Police were involved in supporting the company’s most recent evictions, though the government itself was not a participant.

As the world’s 2nd largest copper producer, Peru’s mining industry is a critical source of tax revenue. Las Bambas itself supplies 2% of the world’s copper. With the suspension of the mine’s operations on April 20 following the settlement of the indigenous communities, the country has lost an estimated loss of $1.4 million per day, according to local media

Castillo, a political outsider and former union leader, was originally seen as a beacon of hope for the country’s rural and indigenous communities. His discussions of nationalizing the country’s gas industry and promising greater state intervention in mining practices has lowered business confidence in Peru, but was seen as a win for the indigenous communities who had been harmed by private companies taking over indigenous land, reported Voice of America. Now, Castillo’s lack of support for indigenous communities and his enactment of a state of emergency in Las Bambas mine (among others) signal a shift in policy that only increases his national disapproval (Reuters). 

More Peru

Pedro Castillo faces yet another political setback, this time from within his own political party, from a proposed bill to have the presidential and congressional terms end in July 2023, rather than the scheduled July 2026, reports Reuters. With a disapproval rate of 63%, according to Bloomberg, Castillo has survived two impeachment attempts in his only nine months in office, and has faced a cabinet rotation four different times. 

News Briefs 


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  • A Publica has created a new “Map of Conflict” platform, detailing statistics and cases of violence and injustice in the Amazon over the last decade. The site is available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese and includes an interactive map.


  • Brazil was the country with the greatest destruction of tropical forest in the world in 2021, says Folha de São Paulo. The country was responsible for 40% of global tropical deforestation, according to data from Global Forest Watch. 


  • Folha de São Paulo reports on increasing use of opioids in Brazil. A 2019 study found that 2.9% of the country’s population have used opioids illegally, in comparison to less than 1% in the cases of crack or cocaine. Methadone and oxycodone use was 29% higher in the first half of 2021 than the entirety of 2020. 

US-Mexico Border

  • WOLA has created a new “Border Oversight” platform, compiling research on human rights issues along the US-Mexico border and including a database of alleged abuses and troubling events that have occurred in the region since 2020, highlighting the lack of oversight and accountability for Border Patrol. 


  • Refugees International has published a new report on the experiences of Haitian migrants in Mexico. They find that Mexico’s immigration policy changes have failed to consider the differentiated needs of Haitians, while the country also accepts a disproportionately low number of asylum applications from Haitians. 

  • The Bahamas has become a key transit country for migrants seeking to get to the US. Smugglers use rudimentary, often unsafe boats to transport migrants to Florida, says Reuters


  • Oil and gas production in Argentina’s Vaca Muerta from Mexican energy firm Vista has increased 29% in the first quarter of 2022, as compared to 2021, reports Reuters. The country exported 33% of its petroleum volume. (Más Energía

  • Argentina’s food prices have risen 20% in just over three months, hurting the wallets of the country’s over 5.5 million people who are food insecure. The government, whose recent agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) requires it to cut public spending, will have to make a difficult decision with regards to its large social assistance network aimed at putting food on the tables of Argentines. (France24)

  • Following a statement from the political party Juntos Por el Cambio that specifically opposed future collaboration with current legislator and opposition leader Javier Milei, PRO president Patricia Bullrich lamented the targeted exclusion of the popular libertarian political outsider, reports Clarin. Bullrich claimed Milei’s exclusion was a “total error.” 

El Salvador

  • The government of El Salvador has begun to turn to local financial institutions to help pay off its debt through Letras del Tesoro (LETES) and Certificados del Tesoro (CETES). The Treasury Ministry auctioned $84.5 million in CETES, of which only $67.7 million were bought among seven buyers. Placing the country’s debt on the public market further highlights foreign institutions’ understanding of the ever-increasing risk of investing in El Salvador. (El Economista)


  • Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency (DPA) reported that rival gangs Chen Mechan and 400 Mawozo killed at least 20 people and forced thousands more to leave their homes to flee from the violence in part of the capital. The fights, caused by the power void left in the country following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last July, have left families camping in parks in dire need of food, water, and supplies. (Infobae, Miami Herald

British Virgin Islands

  • Andrew Fahie, Premier of the British Virgin Islands, was arrested Thursday on drug trafficking and money laundering charges. Authorities report that the elected head of government conspired to allow cocaine slip through the country en route to the US with an upfront payment of $500,000. (New York Times)


  • President Guillermo Lasso has begun a cabinet shuffle as he moves towards his second year in office. The Secretary of Human Rights and Ministers of Energy, Agriculture, and Defense have all resigned, says Reuters


  • Evan Ellis dives into the strategic importance and geopolitics of the Caribbean in a new report for CSIS. He writes that the region is key to US security interests but China plays an increasingly important role, particularly with investments in infrastructure and tourism projects. The Caribbean faces increased economic strains due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, with several elections coming up over the course of the next year. 


  • Here is an update on where Chile’s Constitutional Convention stands. It notes that polls look increasingly negative for the constitutional rewrite, although they may improve once the final draft is complete. 


  • Chevron and Suriname's state oil firm Staatsolie “have signed a production sharing contract for exploring and producing oil at an offshore block,” reports Reuters.

Regional Relations

  • The Colombian guerrilla group the ELN has become increasingly co-dependent with Maduro, with the group “​​now committed not only to undermining the Colombian state, but also to supporting Maduro,” according to a former ELN commander interviewed by Americas Quarterly. The group’s forces have doubled since 2016 and their increasing role in Colombia and Venezuela may pose a threat to US-Venezuela talks. 

Jordi Amaral is a freelance researcher and writer currently working as a Research Analyst at Hxagon and as an independent consultant with the Latin America and the Caribbean Initiative at the Migration Policy Institute

Arianna Kohan is a Research Analyst at Hxagon and a current M.A. student in International Relations at the Universidad Torcuato di Tella in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She previously worked as a Program Coordinator with the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Colombian general confesses in false positives case (April 28, 2022)

A Colombian military general and 10 others acknowledged that they had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. They spoke yesterday before families of victims in the country’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace, a long-awaited testimony in the "false positives" scandal. The general, nine other military officials and a civilian admitted to orchestrating the killings of at least 120 civilians and trying to pass them off as rebel combatants, part of a military policy aimed at inflating combat kills. 

The "false positives," which were used to bolster the country’s argument that it was winning the war, have become one of the most emblematic human rights violations of the country’s traumatic internal conflict, reports the New York Times. The killings confessed to yesterday are just a small fraction of those murdered under the false positives policy between 2002 and 2008. In all, the court said in a recent investigative report that the military is responsible for killing 6,402 civilians and claiming they were rebels.

Yesterday's testimony marks the first time that officials have admitted to committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in a tribunal established through a peace agreement, reports the Washington Post. Under the terms of the special court, those admitting to committing crimes will not receive prison sentences but instead will be given so-called restorative sanctions, like house arrest or hard labor. Facing their victims in the hearings is part of the process.

Victims' families called for the accused to share information about who orchestrated the scheme, but the hearing did not answer the question of who was ultimately responsible for the policy carried out under the former President Álvaro Uribe.

The advances of the special tribunal, including in other cases, demonstrate persistent patterns in crimes committed by military forces, such as reporting civilian deaths as combat kills, covering up evidence of wrongdoing, and collaborating with paramilitary groups, reports La Silla Vacía.

More Colombia
  • A Colombian judge has rejected a request by the attorney general's office to halt an investigation into former President Alvaro Uribe, who is being investigated in a case involving allegations that he established and ran a paramilitary group of his own. (Deutsche Welle)
  • The Urabeños are losing their grip on power in Colombia, reports InSight Crime.
News Briefs

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Regional Relations
  • While many analysts have (somewhat gleefully) hailed a new Cold War, this time starring the U.S. and China as superpowers, from a "Latin American viewpoint, such a new era of confrontation must be avoided," writes Juan Gabriel Tokatlian in Americas Quarterly. The original Cold War exacerbated many negative trends in the region and created many new problems: "Latin America today—severely affected by social instability, political polarization, economic deterioration, and diplomatic fragmentation—does not want to be a battleground for a new Cold War."
El Salvador
  • Human rights groups have denounced that El Salvador's ongoing state of emergency violates fundamental freedoms and opens the door to potentially thousands of arbitrary detentions. But most Salvadorans are willing to tolerate a measure of autocracy in the context of wearying gang violence, according to the New York Times. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Mexico’s government proposed a dramatic overhaul of the nation’s electoral system and the agency that oversees it. The reform would create a federal elections board chosen by voters, potentially politicizing what has been an independent body. The proposal would also reduce the size of Congress -- the lower chamber would go from 500 deputies to 300, while the Senate would have 96 seats rather than 128. (Associated Press, Excelsior)
  • Huge fluctuations in Twitter’s follower numbers after Elon Musk negotiated a $44 billion takeover deal of the social media giant played out in Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro gained over 101,000 followers between Monday and Wednesday. Members of the Bolsonaro family gained 200,000 followers in the same time period. (Estadao)

  • During a “Free Speech” event yesterday, Bolsonaro suggested a possible suspension of the 2022 elections if there is “something abnormal.” He also spoke about a “secret room” of the TSE, where, without evidence, he insinuated electoral officials fabricate results. (Correio Brazilense)

  • Brazilian Defense Minister General Paulo Nogueira disputed statements by Supreme Court Judge Luis Roberto Barroso who said the military was being encouraged to discredit the country's voting system. (Reuters)

  • The U.N. human rights committee said that corruption proceedings against former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva that led to his imprisonment and prevented him from running for the top job in 2018 violated due process. (Reuters)

  • Earth saw more than 97,500 square miles of tree cover vanish last year. In addition to forest fires, logging and insect infestations, the relentless expansion of agriculture fueled the disappearance of critical tropical forests in Brazil and elsewhere at a rate of 10 soccer fields a minute, according to a new satellite-based survey by the University of Maryland and Global Forest Watch. (Washington Post)

  • Lula da Silva is not planning on appointing an all-powerful economic minister, along the lines of the current head of the portfolio, reports Bloomberg.

  • Brazil's lower house approved a measure that makes permanent the Auxilio Brasil monthly welfare program for families in poverty situations, months ahead of the country's October presidential election. The proposal must now be approved by the Senate within two weeks, reports Reuters.
  • Argentine officials say they seek to attract some $10 billion in private investment to help it jump start exports of liquefied natural gas, as the country battles a deep and costly energy deficit, reports Reuters.
  • Peruvian police said they had evicted an indigenous community whose protest camp in a huge open pit owned by Las Bambas copper mine forced MMG to halt operations. Peru's government had declared a state of emergency in the area earlier yesterday, meaning a suspension of civil liberties such as the right to assembly and protest. (Reuters)
  • The U.S. Coast Guard stopped a total of 84 people from Cuba migrating by sea off the Bahamas and the Florida Keys last week. South Florida is in the midst of a surge in maritime migration from both Cuba and Haiti, notes the Miami Herald.

  • Mexico detained almost 6,000 foreign migrants in a four-day span, the country's National Migration Institute (INM) said on Monday. (Reuters)

  • According to official data from the Panama government shared with the Guardian, more than 13,000 people illegally crossed from Colombia into Panama via the Darién Gap in the first three months of 2022: nearly triple the number during the same period last year. About 133,000 people made the journey in 2021 – the highest on record for any year by far.
I will be off for a week, starting tomorrow. The Briefing will be in the very capable hands of Jordi Amaral and Arianna Kohan. See you soon!

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

El Salvador's ongoing emergency (April 27, 2022)

In addition to extending El Salvador's state of emergency on Sunday, lawmakers also seized the moment to temporarily exempt security spending from legal oversight, reports El Faro English. (See Monday's briefs.) And, despite widespread flak from human rights groups as evidence accumulates of police abuses and arbitrary detentions, President Nayib Bukele’s party passed legislation to allow for government land expropriation to build more prisons. 

While the original excuse for the state of emergency was a surge in gang violence, the trend dramatically reversed after a few days, notes El Faro. Bukele renewed the state of exception despite the fact that from April 1 through last Sunday the country registered just 0.8 homicides per day, far below last year’s average of 3.1.

El Salvador's defense minister said the emergency measures are having a "positive" effect in the battle against rampant gang violence and that more than 17,000 suspected gang members had been arrested since the state of emergency was declared a month ago. (BBC)

News Briefs

  • The head of Haiti's disarmament commission narrowly escaped harm when his car was hit with a spray of gunfire yesterday, and a United Nations helicopter was reportedly hit with a bullet while parked on a runway in Port-au-Prince. It is part of growing violence in the country due to armed clashes between warring violent gangs, reports the Miami Herald.

  • “Haiti is blocked,” said Pierre Espérance, of the National Human Rights Defense Network. “We are in a situation where the only thing you can think about is your security. Not schooling, not anything else. There is no living here. The insecurity situation has paralyzed the country. ... If you don’t have a need to go out in Haiti, you don’t go out.” (Miami Herald)
  • Elon Musk isn't particularly focused on Latin America, but his acquisition of Twitter could have far-ranging impact on the region, where the social media network is the platform that defines the region’s political narrative, writes James Bosworth in the Latin America Risk Report. " It is a primary communications and political battlefield at the moment and is likely to remain so for at least the next few years."

  • Over the past two decades, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean lost the equivalent of 1.7% of a year’s GDP due to climate-related disasters and up to 5.8 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty in the region by 2030, according to a World Bank report published this month. (Independent)
  • At least 52 women have been reported missing in Mexico's Nuevo León state this year, the majority in or around the capital, Monterrey. The latest was 18-year-old Debanhi Susana Escobar Bazaldúa, whose disappearance and apparent murder have rekindled devastating memories of a wave of killings in the border city of Ciudad Juárez two decades ago, reports the Guardian. (See Monday's briefs.)

  • Escobar’s body was found last Thursday night in an abandoned underground water tank on the grounds of a motel in northern Mexico, which authorities had already searched four different times. The case has sparked outrage and protests over femicides and disappearances of women in Mexico, reports the New York Times.
  • A Brazilian federal court upheld the suspension of an environmental license for what would be the largest open-pit gold mine in the nation’s Amazon rainforest. The ruling is a blow for Canadian Belo Sun Mining Corp., which was appealing a 2017 ruling, which found that the company’s consultation with local Indigenous peoples and study on the project’s socio-environmental impacts didn’t meet the criteria required by the National Indian Foundation. (Associated Press)
  • Ten retired members of Colombia’s military implicated in the false-positives scandal began testifying to a special tribunal yesterday. They confessed to victims’ families their roles in the assassination of 120 civilians that were later presented as rebels killed in combat, reports AFP.
  • The family of Emil Bustamante López, a Guatemalan activist who was arrested and disappeared in 1982, filed a case with the UN human rights committee. It is the first time the committee has been asked to look into a case of enforced disappearance in Guatemala, reports the Guardian.
More El Salvador
  • Most people in El Salvador who downloaded the state-run bitcoin wallet last year don't engage significantly with the app, according to a report published by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research. (Coindesk)
  • Food security in the English and Dutch speaking Caribbean has been significantly affected by Covid-19 pandemic, and will be worsened by the impact of the war in Ukraine, according to a newly released report by the United Nations World Food Program and Caricom. (Miami Herald)

  • Government support for citizens over the past two years has, in many cases, resulted in increased national debt. According to the report, governments' ability to sustain this support is under threat, and requires innovative financing solutions to navigate the compounded impacts of the pandemic, the climate crisis, economic hardship, and most recently, reverberating global impacts of the war in Ukraine -- Miami Herald.

  • Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen lost to incumbent Emanuel Macron this weekend, but finished far ahead in some of France’s overseas territories. Analysts say the polls demonstrate protest against Macron, but also a sustained drive for votes by the far-right party in the overseas territories, where social deprivation is significantly higher than on the mainland, reports the Guardian.
  • Dollarization proposals are flourishing once more in Argentina as a “disruptive” shortcut to put an end to inflation -- and will likely have electoral impact in next year's presidential race, though economically the plans leave much to be desired, argue Eduardo Levy Yeyati and Marina dal Poggetto in Americas Quarterly.
  • Authorities in Chile are sounding the alarm over repeated seizures of small quantities of arms being trafficked through Argentina, reports InSight Crime.
  • The U.S. Biden administration's plan to lift the Title 42 policy will likely swell the border with migrants who view it as easier to come to the United States and claim asylum -- the Washington Post analyzes potential consequences.
Human Rights
  • Kenneth Roth will step down from Human Rights Watch, after nearly three decades of leading the organization. "Roth has been an unrelenting irritant to authoritarian governments, exposing human rights abuses with documented research reports that have become the group’s specialty," reports the New York Times.
Dear readers: I always do appreciate your spontaneous comments and feedback. I wanted to ask you to take a brief survey about the Briefing, in order to better understand how it's useful to you and in hopes of, perhaps, finding ways to improve the product so that it better meets your needs.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Cuba accuses U.S. of excluding from Summit (April 26, 2022)

Cuban officials accused the U.S. of excluding the island's government from the upcoming Summit of the Americas, which will be held in Los Angeles in June. Cuban foreign affairs minister Bruno Rodríguez said the U.S. Biden administration is also putting pressure on countries in the hemisphere who oppose excluding Cuba from the largest regional gathering of hemispheric leaders, reports the Miami Herald.

Rodríguez said US officials were already leaving Cuba out of pre-summit conversations on such issues as a regional health strategy and migration, both of vital interest to the island’s leaders, and noted that Cuba has attended the past two Summit of the Americas meetings. (Al Jazeera)

The U.S. said no invitations have been issued for the Summit from the White House at this time.

The statements came after the U.S. and Cuba held migration talks in Washington, D.C., last week amid soaring Cuban migration to the U.S. 80,000 Cubans were apprehended at the border between October and April, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Last week’s meeting amounted to the highest-level talks between the two countries in over four years. While Rodríguez celebrated the meeting as a positive sign, U.S. policy toward Cuba is "incoherent" and "contradictory" because, he said, the U.S. tightens the embargo "and at the same time restricts migration." (NBC)

News Briefs

More Regional Relations
  • U.S. State Department officials held their first high-level talks with the Brazilian government since 2019 yesterday. The meeting comes despite the two governments' differences over the Ukraine war, reports Reuters. Asked about President Jair Bolsonaro’s criticism of the Brazilian voting system ahead of his re-election campaign this year, the U.S. said the United States had confidence in Brazil’s strong democratic institutions.
  • Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's lead in Brazil's presidential race narrowed again, according to a new FSB Pesquisa poll that gives Lula 41 percent compared to 32 percent for incumbent Jair Bolsonaro. (Reuters)
  • Mexico's Michoacán state was the original focus of the country's war on drugs, and demonstrates the failure of the policy, according to a new Crisis Group report that delves into the Tierra Caliente heartland of the state's organized crime. Over the past fifteen years, "at least fourteen illegal armed outfits have carved up power, political sway and territories among them, each one digging in too deep for its competitors to oust it completely. The result has been a state of perpetual low-intensity armed violence. A viable strategy to reduce this violence has yet to be found."

  • Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he will present a plan aimed at buffering Mexican food prices from global price swings that caused soaring inflation this year, reports Bloomberg.
  • Perceptions among Chileans that Chile is on the wrong path rose 18 points between March and April, according to a new Cadem poll. Citizens are increasingly dour on the new constitution, which will be put to plebiscite on Sept. 4. For the fourth consecutive week, the poll found that more respondents would reject the new magna carta than approve it. (CNN)

  • Experts have cautioned, however, that negative perceptions about the new magna carta could dissipate after the Constitutional Convention finishes drafting the new text. Last week delegates adopted a series of “fundamental rights” into the text of the proposed constitution, including, among others, the right to health care and social security, the right to unionize, strike and collectively bargain and “the right to a dignified and adequate home.” This could counter some criticisms that the convention has failed to tackle the problems underlying broad social unrest that led to the drafting process in the first place, reports La Bot Constituyente.

  • If the articles approved last week make it to a successful magna carta, it would be the first time positive social rights will be included in the Chilean constitution, writes Nicholas C. Scott in the Washington Post. "The invocation of “dignity” is important and it signals that the vote in the convention forms part of a much longer history of Chileans’ struggle to achieve a dignified life."

  • Just six weeks in office, President Gabriel Boric faces his own political problems, his disapproval rating has shot way up, in part due to gaffes from a team with little governance experience, according to Bloomberg. Boric is under fire from both the left, where communists say he isn't serious about dismantling the country's neoliberal system, and from the right, concerned about the country's status with investors. 
  • Colombian vice presidential candidate Francia Márquez is the major revelation of this year's campaign, according to the Financial Times. If leftist Gustavo Petro's bid is successful, Márquez would take an additional role heading a new ministry dedicated to eradicating inequality of race and gender in one of Latin America’s most class-ridden societies.
  • Asylum seekers from around the world, including Latin America, are increasingly entering Canada after the country lifted Covid-19 restrictions in December. (Guardian)
Antigua and Barbuda
  • Antigua and Barbuda plans on pursuing, eventually, plans to become a republic, Prime Minister Gaston Browne told visiting British royals the Earl and Countess of Wessex this week. The country is the latest in the Caribbean to announce intentions to possibly split from the British monarchy, reports the BBC.
  • Former Ecuador president Rafael Correa said the political asylum he has been granted in Belgium is proof he is persecuted by his country’s authorities and did not rule out a return to politics in an interview with the Associated Press.
  • Governments in Latin America should provide targeted and temporary fiscal support to help poor families cope with higher food and energy prices and reduce the risk of social unrest from soaring inflation, according to the International Monetary Fund. (Bloomberg)
Dear readers: I always do appreciate your spontaneous comments and feedback. I wanted to ask you to take a brief survey about the Briefing, in order to better understand how it's useful to you and in hopes of, perhaps, finding ways to improve the product so that it better meets your needs.

Monday, April 25, 2022

The ICC's Venezuela investigation (April 25, 2022)

International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan plans to continue his office's investigation into possible crimes against humanity in Venezuela, overriding a request by Venezuela's government to defer, based on allegations that domestic authorities were already investigating these crimes. On April 20, Khan notified a panel of ICC judges of Venezuela’s request and indicated that his office would soon ask the judges to reject the request. Khan’s office also said it will seek to engage with victims and their legal representatives. The investigation is on hold until the judges rule on Khan’s forthcoming request.

“The ICC prosecutor’s expressed intention to proceed with his investigation, pending judicial approval, is a positive sign,” said Tamara Taraciuk Broner, acting Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Moving forward, it’s essential for the ICC prosecutor to meaningfully engage with victims, affected communities, and the civil society groups seeking justice for Venezuelans’ suffering.”

Venezuela’s judiciary has failed to adequately investigate widespread abuses despite compelling evidence, and impunity for human rights abuses remains the norm, Human Rights Watch said. Recent measures to reform Venezuela’s justice system are not adequate to address the profound lack of judicial independence in the country, and may even aggravate it.

The developments build on a three-day Caracas trip by Khan in March, which concluded with the announcement that the ICC would open an office in Venezuela as it advances the investigation it began last year into human rights violations committed by Venezuelan authorities and government supporters since 2017. The ICC said it seeks to “deepen cooperation” with the Venezuelan government through the opening of the national office to facilitate the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding signed in November, and to support efforts to investigate crimes at the national level. (Venezuela Update)

On April 5, a group of civil society activists met with President Nicolás Maduro to present a series of demands for meaningful democratic and judicial reforms. The group published the letter that they presented to Maduro, which includes a list of demands regarding the need to establish independence in Venezuela’s justice system and the Supreme Court (TSJ) and the urgency of returning to negotiations in Mexico City. Following backlash to the meeting from the opposition and others critical of the notion of negotiating with Maduro, participants in the meeting have publicly emphasized the importance of taking the opportunity to establish spaces for dialogue and engage with those in power to advance institutional reform—while not abandoning their commitment to human rights. (Venezuela Update)

More Venezuela
  • Last week, a group of Venezuelan civil society leaders, economists and analysts called on the United States, Maduro’s government and Venezuela's opposition to restart political talks in order to ease oil sanctions that would alleviate the humanitarian crisis. (Bloomberg)

  • Some experts posit that easing sanctions is critical to tackle the country's humanitarian crisis -- 25 percent of the country's population is malnourished and 94 percent lives in poverty, according to some statistics -- while others counter that it would strengthen Maduro's government, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
News Briefs

El Salvador 
  • El Salvador’s congress voted yesterday to extend an anti-gang emergency decree for another 30 days, in response to a request from President Nayib Bukele. Bukele has used emergency powers to round up about 16,000 suspected gang members following a spate of killings a month ago, raising significant concerns among human rights groups. (Associated Press)
  • An ecosystem of organized crime threatens the Amazon, and global climate action, warn Robert Muggah and Mac Margolis in Reuters. "For all the talk about how destruction in the Amazon leads to greenhouse gases, there is less discussion about how to rein in the increasingly agile cabal of criminal entrepreneurs" that has spurred a regional public security crisis in parallel to the raging climate emergency.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been touring the country in an effort to project strength and popularity and win back millions of voters who abandoned him. He remains the underdog in October's presidential elections, but his polling has improved in recent weeks, and a second mandate is not impossible, reports the Guardian.

  • Brazil held Carnival celebrations this weekend, with a two month delay due to coronavirus concerns. Many saw the revelry as  chance to vent their spleen at Bolsonaro, reports the Guardian.
Regional Relations
  • Brazil’s pragmatic, at times ambivalent, stance towards the Russia-Ukraine war is motivated by national interests, diplomatic traditions and electoral concerns for Bolsonaro, reports Al Jazeera.

  • Nicaragua's government said it had completed its withdrawal from the Organization of American States (OAS). The OAS countered that Nicaragua's rejection of the group could not go into effect until the end of 2023 given the country's status as an active member. Nicaragua's government also said it had closed the local OAS office and revoked the credentials of several OAS representatives as part of an "unwavering decision" to leave the organization. (Reuters)
  • Hundreds of women marched through downtown Mexico City yesterday to protest the horrifying death of 18-year-old Debanhi Escobar, whose body was found Thursday in a cistern at a motel in Monterrey, almost two weeks after she had gone missing. (Associated Press)
  • Peruvian President Pedro Castillo said he will submit to Congress a bill to allow Peruvian citizens to be consulted on the drafting of a new Constitution. The issue of a new constitution, and how to draft it, has been on Castillo's agenda since his election campaign, but with varying degrees of emphasis, in the midst of a growing political crisis and frequent cabinet changes. (Europa PressBloomberg)
  • Honduras' Congress unanimously repealed a law which allowed for the creation of special economic zones exempt from some national laws and taxes throughout the country, known as Zones for Employment and Economic Development (ZEDEs), reports Reuters.

  • Juan Orlando Hernández, the former president of Honduras, appeared virtually for his initial US court appearance Friday on federal drug trafficking and firearms possession charges, reports CNN. (See last Friday's post.)
  • Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro extended his lead ahead of next month's elections in the latest CNC poll published by Semana: in the most likely runoff scenario Petro would get 44.8% of votes versus 36.9% for former Medellin mayor Federico “Fico” Gutierrez. (Bloomberg)

  • Leftist former Bogotá mayor Petro is in his his third attempt at the presidency -- but this is his best shot at victory. "Colombians are frustrated with the status quo and for many Petro speaks credibly about the ills facing the country," writes Benjamin Russell for Americas Quarterly.
  • Argentine economy minister Martin Guzmán said that a $45 billion debt deal with the International Monetary Fund will not be modified, following a meeting with IMF head Kristalina Georgieva, Friday. (Reuters)

  • Thousands of Argentine farmers protested in Buenos Aires this weekend against President Alberto Fernández, particularly his policies aimed at containing food prices in the midst of rampant inflation, reports Reuters.
Dear readers: I always do appreciate your spontaneous comments and feedback. I wanted to ask you to take a brief survey about the Briefing, in order to better understand how it's useful to you and in hopes of, perhaps, finding ways to improve the product so that it better meets your needs.