Gang warfare in Haiti's Port-au-Prince has reached new peaks of intensity and brutality. Experts say the scale and duration of gang clashes, the power criminals wield and the amount of territory they control has reached levels not seen before, reports the Associated Press.
The UN said that between April 24 and May 16, at least 92 people unaffiliated with gangs, and some 96 alleged gang members, were reportedly killed during coordinated armed attacks in the sprawling Haitian capital. Another 113 were injured, 12 reported missing, and 49 kidnapped for ransom, according to figures corroborated by UN human rights officers, although the actual number of those killed may be much higher. (See today's Just Caribbean Updates)
The United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, said last week armed violence has reached “unimaginable and intolerable levels” in Haiti and that the surge in violence is being fuelled by heavily armed gangs in Port-au-Prince. (United Nations)
Gangs also are recruiting more children than before, arming them with heavy weapons and forming temporary alliances with other gangs in attempts to take over more territory for economic and political gain ahead of the country’s general elections, reports the Associated Press.
The security situation has a direct impact on the country's political crisis, notes the Latin America Risk Report: "Even accepting some level of electoral weakness if Haiti holds elections this year, elections under the current levels of gang violence and influence would not be accepted by much of Haitian society. Solving the security situation must be a priority."
New York Times investigation -- The Ransom -- delves into the reparations paid by Haiti after it won its freedom from France. "What if? What if the nation had not been looted by outside powers, foreign banks and its own leaders almost since birth? How much more money might it have had to build a nation? Persistent corruption is one reason for Haiti's apparently perpetual crisis. But a history of crippling reparations and later extractivist policies by French financial institutions are critical to understanding Haiti's current woes.
For more than a year, a team of Times correspondents scoured long-forgotten documents languishing in archives and libraries on three continents to answer that question, to put a number on what it cost Haitians to be free. For generations after independence, Haitians were forced to pay the descendants of their former slave masters, the world’s first and only country to do so. Loans from French banks were used to finance these payments, what became known as Haiti’s “double debt” — the ransom and the loan to pay it — a stunning load that boosted the fledgling Parisian international banking system and helped cement Haiti’s path into poverty and underdevelopment, reports the New York Times, based on original historical records.
A New York Times investigation into historical records uncovers how Parisian bank Crédit Industriel et Commercial, which in 1880 set up Haiti's national bank, choked Haiti’s economy, taking much of the young nation’s income back to Paris and impairing its ability to start schools, hospitals and the other building blocks of an independent country. Crédit Industriel, known in France as C.I.C., is now a $355 billion subsidiary of one of Europe’s largest financial conglomerates.
And the history continues to have significant repercussions: French diplomats admit that Jean-Bertrand Aristide's sudden calls for reparations in 2003, a bombshell that became a hallmark of his presidency, played a role in his eventual ouster in a coup supported by France and the U.S., reports the New York Times.
- There’s no single trajectory for how Latin American countries came to legalize abortion -- recent examples include laws passed by Congress, Supreme Court decisions and, soon, Chile might include the right in a new constitution, writes Omar G. Encarnación in The Nation. But, broadly speaking, Latin American activists have framed the question as one of human rights, rather than personal choice as in the U.S.
- Despite these significant advances, millions still live in a horrendous reality, writes Diana Cariboni in Nacla. Abortion is completely banned in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Suriname. Raped girls and women are forced to give birth in the countries with total abortion bans, but also in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela. There seems little hope of any change to abortion restrictions in Central America, but the next big win could come in the region’s most populous country, Brazil.
- Cubans have been hit by mass shortages of basic goods as part of its pressing economic crisis -- lack of milk is one of the most potent symbols of the country’s precarious state, reports the Washington Post.
- The U.S. Biden administration is considering inviting a Cuban representative to attend the upcoming Summit of the Americas as an observer, reports the Associated Press. It’s unclear if Cuba would accept the invitation — which would be extended to someone in the foreign ministry, not the foreign minister himself — and whether that would assuage concerns among Latin American and Caribbean leaders who have threatened to boycott the meeting over Cuba and Venezuela's exclusion.
- Guyana will be attending the upcoming Summit of the Americas to discuss high-priority matters, highlighting the dilemma countries in the region face, as they threaten a boycott over the likely exclusion by the U.S. of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. (NewsRoom)
- Even if Brazilians deny President Jair Bolsonaro a second term in October, it will take a generation to dismantle his many negative legacies, from loosened gun regulation to attacks on democratic institutions. But the most serious is Bolsonaro's example of negationism, write Conrado Hübner Mendes, Mariana Celano de Souza Amaral and Marina Slhessarenko Barreto in the Post Opinión.
- Some of the world’s biggest mining companies have withdrawn requests to research and extract minerals on Indigenous land in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, and have repudiated Bolsonaro’s efforts to legalize mining activity in the areas. (Associated Press)
- Four of the six presidential tickets in Colombia's May 29 election have an Afro-Colombian vice-presidential candidate — a remarkable shift in a country historically led by men from a small group of elite families, reports the Washington Post. But Francia Márquez, a Black environmental activist who has never held political office is by far the most visible: she won the third most votes in the country’s March presidential primary, and is now running alongside leftist frontrunner Gustavo Petro.
- Peruvian President Pedro Castillo named four new cabinet ministers yesterday -- including Interior and Mining. The latest of many Cabinet shuffles in less than a year in office comes amid rising tensions over protests in the country's mining regions. (Reuters, Infobae)
- Ecuador's former vice-president Jorge Glas, who served 4.5 years in prison on a bribery conviction before being released last month, was arrested on Friday by police under a court order to return him to jail. (Reuters)
- An international team of 120 institutions has collected a massive archive of Amazon camera trap data— with records for over 150,000 snapshots taken between 2001 and 2020. It’s an attempt not just to get the information in one place but to enable researchers to study some of the biggest challenges that face the region. Many — such as climate change, deforestation and fire — are human-caused, reports the Washington Post.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...Latin America Daily Briefing