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Añez declares herself interim president (Nov. 13, 2019)
A second-tier political opposition leader claimed Bolivia's presidency yesterday. Jeanine Añez, sidestepped a lack of quorum in Bolivia's congress and declared herself Senate leader, and then, interim president. A military officer in camouflage pinned on the presidential sash and she greeted Bolivians from the balcony of the old presidential palace with a bible in hand. (Associated Press, Guardian, New York Times)
She was the highest-ranking politician in line of succession after former president Evo Morales resigned on Sunday, along with other top officials. Bolivia’s highest constitutional court issued a ruling that backed her assumption of power yesterday, but it's not clear she will be able to muster the necessary consensus to hold new elections within three months. Members of Morales' party, which holds a majority in congress said they would hold another legislative session today to nullify her decision.
Morales said on Twitter from Mexico that Añez’s “self-proclamation” was an affront to constitutional government. “Bolivia is suffering an assault on the power of the people,” he wrote.
Morales supporters protested in La Paz after Añez declared herself president. Police and soldiers fired tear gas trying to disperse the crowd and detained some demonstrators. Sporadic political violence and opportunistic looting continued yesterday, reports the New York Times, whose reporter "watched about 20 motorbike-riding civilians armed with metal pipes and chains travel out of Cochabamba’s main police station, as police officers saluted them and gave thumbs up on the way out."
Military jets flew at low altitudes over several areas of La Paz and El Alto yesterday, part of the armed forces' efforts to contain protests and contributing to tensions, reports EFE.
OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro threw the whole coup debate for a loop by insisting that Bolivia's armed forces acted correctly and that Morales carried out a coup when he "committed electoral fraud." In a polarized session yesterday, 15 OAS member states avoided calling Bolivia's institutional crisis a coup, and called for the rapid formation of a provisional government and rejected acts of violence. (El País)
Morales' ouster was both "a military coup d’état and a moment of mass protest that unseated the government," writes Angus McNelly in the Conversation.
The Nation explores how anti-Morales sentiment has generated an anti-indigenous backlash in Bolivia. (See yesterday's briefs.) Opposition leader Luis Fernándo Camacho, who stoked demands for Morales' resignation in recent weeks, entered the presidential palace on Sunday with a bible the promise that the Pachamama will never return to government. (La Jornada)
Reports show that pro-Morales journalists were targeted by opposition groups during unrest over the past few weeks. This weekend Prensa Rural director José Aramayo was held hostage, tied to a tree in La Paz, by an anti-Morales group, reports Página 12.
Chileans strike, keep protesting
Chile was brought to a virtual standstill yesterday by a national strike, which accompanied ongoing protests against social inequality. Eighty-thousand people protested in Santiago -- the gathering in Plaza Italia demanded further social reform and President Sebastián Piñera's resignation. Though the main march was peaceful, though there were clashes with police around the city and around the country. There were burning barricades in Santiago, and reports of looting and vandalism in the capital and other locations. Truck drivers and other protesters set up barricades on at least two major highways connecting Santiago with outlying cities and ports. Congress, which is based in Valparaiso, shut down for the day. (Reuters, Associated Press, Ambito,
Piñera condemned new clashes between protesters and police yesterday evening, and said that those responsible would be prosecuted under the strict state security law that allows for tougher penalties. He also called on citizens to subscribe to three "social accords" aimed at defusing tensions, including a process to draft a new constitution. Protesters rejected Piñera's proposal as insufficient, and demand a constitutional assembly. (See yesterday's briefs.)
The unions on strike also presented demands related to wages, pensions, and union organizing, reports Al Jazeera.
Reports of excessive use of force by security forces are ongoing -- on Monday a police officer allegedly shot a university student in the face during a protest. "Chilean authorities continue to commit widespread human rights violations," said Amnesty International in a report yesterday, that reached the preliminary conclusion that "these are not isolated events and that they point to the regular and excessive use of force by the Chilean authorities." On Monday the Inter-American Human Rights Commission congratulated the Chilean people for their activism, and chided the government for its focus on material damages caused during the protests. (EFE, Jornada)
Chile's peso slid 4 percent, and reached a historic low against the dollar. Chile's finance minister warned of the "grave consequences" for the country's economy, reports Reuters.
As strikes and protests continue across the country, tens of thousands of people have attended spontaneous town hall meetings -- cabildos -- to seek a way out of more than a month of sometimes violent political unrest, reports the Guardian.
"... A Pink Tide 2.0 seems less likely than an increasingly Cold War-like atmosphere in a region that is already sharply divided over how to handle the crisis in Venezuela and the consequences of its colossal economic meltdown," writes Jon Lee Anderson in the New Yorker. But "it’s clear that, while the far right appears to be gaining strength again in Latin America, as it is in Europe, the left can’t be completely discounted. And neither can the military, which largely retreated to the barracks a generation ago, in the post-Cold War restoration of democracy across the continent, but in some countries has lately begun, if not to seize power outright, then to assume the role of institutional arbiter."
By granting Evo Morales political asylum, Mexico's López Obrador administration has suddenly embraced a regional leadership it had been ducking since taking office a year ago, according to El País.
The U.S. cannot afford to ignore regional upheaval, and should be "drafting policies that help improve economic and political stability from Mexico to Venezuela," write R. Evan Ellis and Román D. Ortiz in World Politics Review.
Venezuela's National Assembly completed the preliminary committee to pick a new electoral authorities -- the 11-member group of lawmakers (seven from the opposition, four loyal to the Maduro administration) is expected to start work today. (Efecto Cocuyo)
National Assembly president and opposition leader Juan Guaidó went to work by subway, yesterday, in part raising awareness for a Nov. 16 anti-government protest he is organizing. (El Nacional)
A group of Guaidó supporters occupied the Venezuela's embassy in Brasilia. (Associated Press)
Venezuela's former military intelligence chief Hugo Carvajal has gone missing in Spain, days after local media reported a Spanish court had agreed to extradite him to the United States on drug trafficking charges, reports Al Jazeera.
Guatemalan legislators voted to halve corruption jail terms for those who confess -- many of the lawmakers who voted in favor of the measure are themselves under investigation, reports the Associated Press.
Colombian President Iván Duque announced a cabinet shuffle: Carlos Holmes Trujillo will move from the foreign ministry to defense, left vacant last week after Guillermo Botero resigned in the midst of accusations of covering up minors killed in a military operation. Trujillo will be replaced by Claudia Blum, a former senator and United Nations ambassador, reports Reuters. (See last Thursday's post.)
Lula Livre is expected to invigorate Brazil's left-wing, but will he also united the country's far right?, asks The Nation.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will quit his fractious right-wing Social Liberal Party (PSL) and start a new one by March 2020, reports Reuters.
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández used at least 4 billion lempiras skimmed from public coffers and obtained from drug traffickers to finance his last presidential campaign, according to a ConfidencialHn investigation.
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